A Series on Love: Our Brains on Love

Our Brains on Love

Our brains are seriously amazing. Among the coolest are the ways in which different types of attachment affect our brain chemistry. “Love is blind,” is absolutely legit. Hormones flood our brains to turn off critical thinking, self-awareness, and rational behavior. Bye-bye, prefrontal cortex functions! So let’s talk about the three main hurricanes and how to use them in your relationship.

First up, lust and passion. Getting caught up in a moment isn’t simply about a lack of self-control; it’s about brain chemistry. Hormones like testosterone and estrogen rush to our brains, rendering our logical thinking useless. So how can you bring some of those hormones into your sex life? An easy way to boost testosterone is to take a power stance for two minutes before initiating sex. (Watch this TED Talk and you’ll understand how it works.) A more fool-proof way is to talk to your doctor and have your levels tested. There are all kinds of testosterone- and estrogen-based pills and creams for people of any age to bring a little passion back into the bedroom!

Next comes attraction and intimacy. Love high neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin hit the reward centers in our brains. Yep, the same ones that affect eating and sleeping. These neurotransmitters help our minds learn who we love and why we’re attracted to them. How can you bring more of these brain builders into your relationship? Take care of yourself! Eat well, get regular exercise, take Vitamin D, and invest in a happy light (Verilux is my totally-unsponsored brand of choice).

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, attachment and commitment. These are the hormones that are going to carry your passion and intimacy to the next level. Oxytocin and vasopressin promote bonding, closeness, and loyalty. Looking for more of this in your relationship? Look into each other’s eyes more often and for a longer period of time, especially during times of positive communication. Volunteer together to get those altruistic mirror neurons firing. And do something relaxing together, like a massage or quiet walk in a park, so the stresses of life aren’t a part of the moment.

Our brains are capable of doing many things, so figure out how to make yours work for you in your relationship. Have fun!

Published by Jessica Gage, MA, LPC, NCC

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (license #PC007550) and a National Certified Counselor.

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