What Falling in Love Does to Your Brain, Body & Health

When love is in the air, you might experience some unexpected changes to your body. A romantic relationship can have intense effects.

Here are nine ways falling in love can impact your body, by Mary Daly

1. MAKES US ‘MADDENINGLY’ PREOCCUPIED

“Crazy in love” is actually a pretty apt description — especially in the early stages of a relationship. “Levels of the stress hormone cortisol increase during the initial phase of romantic love, marshaling our bodies to cope with the ‘crisis’ at hand,” according to the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute. The rising cortisol depletes the body’s serotonin — the neurotransmitter that helps to stabilize our mood. And that combination of high cortisol and low serotonin can cause us to feel like our emotions are on a roller coaster, completely immersed in all the highs and lows of our new love.”

2. SPARKS EUPHORIA

“Falling in love might cause you to become preoccupied and nervous. But it also can create a sense of euphoria in the body, thanks to the high levels of dopamine it releases. “Dopamine activates the reward circuit, helping to make love a pleasurable experience similar to the euphoria associated with use of cocaine or alcohol,” the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute says. In fact, research has shown loving relationships can be an effective antidote to substance abuse problems, as well as depression and anxiety. Plus, another chemical in the mix is oxytocin — the “love hormone” — which is released during skin-to-skin contact and heightens feelings of peace and wellbeing.”

3. BLINDS US

“Love is blind” is another phrase that science has proven somewhat accurate. “When we are engaged in romantic love, the neural machinery responsible for making critical assessments of other people, including assessments of those with whom we are romantically involved, shuts down, according to the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute. So we experience fewer negative emotions, including “fear and social judgment.” And that’s not the only change to our eyes we might see. Research also has shown our pupils tend to dilate when we look at the object of our affection — which potentially is a side effect of all that dopamine.”

4. CHANGES OUR VOICES

“When speaking to someone we find attractive, research has shown we might subtly and subconsciously alter our voices. One study found men were more likely to lower their pitch when speaking to women they found attractive. And another study learned women spoke in a higher pitch to men they found attractive. Moreover, a study published in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior recorded people talking to relatively new romantic partners, as well as to close friends. They were instructed to say lines, such as “How are you?” and “What are you doing?” The researchers then played those clips for independent raters, who overwhelmingly were able to tell when a person was speaking to a romantic partner versus a friend, based on their pitch and perceived romantic interest.”

5. KILLS PAIN

“Love can hurt, but sometimes it also can relieve pain. A 2010 study recruited participants who were in the first nine months of a romantic relationship to complete three tasks with periods of inflicted pain. During the first task, they viewed a photo of their romantic partner. For the second, they viewed photos of “an equally attractive and familiar acquaintance.” And for the third task, they took part in a word-association distraction technique that already had been demonstrated to reduce pain. As a result, both the romantic partner and distraction tasks significantly reduced the participants’ pain. And the partner task showed activation in the participants’ brains’ rewards center, suggesting “that the activation of neural reward systems via non-pharmacologic means can reduce the experience of pain,” according to the study.”

6. PREVENTS COLDS

“You might be lovesick, but a healthy relationship can keep you just that — healthy. According to a study from Carnegie Mellon University, greater social support — and especially frequent hugs — can reduce a person’s chances of getting an infection. Participants were interviewed to learn about their support systems, and then they were exposed to the common cold virus. Those who had more supportive relationships in their lives (and received more frequent hugs) experienced greater protection against the virus. Although this effect doesn’t necessarily have to come from a romantic partner, the researchers highlighted hugs because they denote a more intimate relationship.”

7. INCREASES CREATIVITY

“Love and lust can mean two very different things when it comes to your creativity. According to Psychology Today, a 2009 study asked one group of participants to imagine a long walk with their romantic partner and another group to imagine a scenario involving casual sex with an attractive person. A control group imagined a solo walk. The researchers then gave the participants creative insight problems, as well as analytical problems, from the GRE. “They found that those primed with thoughts of love had the highest levels of creative insights (those primed with lust had the lowest), whereas those primed with thoughts of lust had the highest levels of analytical thinking (those primed with love had the lowest),” Psychology Today says. The idea is that love enhances our long-term, holistic thinking while lust puts us in the present, concentrating on concrete details.”

8. BOOSTS HEART HEALTH

“Falling in love can make your heart happy in more ways than one. According to a study on relationships and cardiovascular health, brief, warm physical contact between partners is able to lower your blood pressure and heart rate, even in stressful situations. And another study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found people in happy marriages were associated with lower blood pressure, stress and rates of depression, as well as greater life satisfaction. But the study did point out that single people had better health than those in unhappy marriages — showing happiness and support is the key.”

9. SPEEDS HEALING

“Love both can prevent health issues and heal them, research has shown. One study found married adults who had heart surgery were more than three times as likely to survive the next three months compared to single adults. Prior to their surgeries, researchers interviewed the participants and found the married adults tended to have a more positive outlook, especially when it came to managing any pain and discomfort.”

“And another study on wound healing recruited 37 couples to receive small blisters on their forearms. Then, the couples went through a structured social interaction task. The researchers found that the wounds on the couples who interacted more positively healed much faster than the wounds on the couples who engaged in negative communication — again showing what a loving connection can do for your life.”

https://www.care2.com/greenliving/what-falling-in-love-does-to-your-body.html