The journey toward wellness is filled with love. Humans are a social species. We need each other to survive and need to feel bonded to others to thrive. Our physical bodies have even evolved to benefit from social connection, whether it be a connection to other humans or a connection to animals, plants, or personified objects and ideas. While strong connections in healthy relationships are ideal, even small expressions of caring can foster the healthy attachments that we need for greater well-being.
Adopt: Telling People You Love and/or Care about Them Is Good for You
Expressing love feels good, but it is also good for your health and well-being (Arizona State University, 2013; Floyd et al., 2005; Yoo et al., 2014). If you’re feeling depressed, expressing love and affection can help. Feeling stressed? Expressing love and affection can reduce your distress response along with the harmful effects of stress, such as high blood pressure. Even physical pain can be lessened by expressing love and affection. The more you feel socially connected, bonded, and attached to others in healthy relationships, the more your health and well-being will be affected in positive ways.
Adapt: Express Love and Caring to Your Own Way
Tell your family members that you love them. Kids, parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and honorary family members (those close friends who have become like family) can benefit from receiving love just as much as you can by giving it. Give them a phone call, stop by for a visit, or send them a greeting card or text message.
If you have a romantic partner, tell them that you love them and even write them a love note or do something special for them.
Sometimes we may have difficulty expressing such deep emotions in new relationships or relationships that don’t usually involve expressions of love, so if “I love you” seems too serious or inappropriate, try saying something like, “I genuinely like you and appreciate you”.
Pets are wonderful for so many reasons, but they are especially wonderful when you want to say “I love you”. Even if they don’t speak your language (although many dogs, cats, and other pets can understand human words), just telling your pet that you love them can help you experience those love benefits.
One of the things I hear frequently from people is, “I don’t have anyone to tell ‘I love you’ to, not even a pet”. In such cases, even plants you water or wild birds you feed can be the recipients of your love. Also, get involved in non-profit services or social groups to reach out to other people, and it won’t be long before you start developing new relationships filled with love and care.
Attach: When to Tell People You Love Them
While some “I love you” or “I care about you” moments require a deliberate conversation, others can be attached to everyday activities. You may add “I love you” to a “good bye” at the end of a phone call, to a “good morning”, or to an evening hug.
If you are expressing your “I love you” to a pet, plant, or wildlife, you can tell them as many times as you want throughout the day.
When in doubt, now is a good time to tell someone you care about them.
Arizona State University. (2013, February 8). Study: Expressing love can improve your health. Retrieved January 23, 2017, from https://asunow.asu.edu/content/study-expressing-love-can-improve-your-health
Floyd, K., Hess, J. A., Miczo, L. A., Halone, K. K., Mikkelson, A. C., & Tusing, K. J. (2005). Human affection exchange: VIII. Further evidence of the benefits of expressed affection. Communication Quarterly, 53(3), 285–303. https://doi.org/10.1080/01463370500101071
Yoo, W., Namkoong, K., Choi, M., Shah, D. V., Tsang, S., Hong, Y., … Gustafson, D. H. (2014). Giving and receiving emotional support online: Communication competence as a moderator of psychosocial benefits for women with breast cancer. Computers in Human Behavior, 30, 13–22. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2013.07.024