The origins of love (and how to get more of it)

Where does love really come from and how does the body manage to feel the groove? With Valentine’s Day approaching, it’s time once again to check with our friendly, neighborhood chemistry labs and see what’s cooking. 570700321_6e7a7d3acd_b

If you believe that there’s a hormone for everything, then you’d be right to assume that love is associated with one of them. Some call it “the love hormone” and others call it “the cuddle chemical.” The grown up name for this stuff is oxycotin and while it’s not a new discovery, this biochemical love juice is suddenly being used with some wag-the-tail logic to define what happens in the world of sports.

It turns out there’s also evidence that physical activity can also heighten production of oxytocin; Studies consistently have shown that long distance runners have significantly higher bloodstream levels of oxytocin after post-event. “Lots of stresses can trigger oxytocin release, among them exercise,” says William Kenkel, a researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “It stands to reason, then that such exercise-related oxytocin release could facilitate social bonding.”

Furthermore, team sports also allow for an opportunity for an oxytocin boost. Just for fun, let’s say that you went to a football game and you didn’t really care which team won. Well one player spikes the ball after a successful play and this triggers increased oxytocin and better playing by teammates, which triggers increased cheering and clapping in the stands. One study recently reported in The New York Times suggests that it is nearly impossible for any impartial fan to remain unaffected. Just sitting there watching all these positive outbreaks of cheering causes the impartial fan to experience a jolt of increased oxytocin, too. Ah, isn’t love wonderful?

What’s the takeaway? There’s many paths to good-vibes, and if you’re decidedly not coupling up this valentine’s weekend, a run may not be a bad idea.