Happiness and health

The Good Life Letter 

1st May 2011

  • Discover the power of love... it's more than you might think
  • How can a 1960's TV programme make Ray think of love?
  • Happiness and health may just be the secret

My heartfelt best wishes to Prince William and his Princess, Kate.

Even an old curmudgeon like me had to acknowledge that they look deeply, and genuinely in love, and for that fact alone I hope they are able to live out a long and happy life together.

I suppose that must be a real challenge for a Royal couple, especially ones who will eventually become the King and Queen of their domain.

Never was this more the case than in the tragic circumstances surrounding William's parents.

Much of the commentary which followed the announcement of Kate and William's engagement made comparisons between their relationship and that of Charles and Diana.  I suppose it was inevitable; however it must make the pressure on the two young lovers even greater than it needs to be.

Let's not forget that love is actually at the centre of this relationship - the unfathomable feelings which attract two people together, and means that time spent apart seems wasted. I hope you've been lucky enough to experience it.

I call it 'The Flashing Blade' feeling... something I need to explain.

When I was little, morning TV on a Saturday was a very meagre affair. The BBC started at 9:00 and usually put something like Playschool on first.

After this they ran an imported programme which had been overdubbed with English. Thus we enjoyed 'White Horses', 'Belle and Sebastien' and the best of the lot 'The Flashing Blade'.

Basically this was a French TV series which was made in the 1960's and ran on the BBC in the early 1970's. The story was set in 17th century France, during the War of the Mantuan Succession (1628-1631) between France and Spain and its allies including the Duchy of Savoy.

The series of 12 episodes involved the besieged French garrison in the city of Casale, which was the capital of Montferrat on the Savoie (Savoy) border.

Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy laid siege to Casale but was defeated by French troops on 18 March 1629.

Our hero was a dashing spy who was trying to engineer the garrison's rescue, and falling into the arms of his true love in the process.

All of this history was lost on me, though I loved the swashbuckling sword play, which was replayed with vengeance afterwards, my friends and I using bits of Elderberry bush hacked from the roadside as our weapons of choice.

The strange thing though is that after all this time I can still remember the theme song from the programme, which I think was called Fight.

The lyrics went something like this:

'You've got to fight for what you want, for all that you believe.

It's right to fight for what we want; to live the way we please.

As long as we have done our best, then no-one can do more.

For life and love and happiness are well worth fighting for.'

They don't write them like that anymore!

The closing line was my favourite:

'It's better to have fought and lost than to have never loved at all.'

It's a very powerful thing, true love - but did you know that it also has a major impact on health?

Even the hardest hearted scientist has been forced to accept that the physical and psychological benefits of being in love have a significant benefit to wellbeing. The following have all been backed up by recent research:

  • Fewer visits to the doctor. The American equivalent of our Department of Health (the Department of Health and Human Services) recently reviewed studies on marriage and health and reported that married people consult doctors less frequently, have shorter hospital stays, and are less likely to be admitted to a nursing home, resulting in lower healthcare costs.

Other research shows that married people have higher resistance to colds and flu, even when exposed to the viruses that causes these conditions.

Dr. Carole Lieberman from the University of California, Los Angeles believes that this may be due to a reduction in stress, which helps keep the immune response working at its optimum.

  • Improved mental health. Relationships have the power to nurture our wellness more than any other factor, stimulating a massive dump of positive endorphins into the blood.

These chemicals are our inbuilt stimulants, basically a bit like having your own online drug factory giving you a high. When we feel at our best we all know that we are able to cope with anything, and suffer less illness in the process.

One other significant factor is the expression of love through touch. This is one of the most powerful modifiers of psychological health.

The fact that lovers hold hands, caress and engage in intimate contact generates waves of positive neurological, chemical and emotional factors in the body.

The laying on of hands been a modality of treatment for millennia, but when the positive effects of this are enhanced by the feelings of love then this power is increased manyfold.

The benefits of a strong marriage may also have significant consequences in respect of cognitive function.

A report published in the British Medical Journal has found that people living without a partner have twice the risk of developing cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease later in life.

The study also found that the risk was even higher if people did not have a partner at midlife suggesting that single life carries the greatest risk for deteriorating mental health.

  • Living longer. If you are in love then you'll live 10 years longer than if you are not - on average.

This seems a very bold statement to make, however, it is backed by research conducted by a series of studies, David Halpern, a policy advisor to government, summarised the research and came to the startling conclusion above.

So, there you have it - love is the best drug of all.

Yours, as always



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