Love is a mysterious and powerful force that can bring people together and inspire great acts of kindness and selflessness. But have you ever wondered what’s happening in your brain when you fall in love? Here are 10 things that occur in the brain when you’re in a relationship, along with examples of each:
- The brain’s reward system is activated: Being in love releases a cocktail of chemicals in the brain that can cause euphoria and intense feelings of pleasure. These chemicals include dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin, which play key roles in our happiness and well-being. For example, the rush of dopamine that is released when we’re around our romantic partner can make us feel focused and motivated to spend time with them.
- Dopamine is released: This chemical is released when we experience pleasure or reward and helps to increase focus and motivation. It is also involved in the development of long-term attachments. For example, the release of dopamine when we’re with our partner might help us to feel more focused on them and motivated to pursue the relationship.
- Oxytocin, the “love hormone,” is released: This hormone is released during physical touch and helps to strengthen bonds between romantic partners. It is also involved in the creation of positive memories and can reduce stress and anxiety. For example, the release of oxytocin during a hug or kiss with our partner might help us to feel more connected to them and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
- Serotonin levels increase: This neurotransmitter is associated with feelings of happiness and well-being, and increased levels of serotonin can contribute to the experience of love. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to negative emotions such as anxiety, jealousy and depression. For example, an increase in serotonin levels might contribute to feelings of happiness and well-being when we’re with our partner.
- The amygdala becomes more active: This area of the brain is involved in the processing of emotions and becomes more active when we’re in love, leading to intense emotional arousal and attachment. For example, the increased activity in the amygdala might cause us to feel more emotionally invested in our partner and more attached to them.
- The prefrontal cortex becomes less active: This area of the brain is involved in decision-making and judgement, and becomes less active when we’re in love. This can lead to a decrease in our ability to make rational decisions, explaining impulsive or irrational behaviour when we’re head over heels for someone. For example, the decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex might cause us to make impulsive decisions, such as booking a spontaneous vacation with our partner or buying them an extravagant gift.
- The brain becomes more efficient at processing positive emotions: When we’re in love, the brain becomes more efficient at processing positive emotions, leading to an overall increase in positive feelings. For example, we might find that we’re able to more easily focus on and appreciate the positive aspects of our relationship when we’re in love.
- The brain becomes less efficient at processing negative emotions: On the flip side, the brain becomes less efficient at processing negative emotions when we’re in love, leading to a decrease in negative feelings. For example, we might find that we’re more forgiving of our partner’s flaws and more able to overlook negative aspects of the relationship when we’re in love.
- The brain becomes more sensitive to the smell of a romantic partner: The brain becomes more sensitive to the scent of a romantic partner, potentially due to the release of chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin. For example, the smell of our partner’s perfume or cologne might be more appealing to us when we’re in love, and we might find that we’re more drawn to them when they’re wearing a scent we associate with them.
- Being in a relationship can improve overall well-being: Studies have shown that people in happy, committed relationships tend to have lower levels of stress and anxiety, and are generally more satisfied with their lives. For example, being in a loving and supportive relationship might help us to feel more secure and fulfilled, leading to increased overall well-being.
Love is a complex and multifaceted experience, and the science behind it helps us to understand why we feel the way we do when we’re in a relationship. From the release of chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin to physical changes in the brain, it’s clear that love has the power to change us in profound ways.
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- Fisher, H. (2017). Anatomy of Love: The Natural History of Monogamy, Adultery, and Divorce. WW Norton & Company.
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