February is often thought of as the month of love with the celebration of Valentine’s Day. The fact that we have set aside a whole day to honor and celebrate love shows us the magnificent importance that love plays in our life.
We all need to love and be loved; it’s fundamental to survival. Love is such a complex and important aspect of life it deserves a whole book of its own, but I will suffice to say that loving is the deepest most profound experience that we can have and the ultimate source of fulfillment in our lives. There is nothing more satisfying and life affirming than the act of loving and being loved. Love is essential for our physical, mental and spiritual well-being, and it’s very healing.
Holidays like Valentine’s Day do not have to be just the celebration between lovers or partners. It can be about the love you have with your child, parent, sibling, friend, pet, self and Universe. The healing power of love can be found through many different avenues.
Love is more than just a feeling, it is a whole body experience and it has a physiological effect on the body. Have you ever noticed how much better you feel physically and how your mood improves when you receive a hug or affection from someone who loves you or when you have expressed your love to someone or participate in an act of love?
Loving and being loved actually improves our level of health. It boosts the immune system and our feel good neurotransmitters in our brain that control our mood, outlook on life and feelings of well-being. I have witnessed this truth in my own life over and over.
I have been fortunate enough to experience deep, profound, soul-touching love with a partner and there is nothing more life fulfilling. I have also experienced losing that love which was the most excruciating experience I have endured, but I would not change any of it. When I am on my deathbed, I want to know that I loved as deeply and completely as possible and that I remained open to new love. If it comes along again, great, if not, then I am grateful to have had the experience.
When my relationship with my partner was full, happy and rewarding and I was in the throes of passion, I would miraculously feel better and be able to participate in all kinds of activities that I usually couldn’t do. I had a higher level of functioning, more energy and better mood. However, when the relationship ended and I was grieving, I grew weaker and was more symptomatic than usual for a while; thus, showing the powerful impact that love and grief have on our bodies.
I also witnessed the healing power of love on the immune system in my relationship with my son. When my son became an adult and moved out on his own for the first time, I had a severe decrease in my immune system and level of functioning during the first couple months. I was grieving the loss of his presence, the loss of the act of loving and caring for him on a daily basis and the relationship itself. As my grief lessened and I began to adjust, then I went back to my normal level of functioning. When we would spend time together, it would always boosts my immune system and my mood; thus, illuminating even more the astounding impact that love and grief have on our health. The bookstore abounds with books attesting to the healing power of love similar to this.
Not only does love improve our health, but it also lightens our load. Difficulties and challenges that life presents us with are much easier to deal with when love is in our life. We feel more capable and happier. It makes life richer and more worth living. Love can also help you get through the difficult times and it assists you in the acceptance and adjustment process of living with a chronic health condition.
Cultivating love in your life is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your health and to live life more fully. The most fulfilling relationships are ones that are deep and meaningful. In order for our relationships to be deep, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable and be known. Yet many people spend most of their lives hiding who they really are and afraid to share because they may get hurt. Ultimately they hurt themselves by robbing themselves of this incredible, beautiful gift. Be willing to take the risk and give love all you’ve got.
Allow yourself to love deeply and completely. Cultivate love on a daily basis and immerse yourself in it. Allowing ourselves to love others deeply and completely is the greatest gift we can give ourselves. Yes, there is always the fear that you may be rejected or hurt, but don’t allow this to hinder you. Allow yourself to take the risk. Allow yourself to feel love and express love. Build deep meaningful relationships. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Immerse yourself completely in the loving experience.
This includes loving yourself, accepting who you are with all your limits and accepting your diagnosis without shame. Loving yourself is essential to take proper care of yourself and to participate actively in your health care journey.
It is a harsh reality in our culture that people with a chronic illness or health condition are not as desirable as healthy people. Healthy people may be afraid or uncomfortable around us. This can make finding a partner to share our life with very challenging. Some people may leave us and it may be very difficult to find others willing to develop relationships with us, but this does not mean we cannot try and that we have to be loveless. We can find love in many places such as: ourselves, with nature, our children, pets, friends and family.
If you have a health condition that limits your ability to interact socially, then spending time with nature can be of magnificent value. It is possible to have such an intimate relationship with nature that it can fulfill some of your relational needs. No, nothing can take the place of deep loving connections with another human being, but this can help fill the gap, if you are lacking. Commune with nature on a regular basis.
When chronic health conditions put me in the house all the time, I put up a bird feeder; and before I knew it, I had a whole yard full of beautiful birds. I could not believe how much joy and fulfillment this brought to my life and my son’s. I will never forget the look in my son’s eyes the first time birds appeared at our feeder. It became an activity that we enjoyed together. Now I have several feeders and bird guidebooks so I can identify the birds and learn about their behaviors.
At my current place of residence, I have been blessed with a variety of bird friends. In the mountains of the Southern California desert, I live right in the midst of the wildlife. I am surrounded by coyotes, jackrabbits, bunnies, chipmunks and a variety of birds. I have a couple blue jays, a desert wren and a roadrunner that will eat out of my hand and even come into my house looking for their treat. They don’t like it once they get in the house and realize what they’ve done and it’s a real circus trying to get them back out again.
Each one of them has a name. There is Mr. Blue Jay, Little Wren, Youngster, Broke Wing and Friendly Roadrunner. I know that Little Wren and Friendly Roadrunner are females, because each spring they bring their babies to my house as well. I assume Mr. Blue Jay is a male, because there have been no signs of babies with him; and youngster is a new blue jay in the neighborhood, so I’m not sure what sex it is. Youngster is very friendly and likes to get as close as possible to me when I’m out on the porch and in the yard.
I also have several friendly rabbits who come to visit me daily for some bird seed, carrots or cabbage.I thoroughly enjoy my visits with the birds, bunnies and any other creatures that come my way and consider them my friends. It’s one of the highlights of my day.
Tips to Cultivate Love in Your Life
- If you are without a partner, give yourself all those things you would receive from them. Give yourself a hug, praise and affection. Take yourself on a date. Buy yourself something special. Make love with yourself. Have a love affair with nature.
- If you are with a partner, tell them how much you love them, value them and appreciate them. Do something special for them. Plan a special celebration for no reason.
- Express your feelings regularly. Tell everyone in your life how much you love them and what they mean to you.
- Hug your children frequently; tell them you love them as often as possible. Read them a story. Savor your precious moments with them.
- Nurture a connection with nature. Touch, smell and feel the trees, the wind, a rock. Feed the birds or mingle with wildlife. Sit with the sun and the clouds. Appreciate the magnificent beauty nature presents to you every day.
- Buy a Valentine card for all those in your life that you love. If it’s not Valentine’s Day, buy them a card for no reason.
- Make a homemade card for the special people in your life. Every year on Valentine’s Day my son and I would make each other a Valentine’s Day card with crayons, colored pencils and construction paper. It was something we really enjoyed doing together and the cards were always so special because they were created with our own hands and came straight from the heart.
Don’t take life or those around for you granted. Cultivate love on a daily basis not just on holidays. Life is short and unpredictable. Don’t let the precious gift of love slip by without experiencing it completely. Allow your love to expand to all living things and you will experience the healing power of love.
This page is excerpted in part from my book Living Life to the Fullest – Creative Coping Strategies for Living with Chronic Illness, where you can find hundreds of other similar self-care tips to assist you in your journey, if needed.