What is “love” anyway? A feeling? A chemical reaction? A connection? Maybe a combination of these ideals and more. Whatever love means to you, scientifically speaking, it is all in the brain, set in motion by various hormones that drive lust, attraction, and attachment. And since your brain controls your body, love really is all-encompassing. Luckily, love (usually) evokes positive outlooks and actions.
A series of hormones are the true initiators of love and influence what we do and how we feel. Testosterone and estrogen drive lust; dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin create attraction; and oxytocin and vasopressin mediate attachment. While these hormones dictate the different stages of love, they can also make us look pretty silly, or at least sexual arousal does… as it appears to turn off regions in our brain that regulate critical thinking, self-awareness, and rational behavior. So, the guy flubbering at you upon a friend’s introduction sincerely and physically cannot get himself together.
Love is important to us. We are one of the few mammals on Earth that form enduring pair bonds. Such a special characteristic highlights our belief in community and partnership. This Valentine’s Day, celebrate those bonds and don’t forget to love yourself, too.
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