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Hugging your way to health.


You gotta have heart, nodoubt about it. If you're anything like the rest of us, you like your job, your hometown, and your nextdoor neighbor, but you love being loved.

Dr. John Flanagan says ofa recently completed six-year U.S. government study, "Having a close relationship with husband or wife was considered "very important' or "important' to men at every age--90 percent of the 30-year-olds, 91 percent of the 50-year-olds, and 84 percent of the 70-year-olds. It got high ratings as well from women ages 30 and 50-94 percent and 81 percent of them.'

When 20,000 people wereasked to rate the relative importance of different aspects of their lives, researchers from the American Institute for Research concluded: "Love got a 30 percent rating, followed by work with 19 percent, then finances with 15 percent.' Parenthood rated only 14 percent, and religion finished last.

Love is not blind. A little nearsighted,maybe--but not blind. The male animal isn't necessarily looking for a looker, polls indicate. High on the list of qualities men seek in someone to love are openness, honesty, understanding, physical attractiveness, and intelligence. Men also want someone who respects them and a person with whom they feel comfortable. "Someone to fulfill my wildest fantasies' was the least important quality in an ideal lover.

Love will find a way even whenthere isn't any sex to go with it. A survey conducted by Playboy Enterprises and Louis Harris Associates says: "Adult male respondents, making a clear distinction between love and sex, placed far greater value on love. Eighty-five percent said love is very important to them. . . . Slightly less than half described sex as being very important for their own personal happiness.'

Jonathan Freedman, a researcher,adds: "Only a small percentage of Americans list sex as one of the "crucial things missing' from their lives, and there seems to be no correlation at all between happiness and the frequency of sexual experience or variety of sexual partners. Love seems to be the single most important element in personal happiness for most people surveyed.

"Nearly all the surveysand studies on happiness point to a similar conclusion regarding marriage and happiness,' Freedman says in The Complete Book of American Surveys. "Married people, in general, are happier than single people. And while men get used to being single as they age, single women become progressively more miserable.'

Love doesn't come cheap,either. As someone once defined it: "It's an island of emotion surrounded entirely by expenses. Love is what makes you buy orchids when you can't afford carnations.' A kiss can cost you, in other words. Indeed, the cost of love is growing by leaps and bounds. As a matter of fact, another source notes, while the Consumer Price Index rose 258 percent in the last 25 years, the Cost of Loving Index (candlelight dinners, long-stemmed roses, and all the rest) rose 420 percent.

But it's worth the price. Look whathappens biochemically when you're high on love: with a passionate kiss, biochemists say, the pituitary and adrenal glands release a number of chemicals into the body and set off a lightning-like chain reaction affecting the entire system. Blood pressure rises. The pulse quickens. Circulation races. The pores of the skin open and beads of perspiration appear.

Passion aside, love has an A-1rating for its remedial values. "In 100 percent of the cases of most diseases --including arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and mental illness --love can help improve the patient's condition. More than 75 percent of the time, love can mean the difference between deterioration and a cure,' says Dr. J. DeWitt Fox, a neurosurgeon.

Love can lower your blood pressure,raise your IQ, improve your emotional well-being, even save you from a life of crime, says Dr. James W. Prescott, a neuropsychologist and president of the Institute of Humanities Science in Los Gatos, California. "A baby who isn't hugged, kissed, and held enough stands a greater chance of growing up to become an alcoholic, drug abuser, or criminal,' he says.

Well, whatever it is, andwhatever it costs, we can't get enough of it--in real life or elsewhere. The longest kiss on film, for example, between Regis Toomey and Jane Wyman in the 1941 film You're in the Army Now, lasted 185 seconds. (Despite the myth, your chance of catching a cold from a three-minute kiss is only 7.5 percent.)

Love may not make theworld go round, but it sure seems to put it on spin-dry. Here's why you should give it a whirl:

1. Just a little loving burnsas many calories as a good bout of gardening. But beyond that, it keeps you psychologically fit. As the noted psychoanalyst Theodor Reik once observed, "Work and love-- these are the basics. Without them there is neurosis.'

The human behaviorist James Hardison,author of Let's Touch: How and Why to Do It, agrees. "The need to touch, kiss, and caress one another is as vital as your need for food, clothing, and shelter. Feelings of isolation and anxiety can be dispelled through touching, and so can grief and sadness.'

2. Use it, but don't abuse it. Loveis an ideal vehicle for addiction because it can exclusively claim a person's consciousness. If, to serve as an addiction, something must be both reassuring and consuming, then a sexual or love relationship is perfectly suited for the task. Someone who is dissatisfied with himself or his situation can discover in such a relationship the most encompassing substitute for self-contentment and the effort required to attain it. When constant exposure to something is necessary in order to make life bearable, an addiction has been established. Being loved often solves the problem.

