Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and if you’re canoodling with a special someone, good for you! For those of us who are single, though, there are plenty of other ways to get that “special feeling” we usually associate with falling in love.
Biologically, falling in love involves the release of a few chemicals in the brain: oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and testosterone. That’s right: Science tells us exactly what makes our brains fall in love … and we can replicate those feelings any time we want! This Sunday, make a date with yourself and get ready to feel all lovey-dovey by doing some of these fun things.
Chocolate and love have long been associated with each other, and for good reason. Eating chocolate triggers the release of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that’s also released when we fall in love. This is one of the reasons chocolate is so addicting: Our brains come to love the rush that comes from this lighthearted, calm feeling.
Cuddle with your pet
Oxytocin is known as “the love hormone,” and it’s released when we are in close contact with our loved ones. After giving birth, new moms experience a surge in oxytocin that helps them bond with their babies. We also experience an oxytocin rush right after orgasm, which serves to bond us with our partners.
You know who else triggers an oxytocin rush in your brain? Your pet! Snuggling with your cat or dog (or rabbit, ferret or other cuddly creature) causes your brain, as well as your pet’s brain, to release oxytocin. This is one of the reasons why pet therapy is so effective in treating anxiety and depression—an oxytocin surge helps calm us down, bonds us with another creature, and makes us feel loved.
Let’s talk a little more about the aforementioned dopamine. This feel-good neurotransmitter—as well as endorphins, which also make us feel happy—are released when we exercise. It’s partially responsible for the so-called “runner’s high” that many regularly active people experience—and for some, it can be just as addictive as love. If you’re already fit and healthy, why not try pushing yourself a little harder this weekend?
If you really want some mood-boosting, lovey-dovey feelings, few activities compare to a good meditation session. According to the Chopra Center, meditation causes the brain to release oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins and dopamine—all the ingredients of happiness and love. Seek out a quiet place to be alone, focus on your breath and be present in the moment. Even 15 minutes of meditation can be a huge mood-booster.
Listen to music
Whether an intense love ballad or light acoustic rock is more your jam, music of all kinds can trigger a dopamine rush similar to that of falling in love. This particular dopamine reward system seems to be specific to humans, according to science writer Virginia Hughes. So put on a good pair of headphones or dance your heart out in your living room, and enjoy the good vibes. Happy Valentine’s Day!