How Love Affects Your Brain and Body

Blog Mind How Love Affects Your Brain and Body

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9.30.2021 0 comments

Ahh, love: it’s what makes the world go around and life worth living!

In truth, there are few feelings more marvelous than being in love. The joy of spending every free moment with that special someone. The thrill of seeing them smile, laugh, and enjoy life just a little bit more because you’re in it together. The exhilaration of their hand in your hand, their lips pressed against yours.

Love truly is a wonderful thing, and it can have some pretty remarkable effects on both your brain and your body. If you know how to recognize the signs below, it’s easy to tell when you’re in love.

The Effects of Love on Your Brain

Love can do some interesting things to human brain chemistry, triggering some truly fascinating reactions in your brain—reactions that ultimately spread to the rest of your body.

First of all, love can lower your stress levels. Research [1] suggests that single people have higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) than those who are in committed relationships. There is evidence [2] that having a partner helps you feel you can tackle life challenges more easily, so big, stressful problems can feel just that little bit smaller and more manageable.

Love also triggers a sense of euphoria by releasing dopamine, the chemical necessary for your brain’s “reward system”. Dopamine is used by your brain to reinforce pleasurable behavior, including listening to music you really enjoy, eating tasty food, having sex, and, of course, seeing the person (or people) you love. This neurological change [3] encourages you to spend more time with that person because it makes you feel good, and you end up feeling good because you’re spending more time with them, so you want to spend even more time, and on and on the cycle goes as you fall deeper and deeper in love.

Sex and romance also trigger the release of oxytocin [4], the hormone that helps you to feel attached to others. The more time you spend with your romantic partner and the more oxytocin is released, the safer you feel around them, and the deeper your connection feels. It also decreases your interest in looking for partners elsewhere. This closeness and lack of interest for outside romance contributes to a deeper, more committed relationship.

Romantic love can also trigger a curiously intense behavior, an almost single-minded focus on the person who evokes these feelings of love. It activates the part of your brain that is linked to obsessive-compulsive behaviors [5], which explains why you tend to focus (almost to the point of obsession) on the subject of your affections, particularly in the early stages of romance.

Love can also lead to a sense of “alignment” between you and your partner. Thanks to your vagus nerve, your bodies actually begin to sync up, from your facial expressions to your patterns of thinking to your heartbeat. As you grow more aligned with your partner, you become more willing to compromise and sacrifice to make them happy [6].

And, of course, love can also trigger some pretty intense jealous feelings. Jealousy is a natural emotion that indicates that you feel a strong commitment to and connection with your partner, and you have no desire to lose them. It suggests attachment that exists only with that person, which is why you feel so protective.

Love can even deactivate the neural pathways linked to negative emotions like social judgement and fear [7]. You become less afraid (even of things that terrified you in the past) and less likely to criticize others (including your romantic partner) because of romantic love.

The Effects of Love on Your Body

Love doesn’t just affect your brain—it can also have some pretty marked effects on your body, too!

Love can raise your sex drive, elevating the levels of androgen hormones (like testosterone) that play a role in your libido and desire for sex, particularly with the person you love. This is because your brain is telling your body that it wants to have more sex in order to experience the dopamine “high” and the rush of attachment-forming oxytocin.

Falling in love can also give you relief from pain. One study [8] found that looking at a photograph of a romantic partner and completing a distraction task reduced the amount of pain experienced during the test. This could be the result of the dopamine rush triggered by the sight of one’s romantic interest, which doesn’t reduce the pain itself, but lowers your body’s perception of the pain.

Love can also improve your health in a number of ways [9], including lowering your blood pressure, accelerating recovery from disease and illness, boosting your immune health, and decreasing your risk of heart disease. Love has also been linked to a longer lifespan [10, 11], with research suggesting that the death rate among married couples was lower than among singles, and marriage can decrease mortality risk following even serious surgeries.

As Andy Williams said, “Love is a many-splendored thing.” It’s one of the greatest joys in life, and as research has proven, can turn a bad day into a truly marvelous day indeed. If you’re fortunate enough to find love in your life, enjoy all the benefits it provides to both your brain and your body!









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