By Tessa Greenspan (as told to Nanette Wiser)

Valentine month is blooming with hearts, chocolate and flowers, reminding me of the power of love. Like Huey Lewis sang: “The power of love is a curious thing, Make a one man weep, make another man sing. Change a hawk to a little white dove. More than a feeling, that’s the power of love.”

The power of love extends beyond relationships, friendships and familial emotions. In fact, love can heal or hurt  your heart, mind and soul and that’s a fact, Jack. And it might just save your life.

Spending positive time with loved ones in person or virtually can reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure and may even improve your cardiovascular health. 

The Health and Human Services Department reviewed studies on marriage and health and one of the perks of a good, loving relationship is fewer doctor visits and shorter average hospital stays. A calm, loving relationship may contribute to less depression and substance abuse, less pain, fewer colds and faster healing.

Love can cause changes in hormones including oxytocin, vasopressin, dopamine, serotonin, cortisol and testosterone., all of which affect your brain. The hormones oxytocin and vasopressin interact with your dopamine reward system, which causes people to feel good. Vasopressin helps control blood pressure. Cortisol, the stress hormone, initially rises when you fall in love, but quickly drops in a long-term, stable relationship.

Deepak Chopra agrees on the power of love to make us healthier: “These hormones are not only antidepressants, and induce a subjective sense of euphoria, but they’re also immunomodulators. They modify, modulate, and fortify your immune system, so you’re a much healthier person. When people are experiencing either the giving or receiving of love, their body starts to self-regulate and restore homeostasis, which means that all your body systems are performing at a peak level.”

During this pandemic, we’ve learned how love and positive relationships can be a beacon of light in the darkness of isolation. In a study of 400 adults, researchers found that the more often people hugged, the more their chances of getting sick decreased.

While physical touch is important but more difficult right now, emotional touchbases with friends and families, even casual encounters at the grocery store, lighten our moods.

Strong social ties can enhance longevity. An American Journal of Epidemiology study assessed the relationships of 5,000 adults ages 30 to 69. Those with strong, happy marriages lived longer than unmarried men and women while adults with poor social ties had twice the risk of death compared to others in the study.

On my journey, Louise Hay was a huge influence on my life and spoke often about the power of self-love.  “You are willing to change yourself and your beliefs to improve the quality of your life and your world. Your body loves you in spite of how you may treat it. Your body communicates with you, and you now listen to its messages.”

Hays suggests starting your day with several positivity rituals: Tell yourself this will be a good day. Get up and thank your body for working well. Write in your journal. Plan your best day. Gaze into your eyes in the mirror and say “I Love You.”

With the support of my husband, family and friends, I’ve been able to lead with a loving and generous heart to create my own destiny. I begin each day with a grateful heart and try to make everyday a good one, filled with happiness and smiles and love.

So take your cue from Huey Lewis. Love yourself, your pet and cultivate loving relationships if your life.  “You don’t need money, don’t take fame. Don’t need no credit card to ride this train. It’s strong and it’s sudden and it’s cruel sometimes. But it might just save your life. That’s the power of love.”

St. Louis author and motivational speaker Tessa Greenspan’s international bestseller, “From Outhouse to Penthouse – Life Lessons on Love, Laughter and Leadership,” is available on Amazon here.  This inspired personal story, struggle to overcome obstacles and life lessons is especially poignant during these difficult times.  “Failure is not an option,” is Greenspan’s motto.  Follow her on social media and her website  Email her at [email protected]