3. The friendship factor is a forceto be reckoned with if you're out for optimum health, concludes James J. Lynch, Ph.D., the author of The Broken Heart: The Medical Consequences of Loneliness. "Social contact has a demonstrable effect on brain size. For example, young rats deprived of rat pals can lose up to 10 percent of their brain size. And if you put old rats--the equivalent of 65-year-old people--in with young rats, the old rats' brains grow. The brain has this ability to keep regenerating itself.'

4. Love can make you laugh, andthat's healthy, too. Dr. Raymond A. Moody, Jr., the author of Laugh After Laugh: The Healing Power of Humor, says, "Laughter is also a good exercise. The heart, lungs, and even the adrenal glands get a good workout. Blood pressure rises, too. Laughter is invigorating and stimulating.'

What's more, love and laughterhave healing power. Recent research shows that laughter can stimulate such hormones and chemicals as endorphins, the body's own naturally synthesized pain reducers.

5. Cuddle up a little closer withyour kith and kin. Children cuddled frequently achieve better grades in school. Better yet, says Robert G. Kegan, a lecturer in human development at Harvard University, "Studies show that young children in elementary-school classrooms thrive much better with teachers who actually physically touch the students in affectionate or supportive ways.' Blood pressure tends to go down.

"Hugging, cuddling, and touchingalso express attraction, comradeship, affection,' says Dr. William F. Fry, clinical professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. "Hugging is especially helpful to those who are depressed.'

It appears, says Dr. LeoWollman, a New York City psychiatrist and weight-loss expert, that many women overeat and pack on pounds when their mates do not show them enough affection. Studies he has conducted show that hugging and cuddling help overweight women shed those extra pounds.

6. Love is what you needto reduce stress, even if it makes you cry. In fact, especially if it makes you cry. In a report from the Psychiatric Nursing Center at Marquette University School of Nursing in Milwaukee, Dr. Margaret Crepeau found that people who cry freely suffer less from such stress-related diseases as gastric ulcers and colitis, an inflammation of the large intestine. In her study of 128 men and women, she found: "Crying determines our susceptibility to stress-related diseases. The more crying a person does, the less likely he is to suffer from such diseases.' Women cry five times as often as men, on the average. "If we don't cry, our health suffers,' she says.

Better low-calorie tears than high-caloriemilkshakes if you're unlucky in love. "Eating habit' studies conducted at Harvard University and at the University of California have shown repeatedly that an abnormal desire for milk often occurs when a person is disappointed in love or when his sense of security is threatened. Investigators also point out that the use of milk, which tends to symbolize security, increases during times of stress. Milk is associated with the care and affection received in infancy.

7. Heavy petting pays off, too.Man's best friend may be more than a friend. He may be a sort of holistic healing on all fours. "Talking to pets can reduce your blood pressure,' says Dr. Aaron Katcher, a former associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. "When you're talking to and touching animals, it becomes stress reducing,' he said.

It's O.K., in other words, to letyour cat or dog play the heavy in your love life. Katcher adds, "Certain social conventions prevent people from touching each other. Animals are a means of expressing this need--a way of getting a kind of comfort that for many people may not be otherwise available.'

8. Seal it with a kiss--you'll livelonger. "Close emotional ties with either family or friends prove to be an important factor in long-term survival. Among the elderly, it appears that having someone to either love you or nag you really adds to mental alertness and life spans,' says Dr. Robert Samp, assistant professor of health science at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

9. Don't rock the love boat. Thelonger you hang in there, the healthier you'll be. Falling in love may be dangerous to your health, a study by the sociologists Theodore Kemper and Roslyn Bologh concludes. Men and women involved in romantic entanglements are three times as kikely as those who are not in love to have skin problems and nervous ailments. "People whose love relationships are of recent or short durations,' Kemper says, "take more nonprescription drugs than others and suffer from more minor illnesses like colds, headaches, and upset stomachs. They are also more likely to have sleeping problems.'

10. Don't forget the foods of love.There are lots of them. Throughout the ages, the following foods have enjoyed the reputation of getting you into the mood of love: honey, asparagus, caviar, ginseng, oysters, garlic, eel, celery, artichokes, white beets, carrots, swallow's nest soup, cloves, peppermint, nutmeg, tomatoes right off the vine, absinthe, and chocolate.

There you have it--ten of the bestreasons in the world to put a little love in your life.

Photo: Just a little loving burns as many calories as a good bout of gardening and keeps you psychologically fit.
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Title Annotation:psychology of love
Author:Goulart, Frances Sheridan
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Mar 1, 1987
Previous Article:The battle in your mouth.
Next Article:The race for inner space.

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