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We’ve all heard the phrase “Happy wife, happy life.” It’s usually applied in a context where the male spouse needs to make sure his first priority is keeping his wife happy, otherwise she’ll be miserable and make him miserable, too!
But is there actually a bit of truth in this old bit of wisdom? Is it true that keeping your spouse happy will also ensure your own happiness, too? It’s obvious that our satisfaction with our partners will affect our overall wellbeing. And it’s obvious that if our spouse is suffering, we’ll feel the effects of their pain, too.
But is it actually true that a happy marriage can lead to overall life satisfaction, and that the opposite may be true as well? As we look forward to Valentine’s Day, when we celebrate all things love and relationships, we take a look at how relationships affect our physical health and whether the happiness level of our spouse can truly determine outcomes in other areas of life.
How relationships (healthy or toxic) can affect your physical health
Did you know that toxic relationships can actually affect your physical health? While humans were created to be social, that doesn’t mean that all relationships are automatically beneficial for you.
Believe it or not, being in an unhealthy relationship with anyone–whether it’s a co-worker, parent, or partner–can take a physical toll on you. It can lower your immune system, raise your blood pressure, ruin your sleep, and even lead to depression.
Toxic relationships can lead to a variety of mental health issues but also harm you physically, from causing you to gain weight to bumping up your cholesterol levels. It may be hard to believe that relationships can affect you physically, but our emotions often manifest themselves physically so it should come as no surprise.
In contrast, healthy relationships can work wonders for your physical health. The stronger and more healthy your connections are, the better off you’ll be overall.
According to BetterHealth, “The benefits of social connections and good mental health are numerous. Proven links include lower rates of anxiety and depression, higher self-esteem, greater empathy, and more trusting and cooperative relationships. Strong, healthy relationships can also help to strengthen your immune system, help you recover from disease, and may even lengthen your life.”
That’s right! Just like limiting your salt intake, healthy relationships can actually help you live longer. This is especially true for elderly populations who become less mobile with age.
The article continues: “Older people are particularly vulnerable. If your mobility decreases, it can be harder to get together with other people. However, older people who remain connected with others and have strong relationships are likely to:
* have a better quality of life
* be more satisfied with their life
* have a lower risk of dementia and mental decline
* need less domestic support.”
It’s important to note that being lonely can harm any person, whether old or not. “Loneliness can have dramatic consequences for your health. Loneliness can lead to disrupted sleep patterns, elevated blood pressure, and increased cortisol (a stress hormone). It can affect your immune system and decrease your overall sense of contentment. Loneliness is also a risk factor for antisocial behaviour, depression and suicide.”
This is why it’s vital to nurture an abundance of healthy relationships in your life.
Happy wife, happy life: Is it true?
An article in the South China Morning Post titled Happy wife, happy life, says a man in Singapore, and experts confirm it’s true – being married to an optimist improves your mental health says that there’s some truth to the “Happy wife, happy life” idea.
The article reports, “Having a positive partner improves our mental well-being and optimistic people contribute to their partners’ health by reducing their risk of cognitive decline.”
In addition, the article reports findings from a study: “Having a positive life partner doesn’t just improve the state and quality of your relationship; according to a study from Michigan State University in the United States, it also fosters strong mental health in old age. The researchers concluded that individuals who are optimistic contribute to their partner’s health, staving off the risk factors leading to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and cognitive decline as they grow old together. The results of the study, which followed nearly 4,500 heterosexual couples for up to eight years, were published in 2019 in the Journal of Personality.”
Having a happy partnership can be a major indicator of overall wellbeing because it carries with it other life aspects as well, such as having a happy, clean home, stable careers, strong friendships, and healthy interactions with loved ones.
In other words, if your marriage is happy, most other parts of your life will do well, too. It’s not about bypassing the storms of life but rather having a healthy way to cope and navigate them. Happy people don’t have an absence of bad things happening to them, they just have the right attitude and approach when facing their problems.
Snuggle up: Can cuddling benefit your physical health?
Everyone knows how good it feels to hug someone you love. Spending time and having physical contact with loved ones can make us feel better no matter what’s going on in life. If you get to cuddle up with a partner and enjoy a bit of intimacy, even better!
There’s a reason for this. You’re not imagining it when you sense how much better you feel after getting to cuddle up with someone you love.
An article in Penn Medicine puts it this way: “Science shows that kissing, hugging, snuggling, and holding hands produce more than just magical moments. They can actually boost overall health, helping you lose weight, lower blood pressure, fight off sickness, and more.”
Why is this? It all comes down to a special hormone called oxytocin, also known as the love hormone. Oxytocin is actually a very important chemical in the bond between mothers and infants. During childbirth and breastfeeding, large amounts of oxytocin are released to bond mother and baby together.
But our oxytocin production doesn’t stop when we grow up. We have a need for love and physical affection all throughout our lives. The Penn Medicine article explains further:
“‘Sometimes called the ‘cuddle hormone’ or ‘feel-good hormone,’ oxytocin is produced by the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland when we’re physically affectionate, producing what some describe as warm fuzzies – feelings of connection, bonding, and trust,” said Paula S. Barry, MD, physician at Penn Family and Internal Medicine Longwood. Another defining characteristic of oxytocin is its compounding nature: The more oxytocin you release by being affectionate, the more you want to hug, touch, and hold hands. It’s a snowball effect that can spell great things not only for meaningful relationships, but for your long-term personal well-being and overall health.”
In the same way, a healthy sex life and healthy marriage are all part of leading a happy and fulfilling life with the people you love.
Don’t have a special someone in your life to cuddle up to? You don’t have to scroll through a dating app just to find someone to snuggle up with! Cuddling with your pets produces very similar effects as snuggling with a human. So spend time with your furry friend and you’ll see how much better you feel.
And that’s not all: On top of its psychological benefits, physical touch can actually change your body’s chemistry. Women who hug their partners more often have lower resting blood pressure, which is an important aspect of avoiding heart disease. In addition, higher levels of oxytocin can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. All this love can also lead to lower, healthier weights, less stress, greater ease in fighting off disease and sickness, and more.
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