Synopsis: About your tree of life; love well to live well in every way; a few important definitions; why love research is hard to research; different kinds of love give different results; and a love prescription for nourishing your tree of life.
How Is Your Tree of Life Growing?Let’s say you have a tree of life on which grow many fruits. There are the fruits of your labors, the fruits of your learning, the fruits of your relationships, the fruits of your very nature, the fruits of your appreciations, your fun and your joys, and all the other fruits of your involvements and of your being.
As you partake of the fruits of your tree of life your spirit is nourished. But there is a question. What nourishes your tree of life?
Consider this. Healthy, real love nourishes your tree of life like nothing else. Abundantly given and received, healthy real love is the most important of all things that bring forth life’s high order thriving. Arguably, all of life’s ever increasing, enriching variety and all of life’s most important enhancements and improvements have been and are love related and love nourished in one way or another. As sundry philosophies and religions have purported love is for life the greatest of all things. Therefore, it follows that love may be for you and those you care about the most important of all things. So, are you giving love due regard?
Love Well to Live Well in Every WayThe better you are at love the better you function, the healthier and happier your life is, and the longer you are likely to live. Love poorly and you live less well functioning, less happy, less healthy and less long. That is what a growing preponderance of worldwide research from a wide variety of fields is telling us. Mounting evidence shows that people who are in well-loving couples relationships, families, friendship networks and love-oriented communities live the best lives, by every way of measuring quality of life.
A Few Important DefinitionsLove, or more accurately – healthy, real love – as used here is simply defined thus:
Healthy, Real Love Is a Powerful, Vital, Natural, Process of Highly Valuing, Desiring for, Often Acting for, and Taking Pleasure in the Well Being of the Loved (see the column at the left of this page “Definition of Love Series” for further and more full definitions and discussions).
Love can be viewed as a biological reality having largely to do with the brain’s limbic system and various neurochemical, and biochemical, and perhaps neuro-electrical phenomena in at least higher order species. Love also can be viewed as a psychological reality having to do with the thoughts, feelings and behaviors associated with love. This especially involves the eight groups of behavior which have been found to convey love and trigger different, healthy, neurological and biological processes in both the giving and receiving of love (see the entry “A Behavioral (Operational) Definition of Love).
Love can be seen as a relational reality because it is in relationships that love’s biological and psychological phenomena occur, as has been found by various individually focused and socially oriented scientific research disciplines.
Loving well is defined as consistently acting toward others and toward yourself in all matters of high value in ways consistent with the eight groups of direct, love behaviors known to convey, receive and trigger bio-psycho-social love reactions. Loving well can be described as consistently practicing and developing one’s love skills until, more often than not, one is successful at love efforts, love relationships and love thriving.
Why Love Research Is Hard to ResearchWith some disappointment we must note that the word love often is avoided by some but not all researchers. This seems to be because “love” is used as a synonym for sex, and perhaps because of its often confusing, contradictory and sometimes pathological use in poetic and romantic literature. Researchers who try to avoid the use of the word love often use substitutes like “affectionate attachment”, “warm positive regard”, “intimate personal ties”, “close-knit connection”, “emotionally bonded relationship” and a host of similar terms, all of which might easily be translated as “love” by learned readers. Interestingly researchers in the older, more established disciplines don’t seem to mind using the word love at all. The word and the topic love show up in the professional literature of the several neurosciences, medicine, biology, primatology, experimental psychology and even in economics.
It seems only in the newer social sciences and the helper-fields (like the several forms of counseling) that there appears to be a squeamishness about using the word love. This avoidance of the word love and the resulting plethora of substitute terms does make it considerably harder to look up research results related to love. Nevertheless, with some prodigious effort it can be done. So, here are a few of the overall trends from that research.
Different Kinds of Love Give Different Kinds of BenefitCommitted-couple love relationships have been found to help people avoid disease, have a general higher level of overall health, and assist people in dealing more successfully with most of life’s difficulties. In some studies “marrieds” do a little better than co-habitating couples, but with other factors the reverse is true. Co-habiting couples have been found to have better, all-over, psychological well-being than do the legally married and those living single without a committed relationship. However, “marrieds” have been measured as having somewhat better physical health.
Men tend to be a bit healthier in marriages but women in cohabitation, according to some studies.
The one, big drawback to couple’s love occurs when one of the couple dies. The surviving partner is more likely to fall ill and die within a two-year period of the loss unless friends, family, altruistic causes and/or unless another romantic love comes strongly into their life during that time.
Families in a number of nations who frequently act to love well often produce far happier, healthier people who are better able to cope with stress and, therefore, don’t tend to suffer from stress-related illnesses nearly as much as the less loving.
Friendship love which occurs in close-knit, interpersonal networks produces considerably lower mortality rates at all age levels in international comparisons studies. With friendship love there is a much reduced likelihood of self-destructive behavior, fewer heart attacks, less cancer, less arthritis, fewer gastrointestinal upsets, fewer skin problems, fewer headaches and fewer complications from pregnancy.
Humanitarian and altruistic love also produce excellent health and longevity results, as does living in love-oriented communities. The evidence suggests all of these love sources act as a protective shield against toxic and stressful environments. A lowering of bad cholesterol and a raising of immunity functioning especially is common with those who love altruistically. Much lower use of mood affecting drugs, legal and illegal, is another result according to various researchers.
Spiritual love and well loving people active in spiritually-based communities have been shown to have healthier behaviors, less substance abuse and healthy sleep and appetite habits. This seems to hold true for people from ‘Austria to Australia’ and across all major ethnic and religious groups.
The well loving who also are quite sexually loving measure as happier, more vitally alive, more productive and more creative.
Healthy, real self-love is a very important factor in living well. Some hold that it is the single most important type of love for having a happy, healthy, long life because it is viewed as central for excelling at all other types of healthy, real love.
A Love Prescription for Nourishing Your Tree of LifeLiving by way of the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of healthy, real love has been found to be more important to happy, healthy living than a good diet, exercise, low stress environments, education, wealth, ethnicity and a host of other similar factors – not that these factors are unimportant. So, if you desire the good life get into love every way you can. To do this I suggest you study this site’s love’s definition and its major functions, and also take a look at the various forms of false love along with the different kinds of love, and everything else you can discover about what love really means and how it’s done.
Especially learn and practice the behaviors of love and the skills of love. Learn to give love, think love, feel the many emotions and physical sensations of love, and learn to receive love well. To do all that obviously is what this site is all about, so you might want to visit it often, and tell friends family, and maybe even enemies about it.
As always – Go and Grow with Love