It’s a piece of advice you’ll hear from now until the end of time: The strongest relationships are built on trust. It turns out that trust might run even deeper than we thought, too. According to a new study published by the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society, two hearts literally beat as one in trusting relationships. In this case, “relationships” doesn’t just refer to romantic ones; it means all types of relationships. Either way, well, say it with me now: Awwwww!
The study, conducted at Denmark’s Aarhaus University, observed 37 pairs as they worked together to build a LEGO car (of course you would, Denmark). While one half of the groups simply built the cars, the other half played a “financial investment game” while building the cars. This game made participating groups decide how much money, if any, to invest into a larger pool.
Groups that invested all of their money together were considered to be “trusting,” due to the large risk they were willing to take together. When these pairs had their heartbeats measured, they were more likely to be in sync than pairs who disagreed about how to invest. Essentially, how much you trust your partner is tied to how physically in sync the two of you are.
As Samantha Olson of Medical Daily points out, this synchronization could be due to trust, or due to arousal from the financial risk — a concrete answer is still unclear. What researchers are clear on, though, is that our bodies, minds, and relationships are all interwoven. Harvard Medical School says that being in a trusting, respect-filled relationship can have as much of a positive effect on your body as “adequate sleep, a good diet, and not smoking.”
Here are just a few ways that healthy relationships can lead to healthy selves.
A committed relationship of any kind is directly linked to a decrease in the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Researchers at the University of Chicago found that having a strong system of social support acts as a “buffer” to psychological distress. “Although [relationships] can be pretty stressful, it should make it easier for people to handle other stressors in their lives,” says Dario Maestripieri, Professor in Comparative Human Development.
For everything from the common cold to cancer, a strong relationship might be nature’s best medicine. This is due to a host of factors: partners supporting each other to make healthy lifestyle choices, increased endorphin production aiding insulin regulation and immune system strength, and more. And even if you do get sick, being married makes you three times more likely to have a successful recovery following a major surgery.
If you’re in a healthy relationship, it turns out that you’ll be around even longer to enjoy it! Numerous studies throughout the years have tied being married, and remaining happily together, to longer lifespans. Researcher Janet Kiecolt-Glaser told TIME earlier this year, “The way people treat each other on a daily basis clearly impacts physical health.” That explains why you see so many adorable old couples riding tandem bikes or power-walking in matching track suits. Love is a powerful thing!