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It’s said that love conquers all and there’s some science to

suggest that love does make us stronger. Feelings of love


can improve a remarkable variety of health factors, from
reducing the brain’s response to pain to lowering blood
pressure. Loving touch can boost immune system
function, and individuals who report having love-filled
relationships tend to live longer than those who don’t.
And according to a new study, love may also help us
conquer stress.
University of Exeter researchers found that when subjects
were shown pictures of others being cared for and loved,
it reduced their threat response in the brain.
For the study, published this week in the journal Social,
Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 42 healthy adults
were briefly shown images of other people in poses that
demonstrated affection and emotional support. Afterward,
they were briefly shown images of people making
“threatening” (angry or fearful) faces. The whole time, the
subjects were hooked up to functional magnetic resonance
imaging (fMRI) machines so that the researchers could
study their brain responses. A control group looked at just
the threatening faces.
The researchers found that after viewing the images of
love, the amygdala — which acts as the brain’s threat
monitor — did not subsequently respond to the
threatening images. Being reminded of the feeling of
being loved, the researchers hypothesize, hinders the
brain’s threat response, and may allow us to function
more effectively in stressful situations.
“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,” Anke Karl, Exeter
psychology and the study’s senior researcher, said in an
email to The Huffington Post. “Perceived social support
may make people feel more safe which in turn may help
them to face their anxieties in therapy better.”
The effect was especially pronounced among subjects
who reported having greater levels of anxiety, the
researchers noted, which suggests that social support
could be particularly useful in easing stress responses
among anxiety-prone individuals or those with a stress
disorder.
“These new research findings may help to explain why,
for example, successful recovery from psychological
trauma is highly associated with levels of perceived social
support individuals receive,” Karl said in a statement.
“We are now building on these findings to refine existing
treatments for [post-traumatic stress disorder] PTSD to
boost feelings of being safe and supported in order to
improve coping with traumatic memories.”
More specifically, activating the brain’s secure
attachment system (i.e. feeling safe and supported in our
relationships) may enhance traditional PTSD like
cognitive behavioral therapy, known as CBT.
“CBT requires individuals to face their anxieties, their
traumatic memories, and this may be quite stressful and
difficult to manage for some individuals,” Karl told The
Huffington Post.
“Knowing of the loving support of others before and after
a treatment session may set their mind for example from
‘I can’t do this/cope with this!’ to ‘It will be challenging
but I can do it, I will be fine, I am not alone in this.’ In
other words, the down-regulation of the enhanced threat
response by secure attachment reminders may help
individuals with processing of the traumatic event in a
way that does not overwhelm them, but activates new
learning in a more effective way.”
A growing body of research is shedding light on the effect
of loving relationships and interactions on the brain. As
neurobiologist Daniel Siegel told the New York Times:
“Scientific studies of longevity, medical and mental
health, happiness and even wisdom point to supportive
relationships as the most robust predictor of these positive
attributes in our lives across the life span.”
Physical sources of stress can be overcome
easily, matters of the mind can be sorted out, but
feelings of the heart are not easy to control nor
even recognize.
If you had your heart rejected, broken, pierced,
stomped on, eaten and spit out - rest easy, that's
not the hard part. 'Love shock' is easier to
overcome than 'love stress'. Even if you feel
empty inside, you can draw strength from that
and move on.
The common interpretation of the word 'love' is
a mixture of emotional and sexual needs,
physical attraction, social pressure, identity
issues, psychological manipulation and true,
unconditional Love. Add in some
communication problems and you have the
perfect setting for love related stress.
Love is about opening yourself up spiritually,
emotionally and also physically to another
person. Most people are unable to offer or stand
that kind of emotional openness, and that results
in the back-and-forth and confusion of love
stress.
Being clear and sincere to yourself and to others
goes a long way towards reducing love related
stress.