As it turns out, the Beatles were right almost half a century ago: all you need is love.
Well, maybe it’s not all you need, but it sure can help—especially when it comes to reducing stress and anxiety. New research by the University of Exeter finds that just thinking about loving relationships helps reduce the threat response to stress.
The study was published in the journal “Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience” last week. Researchers hooked 42 healthy adults up to machines to check their brain activity. First they showed the test subjects images of people expressing love and support, then showed them pictures of people in threatening or angry poses. There was also a control group who only saw the threatening poses.
As it turns out, the control group responded more adversely to the threatening images. The people who still had the warm, fuzzy feelings from the images of love didn’t respond to the threatening images.
So what does it mean? Senior researcher on this study, Anke Karl, tells the Huffington Post: “Our research suggests that social support and/or the activation of a secure attachment representation — the belief that a significant other is sensitive to [a person’s] needs and is available — may work because it reduces an exaggerated threat response.”
That means that love may help people handle stress better.
This is only the latest in a long line of studies that prove the benefits that loving relationships can have on our health. Scientists have already discovered that love reduces the pain response in the brain, can lower blood pressure, improve the immune system, and help people recover from psychological traumas, boost happiness levels and can make us live longer.
We can all learn a lesson from this. First of all, always listen to the Beatles. And second, embrace love—it can improve your life.