A common theme in literature, songs, movies and art is love – especially romantic love. But love is so much more than that giddy feeling that makes your stomach flip, the desire for a specific person, or the connection that comes from shared interests. It can be the love for a child, friend, family member, career, or cause – and it manifests in a variety of ways.
For example, it might be the reason you forgive your partner for being late, work extra hard at your job because of the impact you could have on someone else’s life, or cheer wildly when your favorite team wins. Love can be irrational and it can make us do crazy things – but what is it exactly that causes people to act like that?
The answer is complicated. According to one study, researchers found that the brain of a person in love behaves very differently than the brain of a person who isn’t. In fact, the researchers found that when a person is in love, their brain looks the same as the brain of a cocaine user. The good news is that this can be a temporary state, and the brain returns to normal when the person is no longer in love.
Other studies have shown that when you love someone, it actually increases your serotonin levels and makes you more empathetic. This is why you might feel so good after spending time with a loved one, or when you get a gift from them that shows how much they care about you.
In other words, you can say that loving someone actually makes you a better person, and that is why it’s so important to show love to those around you. It’s the reason that friends and family are so important to us – they can help us navigate through the ups and downs of life, and support us when we need it most.
Love also gives you motivation to grow for yourself and for the people you love – you might learn new skills or try something new that you wouldn’t otherwise do. It is the reason that you might sign up for therapy to cope with a mental health issue because your partner encourages you to get help.
Lastly, there’s the love you have for your pets and other animals – often, these are seen as family members in our society and we can develop deep emotional bonds with them. This can have positive health impacts, as it reduces stress and improves sleep. It can also boost your immune system and even lower blood pressure. However, just as with human relationships, the quality of these connections can vary enormously and unhealthy, toxic love can be damaging to your body and mind. (Deakin University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.)