Whether you think Valentine’s day is a beautiful day to celebrate and appreciate your significant other or a holiday exploited by companies to make money, love can feel all-consuming and there is a science as to why.
Love paints a grin across your face when that text message bling’s onto your phone or makes you ‘coo’ when you see your friend post a photo of their new baby in a cute outfit.
So what exactly is it that gives us those warm and fuzzy feelings? good old oxytocin.
Oxytocin is a chemical that is produced from our hypothalamus (a part of our brain that also works with the adrenals, thyroid, and gonads)
It is often referred to as the ‘love hormone’ as it is the chemical that is released when we fall in love or when we orgasm.
However you don’t need to fret if you currently aren’t in a state of blissful romance, there are plenty of other ways for us to tap into this wondrous flow of good feelings.
Oxytocin plays a role in our social behaviours, so the act of cuddling either a person or animal you care about, breastfeeding and laughter can all trigger the release oxytocin into our system.
However, oxytocin isn’t just about warm and fuzzy feelings.
The hormone helps us form social bonds that would have enabled us to band together in tribal times to fight off predators. It's also known as the drug of empathy, so it can help us be more understanding of the people we interact with, it has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress and opposes intestinal inflammation that has been linked to irritable bowel syndrome.
So if you don’t have anyone to cuddle up with this valentines day, grab a friend and go see a comedy or try some laughing yoga, perhaps borrow a friends dog and take it down to the local dog park.
After all, we as humans are tribal creatures and generally benefit from a sense of connection and community.