I’ve asked myself this question many times, having come up with a list of standard answers, including beautiful, exhilarating, fulfilling, and uplifting. However, some might also describe it as painful, disappointing, and unavoidable. While it may be hard for an individual to describe what love really is, we turn to the human brain for some clues.
Love at first sight is an interesting term brought on by the brain injection of dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and phenylethalymine the moment we come into contact with an attractive, potential mate. These love drugs, which combine to create a sort of “love potion #9”, make you feel happy, invincible, and on top of the world. Research would indicate our love preceptors are also moderately controlled by genetic coding.
Studies suggest that a woman has the ability to detect a good genetic match with a man simply by her sense of smell, which in laymen terms refers her finding a mate with an appropriately mismatched genetic code. In other words, the farther apart a couple’s genetic material, the more “in love” she will become, and the stronger their offspring will be (in theory, anyway).
However, we’re getting off track from the original question, which is: What is Love?
Love Has Addictive Qualities
Not only are the happy, euphoric feelings of being in love, wonderful, they can be addictive. You probably enjoy the high of being in love, and will do almost anything to keep it. People have killed for it, died for it, and take unimaginable risks just to satisfy this urge. And if by chance that love does not work out, many of us experience what researchers consider the similar side effects of a drug addict on rehabilitation. Such symptoms include increased sweating, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, involuntary body tremors, and overall aching body. In other words, a broken heart.
Love is also addictive in a similar fashion as a gambler is to winning. Gambling is a reward-based system driven by the hope of winning, even though a significant portion of losing must be endured for them to get there. The portion of the brain that dictates this unyielding optimism, encourages people to sell their homes, cars, pension funds, and even their own values just to bask in the possibility of success. In a similar manner, love causes us to overlook the (sometimes serious) flaws of a man, as we work towards the possible reward of a committed relationship.
Love is a Positive Influence
Whenever you smile, hug, or hold hands with your partner, you are releasing the chemical, ocytocin, which gives you the ability to connect with with him better. The more you express affection, the more connected the two of you become, the more love you feel, and the more likely you are to continue this cycle. In other words, the old saying, love others and you will be loved, is absolutely true.
The influence of the brain is also responsible for our amazing devotion to one partner over a lifetime. Maybe not everybody is devoted, but there are enough faithful lovers in the world to make this feat amazing. Researchers believe this is partly due to an adaptation over time to provide the optimum setting for family survival. Studies asking students to rate various photos of people based on their attractiveness, found that committed (In love) participants were six-times likely to rate “hotties” as less attractive than the single participants. In other words, love appears to act as blinders to temptation.
Love is Magical
I can’t leave this article having based all my conclusions on biology and natural selection. There are many wonderful mysteries about love that have not been explained. For instance, studies of brain activity show there is a lot more to falling in love than just biological predisposition. When participants are shown attractive photos of the opposite sex mixed with pictures of their current partner, the most dazzling display of colors light up when the person they are looking at is their true love. Based on these studies, it has been concluded that love can be an even greater drive than sex.
There is also plenty of evidence that love is protective of your health. Studies show that men who spend little time with their partner, experience a health decline of 25 percent compared to men who see their partner on a regular basis. Research also suggests that our first experience with love (first love) could very well shape the way we experience love for the rest of our lives (so choose carefully). The very foundation that allows a newborn to attach to its mother, is love. Without this connection, a child appears to be destined to difficult relationships for the rest of his or her life.
What is so magical about love? Nobody knows, but it is pretty darn spectacular. We may not have all the answers yet, but we do know that you can shape the quality of your love and life, simply by how you choose to give and receive it. With this thought, I say make the most of every moment you have the opportunity to love and be loved.