What’s inexpensive, has no side effects and just might be a medical breakthrough according to one prominent physician? Love. Although I’m not so sure it is inexpensive, and past experience tells me it may have some side effects during breakups or arguments, but the impact of love on health is something I have found to be reliable and comforting.
I’m not the only one to feel that way. Scientists supported by the National Institutes of Health have been studying the impact of love on health. In a study at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Dr. Kathleen Light asked couples to spend at least ten minutes holding hands and talking together about a happy memory. She found that even this short exercise produced health benefits.
The Institute further reported that relationships between close friends, parents and children, as well as couples, can help the brain, heart and other body systems. Harry Reis, PhD, co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Human Relationships stresses the importance of long-term relationships and how they can bring all sorts of health benefits including: stable blood pressure, less tendency towards depression; better fitness levels; natural pain control; fewer colds; faster healing; and a longer and happier life.
So what is this health producing love? According to the book, Colorus of Love, J.A. Lee portrays six types of love ranging from Eros (romantic love) to Storge (Love between friends). Also included is Ludus (conquests but no commitment), Pragma (cost-reward ratios are weighed – such as in an arranged marriage culture), and Mania (an obsessive, extreme emotion). Finally, Lee defines Agape as spiritual love.
It’s this last version that is often used in the Bible, and in my experience, is the sense of love that can produce health. It recognizes a Love that has its source as divine power – no matter whether we call it Adonai, God, Allah, or Holy Spirit. This makes it more powerful than, and not as fickle as, a love based only on human emotions.
One night I had excruciating pain in my jaw. My daughter, who was about eight at the time, saw me suffering. I could tell in her eyes that she wanted to help me because she loved me. To show her love, she read to me from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, a book that teaches about the direct relationship between understanding Agape and how that impacts our health. In about fifteen minutes the pain disappeared. My daughter’s human love couldn’t solve the problem. But, the powerful sense of Agape that I felt while she read could.
Author and medical practitioner, Dr. Larry Dossey, commented in his book Healing Words (p. 109), “If scientists suddenly discovered a drug that was as powerful as love in creating health, it would be heralded as a medical breakthrough and marketed overnight – especially if it had as few side effects and was as inexpensive as love.”
My teenage heart would not concur with “few side effects” or “inexpensive” when it comes to love, but a powerful force is healing? My adult experience says you bet.