Friday, February 3, 2012

The Scientists Guide to Love

 Your head actually registers "love" before your heart does- technically speaking. There is a legit part of your brain that registers "love" and ironically, it's right next to the part of your brain that registers pain. Go figure. Nice thing about that though, if you're in pain and think about someone you love, you'll feel less pain. That's kinda neat.

When you "love" someone, your brain is literally flooded with mood altering chemicals that throw off your normal brain chemistry, tampering with your common sense and judgement. Basically, love can turn you into a crazy person, science proves it. By crazy, I mean it can lead you to do certain crazy things that you normally wouldn't do- like stalking for example. Yes, Facebook stalking counts. 

When you really, really like someone you experience a surge of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that stimulates the reward center of your brain and makes you "crave" your partner, bad. You get a rush of pleasure whenever you see or hear from him/her and because of this, being with them becomes a primary goal. Dopamine also activates the area of your brain that helps you focus. That's why you're always thinking of ways to get close to your partner- or stalk their Facebook status updates incessantly. Literally, the same thing that alerts us that we need basic things like food, kick in when we're falling for someone. That's why you might find yourself having a hard time concentrating on work and other things. Facebook doesn't help either. 

My advice, if you start noticing you're becoming a crazy stalker, you should probably restrict your partner for a while or unsubscribe from their updates so you can FOCUS! But, it's not your fault you're crazy, it's your brain's fault. 

Feeling Jealous? Jealousy is driven by uncertainty. If your relationship status is up in the air and you aren't sure where you stand, the green monster might start rearing it's ugly head! Don't worry though, science explains that too. Humans have this thing called DNA. It's actually wired into our DNA to fend off competition so we get the best mate to create babies with. Jealousy is our natural and biological way of locking down a mate and preventing them from straying. 

At the same time, when you're "love sick," serotonin levels (the happy drug in your brain) can drop by as much as 40 percent. When that happens the stress hormone cortisol rises and that makes you feel jealous, anxious and stressed. Stupid  Brain. So much for love making you feel warm and fuzzy inside, right? 

Noticing yourself wanting to rush things? You've been on three dates and you're already planning your wedding and naming you hypothetical children? Maybe you've been together for a month and you're already wanting to move in? Yea, your brain can make you crazy when you've "got chemistry." Here's why: the chemical spike you get when you're with your partner is so intense and awesome, you turn into a crack head for love and will do anything you can to get your next fix. You start to do whatever it takes to get it and make sure your partner is addicted to the same chemicals your brain wants too. The thing that sucks about this though- is your ability to reason flies out the window once you're hooked. Literally, you lose activity in your prefrontal cortex, which is the part of your brain that makes decisions. So, your brain wants to focus on them which in turn makes you unable to think rationally and make logical decisions. Dumb. 

The good news? Well, once you shake the ambiguity of where you and your partner stand, you're likely to stop having such intense chemical reactions in your brain and start thinking logically again. Whoo hoo! If you have experienced any of these symptoms, you're probably sick with love. The prescription? Space. Block them from your Facebook for a while, start seeing them once a week instead of three or four times a week, and work out! Working out increases your serotonin levels which help, immensely. 

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