Ah, love. Don’t you just smile at the very thought? I sure do. And I don’t mean the sappy, lovey-dovey love—well not solely—but all that it encompasses: care, concern, laughter, respect, kindness, loyalty. Whether it’s a love shared between two lovebirds, two family members, two great friends, or even two strangers. Because love is just wonderful and has the ability to lift even the lowest spirits.
And no, that’s not just me being a hopeless romantic; science provides evidence for the benefits of loving relationships. “Our nervous systems are not separate or self-contained. Beginning in earliest childhood, the areas of our brain identified as the limbic system is affected by those closest to us and synchronizes with them in a way that has profound implications for personality and lifelong emotional health,” explains Thomas Lewis, MD; Fari Amini, MD; and Richard Lannon, MD, in the book A General Theory of Love.
Are you convinced yet? I hope so, because we should all channel our energy and efforts into showing our friends, our family, our significant others, and our neighbors that we love and care about them. Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to perform some grand act like shouting your love from the rooftops or sending everybody you know a dozen roses (that would get expensive). Instead, I’m asking you to consider spreading the love and reaping your own benefits while doing so by following these simple guidelines:
1) Do your neighbor a favor.
It’s super simple and easy to do a quick favor for your neighbor, like taking their newspaper to their doorstep or grabbing their pile of trash on your way to the dump. It doesn’t have to be calculated or planned out to a tee; just take whatever opportunity you see to do them a favor and show them you appreciate them. Not only will you help them out, but you’ll also reap your own benefits, such as feeling a sense of pride following the favor.
2) Tell your friends what you love about them.
They’re your friends—of course you love and appreciate them. But when’s the last time you reminded them that you loved them and why you loved them? Nobody ever gets sick of hearing about how great they are. And we all need a reminder sometimes. So take a minute to tell your friend about how great they are; tell them they’re awesome and smart and a blessing in your life. Handing out these compliments will make them feel good and benefit you as well, as acts of kindness help to decrease stress and produce serotonin.
3) Call your distant loved ones.
We often get caught up in our busy lives and put calling our grandparents and our aunts and uncles on the backburner. While it doesn’t seem like a huge deal to us, a simple 10-minute phone call can mean a lot to them. So take a second to call them, tell them all about the last few weeks, and don’t forget to say ‘I love you’ at the end of it. Not only will this make their day—or month—but maintaining these strong relationships will also help you live a longer, healthier life, according to a study from Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
4) Appreciate your significant other.
Love doesn’t always have to be this grand story or fairytale like it is in the movies. Instead it can be ordering pizza on a Saturday night and even fighting in the morning about who gets to shower first. However, you should always remember to appreciate one another for all of the love you’ve created and fostered—so give them a hug and tell them you love ‘em. When you do, a hormone called oxytocin will be released (upon touching someone you care about), which lowers blood pressure and decreases stress. Win, win!
5) Look in the mirror and smile.
Did you think that you were excused from showing yourself some love? Absolutely not. It’s easy to get down on yourself about your perceived flaws, the mistakes you make at work, and the ultimately bad decisions you make from time to time, but that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to love yourself. So look in the mirror and smile at your imperfectly perfect self—you’ll release these awesome neurotransmitters called endorphins which are responsible for making us feel happy!