The Affection Connection: 14 Ways Good Relationships Boost Health

Cleveland Clinic tips on how friends and family can enhance mood, heart health and happiness (15 Photos)

Cleveland Clinic/ on Sep 21, 2012 at 11:49PM

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The Affection Connection: 14 Ways Good Relationships Boost Health

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Seeing and Touching Makes a Difference

When it comes to reaping the rewards of healthy attachments — including improved cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, hormonal and immune health — nothing can really top the positive physiological effects that occur when we are physically present with someone with whom we feel connected. "Communicating in person elicits certain feelings and emotions that you simply can’t experience through writing or on the phone," says Michael McKee, MD, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic. “You get to pick up on nonverbal inflection, such as seeing this person smile with her eyes, as well as her mouth. You can also interact physically, whether it’s greeting each other with a kiss, shaking hands, a gentle touch on the back or a hug.” The brain sees all of these things as positive and, pardon the pun, sends out an e-mail alerting the rest of the body, which in turn triggers a whole chain of events, including slower heart rate, the release of the calming hormone oxytocin, and slowed production of the stress hormone cortisol. This isn’t to say that social media, including Skype and Facebook, have no value. In fact, Dr. McKee says that “digital tools can be useful for maintaining friendships, as long as they don’t replace in-person interactions.”

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