Love is in your genes! We understand that falling and staying in love have more to do with the brain chemicals, dopamine and oxytocin, than almost anything else. Dopamine activates the reward centre of the brain and makes us feel ecstatic when we're with that certain person and in withdrawal when we're not. (Does this sound kinda like addiction? Not surprising! Dopamine is also involved in this.) The version of the COMT gene that you have defines how quickly you break down the dopamine in your system--at a fast, intermediate, or slow speed. The higher your baseline dopamine levels, the more prone you may be to the intensity of that feeling of "falling" in love.
Of course, that initial heady feeling of love never seems to last, does it? We become less sensitised to dopamine over time, and after 2-3 months, the responsibility for staying in love is passed over to oxytocin. This neurotransmitter is known as the bonding hormone and is hugely stimulated by physical touch. It helps us feel connected and loving. Large amounts of oxytocin are released in women following birth to develop the mother-baby bond. A 20-second hug releases oxytocin into the body. It is also stimulated as part of sexual orgasm and is believed to increase the intensity of orgasms. Your OXT gene defines your brain chemistry for oxytocin reception and makes you more or less predisposed towards the effects of oxytocin. For example, genetic variations of the OXT gene are believed to be responsible for differing levels of empathy in individuals.
Would you like more love in your life? Apples, almonds, avocado, banana, beets, and of course, dark chocolate all support the production of dopamine in the brain. No wonder chocolate is associated with romance--and also so addictive! (Make sure your chocolate is at least 85% dark to get the benefits. Try making these 100% dark raw chocolates at home!) Eating itself increases oxytocin by stimulating the central vagus nerve, but the best ways involve physical contact and relaxation--hugs, cuddles, sex, massages, a warm bath, and deep breathing. A phone call to a friend or loved one even stimulates its release. How much? Research into hugs suggests that eight 20-second hugs per day are required for maintenance of oxytocin levels and 12 per day develops increased levels over time.
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