How your brain changes when you fall in love: 4 health benefits of love
When you first fall in love with someone, life feels a little different. You may feel great euphoria when you are with your loved one - and you may desperately want her when she is gone.
These feelings occur because your brain behaves differently. Falling in love causes a surge of good-feeling chemicals that make you feel like you are on top of the world. As time goes on, these feelings develop. Butterflies and euphoria may disappear, while the desire to connect and stay together may grow - but why is that?
Here's how love affects your brain - both in the beginning and in the long run.
The "honeymoon" period
The "honeymoon" phase usually refers to the first few months of a relationship, but how long it lasts will vary for each couple. During this phase, your brain releases a flood of dopamine и norepinephrine - two neurotransmitters responsible for the confused, euphoric feeling you get.
Dopamine is involved in your brain's reward system - and the "reward" that makes you long is the company of the person you love. This explains why you can not stop thinking about your lover and can not wait to see him again. Behavior is similar to addiction. In fact, the same areas of the brain light up when you are attracted to someone as when a drug addict takes cocaine.
Norepinephrine increases the pulse, encourages you to think about your loved one at night and makes you preoccupied with your partner.
Falling in love can also lower serotonin levels. Decreased serotonin levels are common in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. This can contribute to why you may feel almost obsessed with your partner - and why you can not stop thinking about him or her no matter how hard you try.
When you are with someone you love for a long time, the chemistry of your brain tends to change. Instead of dopamine and norepinephrine, your brain releases neurotransmitters oxytocin и vasopressin.
This is the moment when you can feel the surge of euphoria from the "honeymoon" scene being transformed into a calmer state of affection and companionship.
Oxytocin and vasopressin cause attachment and bonding in pairs, which makes you feel attached to your loved one. "These chemicals also contribute to your desire to protect and care for your partner," Langslag said.
In fact, oxytocin is nicknamed the "hugging hormone" and is released during skin-to-skin contact activities such as:
The science of passion
Sexual desire is primarily stimulated by the sex hormone testosterone in both men and women. Libido can be increased or decreased due to many factors. Sex hormone levels vary throughout the day, throughout the year, and during the menstrual cycle (in women).
Plus, the reason why testosterone is associated with passion is simple: evolution. It is associated with passion in all mammalian species and may have first evolved in invertebrates more than a billion years ago.
In addition, passion can be satisfied much more easily than love. For example, passion can arise without being particularly interested in a person and can be satisfied even with just one night, while love includes infatuation, worship and companionship.
The benefits of love
Aside from the fact that love just feels great, there are some scientifically proven benefits to it, such as:
1. Love can make you live longer
A 2015 meta-analysis of 72.000 adults found that those who reported high-quality marriage (meaning high relationship satisfaction and positive feelings about their partner) were associated with better overall health and a lower risk of death.
In addition, a 2020 study of over 164.000 senior citizens found that those who were married lived slightly longer than those who were not married.
2. Love can strengthen your immune system
A 2019 study showed that falling in love can have a positive effect on your immune system. In the two-year study, participants who fell in love experienced increased activity of certain immunity genes, while participants who did not fall in love during the study did not.
This means that participants in love may have a stronger defense against infection, however, more research is needed to understand how many painful days falling in love can save you per year.
3. Love can make you feel less pain
A small study from 2010 found that people in the early stages of a romantic relationship may experience benefits from pain management, which may be due to the fact that activating reward processing regions in the brain can reduce pain. In the study, participants were exposed to moderate to high thermal pain.
Those who were in a new romantic relationship and viewed photos of their partner experienced greater pain relief than those who viewed photos of an acquaintance or participated in a distracting task.
Although this study was conducted in a controlled environment, it suggests that love can serve as at least a mild analgesic when pain inevitably occurs in life.
4. Love can be good for your heart
A 2013 study found that married people aged 35 to 64 were less likely to have a heart attack than those of the same age who were not married. Additionally, a 2019 study found that having a romantic partner, or even just thinking about a romantic partner, can lower blood pressure when exposed to stress.
Love may feel like everything in your heart, but in reality it comes down to the changes that take place in your brain. As your relationship evolves, your brain activity will change accordingly.
So we can thank our brains and neurotransmitters like dopamine, oxytocin and vasopressin for the amazing feelings we get when we are in love with someone - and of course, all the benefits that come with it.