For centuries, die-hard romantics have received inspiration from the intriguing feeling of love. Although delightful, this feeling is not so illusive. Scientific studies explain love in more rational terms, as merely a chemical release of feel-good hormones.
Psychologist from The Positivity Institute, Belinda Williams, tells SBS Life that the feeling of love is mostly generated by the release of oxytocin, as well as neurotransmitters like dopamine – responsible for reward and reinforcement—and serotonin – a mood regulator.
“It’s good to think of these chemicals more generally as ‘feeling’ and ‘mood makers’,” Williams says.
The good news is that there are many simple things we can do each day to generate these loving ingredients and feel loved up, without being romantically in love.
Here are seven methods to artificially produce your own love buzz.
1. Share a meal
One easy way to get a rush of oxytocin, the love hormone, is to share a meal with family or friends.
Research from 2014 shows that eating with another person releases oxytocin, which increases the bond between diners.
The findings, originally based on the kinship between chimpanzees, suggest that oxytocin levels following food sharing were strong for most social mammals, including humans.
Mindfulness-based meditation interventions are a popular psychological tool used to create empathic feelings of love and kindness towards others.
This is because meditation can result in an elevated feeling of bliss: a mix of oxytocin and serotonin.
Founder of the Stillness Project and meditation teacher, Tom Cronin, explains that he’s found that the ‘transcending style meditations’ conducted with a mantra (or chant) are the most effective at cultivating this bliss experience.
“Use specific sounds, as your mantra, that have a distinct quality to move your mind inward, not outward, and into a quieter state of restful awareness,” says Cronin.
3. Eat the right foods
While it’s well known that chocolate, the food of love, boosts oxytocin levels, Williams also recommends eating foods rich in tyrosine like bananas.
“Foods that have amino acids are also integral for the production of dopamine: almonds, sesame seeds or tahini,” Williams explains.
Foods that are high in phytoestrogens may mimic the effect of estrogen in increasing oxytocin levels. So try soybeans, whole grains, flax seeds, nuts, yams and chickpeas to boost your butterflies.
4. Have an orgasm
Clinical psychologist and founder of The Positivity Institute, Dr Suzy Green, recommends sex as another powerful way to increase levels of oxytocin in the body.
“Scientific studies have shown that levels of oxytocin increase markedly during arousal and orgasm,” Dr Green says.
5. Touch someone
Oxytocin – also known as the hug hormone and cuddle chemical – can be induced as a result of hugging.
American scientist, Dr Paul Zak, is famous for his work on oxytocin. He recommends a minimum of eight hugs a day to reduce stress and reap the loving benefits of oxytocin.
The benefits of hugging also extend to other forms of interpersonal touch like holding hands and patting a pet.
“Stroking cats and dogs is a great feel-good activity,” explains Dr Green. “A few minutes stroking a receptive animal massively reduces stress levels and promotes general wellbeing.”
6. Breathe deeply
Deep, controlled breathing is also a heart opener. Energy consultant and intuitive, Lynette Arkadie, advises her clients deploy a simple breathing technique to enhance their inner love.
“Rub your hands together, close your eyes and put hands on your heart chakra in the middle of your chest,” says Arkadie.
“Now breathe in and out and focus on green energy for nine breaths. It’s almost impossible not to feel a shift in mood and body. That daily practice opens up the heart and, like an anchor, brings ‘you’ back.”
Placing our hand on our heart, where neural cells exist, and breathing deeply into our heart centre activates the parasympathetic nervous system. As a result, we calm down our fight-flight reactions, oxytocin is released, and ‘inner love’ is created.
7. Visualise that lovin’ feeling
According to psychological studies, positively visualising a goal you want to achieve will sometimes help you to achieve it.
The same is also true for love. However, Cronin says, imagining that you have the feeling of love will not generate romance or help you get a date. But, he explains, it will enable you to achieve a greater love for yourself and feel it from within.
“If you place your awareness on your heart space and visualise it within your chest and see a beautiful wall of golden light beaming bright with the essence of love, then we will start to make that our reality,” Cronin says.
“You will notice that, day-by-day, you have stronger feelings of self-sufficient love that is completely selfless…because love isn’t something we get from someone else. It’s something we share from within our own heart.”