Valentine’s Day is looming, but did you ever consider that love has consequences for health and well-being. Engaging in joyful activities whether with a person or hobby may activate areas in the brain responsible for emotion, attention, motivation, and memory, and it further serves to control the autonomic nervous system, i.e., stress reduction. This specific activity pattern exerts a protective effect, even on the brain itself. Thus, love and pleasure clearly can stimulate health, well-being and (re)productivity.

The most consistent advice I give to patients regardless of the ailment I am helping the with is to find an activity that brings them joy. It is the most underrated emotion, the negative ones – stress, bereavement, sadness, depression, and fear take all the limelight. It can be a sport (team or individual), creative arts, gardening, reading, the list is endless. The difficult task is finding the one that works for you. Try one, if its not for you try another.

Love (romantic) is closely related to the concept of pleasure and ‘positive psychology’, i.e., joyful mental states, and therefore has become a feature not only of thorough psychological but also basic science research – e.g., neurobiology – and clinical medicine. Love, particularly in the beginning (i.e., falling in love), can sometimes be stressful. However, it still possesses a strong and overall stress reducing potential. Reproduction and sexual behaviours are just one aspect of love. Community, social support, health, and survival (of the individual and the species) clearly indicate further beneficial properties of the biological love concept. Social support has documented health benefits, and the absence of positive social interactions or social bonds is typically associated with both physical and mental illnesses. So, whether it’s date night or a meal with friends put it in the diary.

Clinical medicine and particularly in integrative or mind/body medical settings, including certain forms of complementary medicine, the self healing capacities of the mind-brain construct have become widely popular. Love and pleasure carry the ability to heal or facilitate beneficial motivation and behaviour. After all, love is a joyful, yet useful, activity that encompasses wellness and feelings of wellbeing – a rather holistic and integrative medical procedure!

Do you want a healthier you?  Go ahead and treat your partner and yourself to a meal full of natural aphrodisiacs.  What is an aphrodisiac? Well, it can be a drug, scent, food, drink, or device that some claim (usually those who market them) may kindle or increase sexual desire and enhance performance. There’s no scientific evidence whatsoever that proves that aphrodisiacs work, however, the mind is a very powerful thing and if you or more importantly your partner believes it to be so, then it will be.  So, before you skip around the room on one foot while chanting ancient Chinese proverbs, try putting together a meal first.

The ancient world believed seafood had aphrodisiac qualities because Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love was born of sea foam (Aphrodite = aphrodisiac). Oysters make for a great starter; I know you’re as surprised to see this as I am, yeah right. They have been esteemed as aids for ages, possibly because they are abundant in zinc which would see an improvement in overall health leads to an increased sex drive. Caviar contains a large number of beneficial vitamins, rich in phosphorus and very nourishing to nerve cells. There’s a choice for main course; Sushi has aphrodisiacal effects all on its own in particular the green stuff that comes with it (Wasabi/ horseradish) or there’s chilli, curry and all those sweat inducing foods are believed to stimulate because they produce similar results to sex. And end with a vanilla dessert because its sweet, welcoming odour has a euphoric effect and can implicitly act upon sexual stimulation in both men and women.