Wellness Wednesday: Valentine’s Day Edition – 2/10/21
Whether you’re single, married, saying “it’s complicated,” or simply aspiring to be the fun aunt or uncle someday, we all need to feel a little extra love this year (even us anti-Valentine’s Day folks.) Don’t worry, the queen of “it’s complicated” is not here to give you relationship advice or tell you that the cheap heart-shaped box at CVS isn’t worth it. But I am here to shed light on some science that’s worthy of your affections. From the reason why we kiss to the health benefits of hugging to, yes, you absolutely should indulge in chocolate, settle in and get ready feel the love.
X’s and O’s
I resumed college classes last week, and one of my first psychology courses discussed the science-based reasons behind kissing, holding hands, and hugging, which I found both fascinating and extremely timely. To put it simply, human mouths and hands are two of the most extremely touch-sensitive parts of the body because of the nerve endings located there. So, acts like kissing or holding hands are more pleasurable because they result in a sensory explosion for both people involved.
Holding hands in particular comes with a variety of benefits, from soothing heart rate and blood pressure to easing pain and feelings of loneliness. For more on holding hands, check out Suzanne Zuckerman’s article here.
This psych class also taught me that hugging is more than just the act of wrapping your arms around someone. Scientific studies have shown that hugs, or more specifically, kind touches, have the ability to reduce blood pressure, relieve pain and stress, increase positivity, trust, empathy and morality, and promote “complex communication” between huggers. My professor explained that sometimes when two frustrated partners cannot seem to communicate, a simple hug can help convey emotions better than words. For more on why you should keep hugging, check out Healthline’s list of the health benefits of hugs, which suggests that hugs also boost your heart health and protect you against illness.
And if you really want to hug someone right now but can’t because of the ongoing pandemic (safety first, always), click here and share with someone you long to hug.
All About Oxytocin
The reason that all of this pleasure is gained from physical touch is that acts such as kissing, hugging and holding hands increase a hormone called oxytocin in the body. Oxytocin is commonly referred to as a “cuddle hormone” that promotes feelings of love and trust. According to Healthline, “when you’re attracted to another person, your brain releases dopamine, your serotonin levels increase, and oxytocin is produced. This causes you to feel a surge of positive emotion.”
Physical contact with others seems is something many of us have missed since the social distancing guidelines of COVID-19 set in. For those you’re looking for a unique way to safely hug loved ones who may be at risk, check out this article about hug shields that became popular ways to hug last summer. And for those in your “bubble” that you can hug — whether it be pets, significant others, parents or children — hold them close this Valentine’s Day.
Say Yes to Sweets
And now for something we can all indulge in safely this year: chocolate. When it comes to this sweet treat, there are numerous health benefits that make this a snack worth eating (in moderation, at least.) According to this article from Medical News Today, scientific studies have shown that cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, contains healthy antioxidants, can lower bad cholesterol levels, improves cognitive function, reduces risk of heart disease and stroke, and benefits fetal growth and development. Moreover, this 2016 study suggests that consuming dark chocolate can improve your athletic performance. So, don’t feel bad throwing that chocolate chip granola bar in your gym bag next time you’re in a rush.
Now it is not news that of the many types of chocolate, dark is the healthiest. The reason for this, according to this article by Sara Ipatenco, is because it is the “lowest in sugar and supplies beneficial antioxidants that are present in much smaller doses in milk and white chocolate.” After growing up on milk chocolate, my grandfather brought me a Godiva dark chocolate bar for Christmas one year. “This is the best kind of chocolate, and it’s good for you,” he told me. “So when your dad tells you ‘no sweet snacks,’ tell him Grandpa said it was healthy.” I didn’t believe him at first, but now it’s the only flavor of chocolate I’ll eat.
For those of you now interested in switching things up and trying out dark chocolate this Valentine’s Day (seriously, you won’t regret it) try one of these 83 “decadent” dark chocolate dessert recipes. I recommend the frozen mini s’mores pies (which are fun to make with a partner) and the fallen chocolate cake.
And because this I’m still promoting wellness here, remember to consume in moderation. Even dark chocolate is high in fat and added sugar. So, make sure to keep a balanced diet in mind, but don’t fret over it too much this Valentine’s Day weekend.
Good Watches: Romantic Picks for the Weekend
Staying in safely this weekend? The staff at MVM has got you covered with our favorite romantic movies to watch with your loved ones.
Glenn: My Cousin Vinny (1992)
“My wife was pregnant with our second child when we first saw this film. We didn’t know the gender, but my wife’s doctor kept referring to ‘her.’ Since he had from early on referred to ‘him’ when she was pregnant with our son, we believed him. But we couldn’t decide on a name we both liked. We then saw this movie and laughed so hard my gut hurt at times. Afterward I asked my wife, who is that actress? To which she responded Marisa Tomei. Marissa Prezzano was born that summer.”
Doug: Monsoon Wedding (2001)
“The characters are memorable, the plot is clever and the movie is beautiful to look at — perfect for a cold Valentine’s Day in the Merrimack Valley.”
Katie: Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011); runners up: P.S I Love You, Hitch, Silver Linings Playbook.
Steve: Disney’s Christopher Robin (2018); runner up: if you’re looking for an epic binge watch: The Mandalorian Season 2.
Kristin: When Harry Met Sally… (1989) runner up: Palm Springs (2020).