Happy Valentine’s Day! For many of us today is a day to celebrate the love we share with our partners – and for some others it’s the ideal time of year to complain about not having one. Nonetheless, independently of your current status – the chemical effects that love has on our bodies is undeniable. Scientists have proven that love deeply affects us physically and that when we do find it, it feels oh so good.
Researchers have spent time analysing the increase of chemicals that are released in the brain when we fall in love. Dopamine plays a large role in the overwhelming feeling of “not being able to get enough” of another person. This chemical controls the level of pleasure we feel and is normally associated with more negative addictions such as drug use or gambling. When we find our significant other and dopamine levels increase, a couple will feel enamoured and revitalised. This sensation is arguably the feeling of become quite literally addicted to the one another. Helen Fisher, PhD explained to Health.com that this phenomenon is associated to both long and short-term love stories.
The science behind intimacy goes even further when analysing the chemical effects of being physical with your partner. It is no mystery that males have higher natural testosterone levels than females, however being physically intimate with another sparks an increase of this hormone for both sexes. Health.com highlights that there are several theories surrounding kissing. Some experts believe that when we lock lips with our lovers, men pass on their increased levels of testosterone hormones to the female; ultimately increasing sexual desire for both individuals.
Oxytocin is another chemical that is released when we couple up. This chemical causes more intensified bonds between two people and also entices more intimacy. Experts have discovered that oxytocin has been associated to the physical sensations new mothers feel as it helps increase milk production and stronger bonds with their newborn. When we crave intimacy and spending time in a one-on-one setting with our partner, this is actually oxytocin affecting your body.
While some chemical effects are widely acknowledged by love potion experts, others are still being studied. Why do we physically become at a loss for words when we are in the process of falling in love? Some researchers believe that norepinephrine, the hormone that increases stress levels, is the culprit. When the human body becomes stressed, we feel sweaty, flustered, an increased heart rate – all the exact same physical effects experienced when another person has us enamoured and nervous.
Another widely accepted, but yet to be proven theory, suggests that smell also plays a large role in falling in love. Pheromones are chemical messengers that we obtain through our noses send signals and memories to the brain that may insight sexual attraction and falling in love.
Why are we more attracted to some people more than others? Sometimes the person in front of you could be “perfect on paper” but we just can’t force ourselves to feel the attraction. It is believed that this could be down to the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). The MHC is a set of cell surface proteins that play a vital role in our immune systems as their purpose is to recognize and signal when they detect foreign molecules that could negatively affect the body. Studies suggest that the human body is capable of detecting MHC make up from scent and smell. Relatives have the most similar MHC combinations and therefore it makes sense that we are most attracted to those who have a very different MHC make up than ourselves.
Love is a beautiful thing but when we break down the science, we are merely instinctive beings greatly affected by our surroundings. Keep alert when you begin to experience any of the aforementioned chemical and physical changes in your body – you may just have met “the one”.