How Love Affects Your Brain

 

HOW LOVE AFFECTS YOUR BRAIN

Love affects us in many ways. Much of this is felt more than it is seen, but did you know that love affects your brain in ways that can be observed? I recently read a fascinating article that discussed a study from Stony Brook University in New York. The study examined whether couples can still be very much in love after spending many married years together and whether they experience the same intense romantic feelings as newly formed couples. Continue reading to find out what research has discovered about how love affects your brain over a long period of time.

MRIs Show Brain Regions Stimulated By Love

The scientists took MRIs of long-term married couples who said they still felt very much in love with their spouses after an average of more than 21 years together. These images were compared to images from couples who had recently fallen in love. In this way, scientists were able to compare specific parts of the brain that function and respond to love.

The images were created while the subjects were shown photos of their beloved as well as photos of close friends and strangers. The brain activity was measured while the subject viewed the images. Then, using the same scanning methodology, the researchers compared the imaging results on men and women who reported falling in love in the past year.

Clear Similarities

The scans showed “many very clear similarities between those who were in love long-term and those who had just fallen madly in love,” says Arthur Aron, Ph.D., of Stony Brook’s department of psychology. The scientists were particularly interested in the dopamine region of the brain—the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. “The VTA showed greater response to images of a long-term partner when compared with images of a close friend or any of the other facial images,” Aron says.

Applying This Knowledge To Improve Relationships

The researchers are hoping that the study might be able to provide or demonstrate the details of how some couples can stay in love over long periods of time. This study seems to show both groups have brain activity in the regions that are wired for reward, motivation and desire.

To apply this research, Aron is looking into the possibility of using the study outcomes to assist soldiers who have returned from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to save their marriages. There is an unusually high level of divorce among deployed U.S. military. Perhaps this new information can help to improve the strength of their relationships during the stressful time of separation during deployment.

For a free chapter download on how to immediately improve your relationship communication skills, visit www.changingbehavior.org.

FREE Whole Health Consultations available.
888-354-4325 Take charge of your health!

Want To Make Your Partner Happy?

When couples are asked what it is in their relationship that makes them feel fulfilled, they inevitably answer that they feel “understood and cared about.” In contrast, bad feelings and unhappiness stem from the realization that the person we are most intimate with and care most deeply about doesn’t understand who we are and what we are feeling.

The Great Unknown

In order to feel loved, we must first experience that others understand and regard us as good and valuable human beings. If your significant other doesn’t get who you are and how you feel, you’re left with a sense of being misjudged. It can also lead to loneliness because only someone who truly knows us, rather than just thinks they know us, can love us for who we actually are.

When you are in a relationship, you do not want to continually explain yourself to another person or to justify your values, beliefs, or choices you make in your life. If, after a time, a partner cannot be really present, listening to what you have to share and sharing their own thoughts and feelings, the relationship begins to deteriorate. This is why one of the important focal points in good couples counseling is learning what is called “active listening.”

Active Listening

The main purpose of active listening is to let your partner know that you are truly listening and hearing what they say. It is demonstrating that that you are really “present," meaning your significant other has your full attention.

When you give someone your full attention, you can better understand how they feel, and you can grasp their point of view and opinions involved in the important discussions that make up all relationships.

Time To Reflect

A key component of active listening is reflection. You have to consider what your partner is trying to communicate so that you can be sure that you understand your partner’s message. Then you don’t misinterpret what your partner is saying.

When you do this, you should ask questions to clarify, such as, “Are you saying that you were upset that I did not go to your aunt’s house for dinner on Sunday, even though you said it didn’t matter if I went or not?”

Communication Is Key

Partners must work together to achieve clarification of communication, participation in active communication and active listening to allow a relationship to take on a greater depth, intimacy and fulfillment. Effective communication is always the key to any good relationship. 

For a free chapter download about changing behavior, visit changingbehavior.org.

FREE Whole Health Consultations available.
888-354-4325 Take charge of your health!

Tylenol For Heartache?

Here is a very interesting bit of research. Last year there was a study conducted at the University of Kentucky, College of Arts and Sciences. It was examining the connection and possible overlap between physical pain and emotional pain. This particular study had 62 participants who were filling out the “Hurt Feeling Scale,” a self-assessment tool that measures an individual’s reaction to distressing experiences. In addition, the study was using doses of the active ingredient in Tylenol, acetaminophen, as art of its protocol.

The researchers separated the study volunteers into two groups. The first group, after filling out their self-assessment tools, were given 1,000 mg of the acetaminophen. This is a dose that is equal to one Extra Strength Tylenol. The control group, however, received a placebo instead of the acetaminophen.

The finding from this study showed that the control group without the acetaminphen, after three weeks, did not experience any change in the intensity of "hurt" feeling during the three week period. However, the group that did receive the active ingredient reported a noticeable reduction of "hurt" feelings on a regular, day-to-day basis.

The outcomes were so interesting that the researchers started a second study cohort group of 25 different volunteers, but this time upped the amount of acetaminophen to 2,000 mg daily and added computer games that were designed to create social rejection and a feeling of isolation in the participants. Also new to the study was MRI scans, which were able to identify when the participants had feelings of social rejection.

Now here is the "gold" of this research–the outcomes demonstrated that the area of the brain where emotional discomfort is felt is the same location where the physical pain is experienced. This would explain why the group that was taking the acetaminophen, while having not physical pain reported less feelings of hurt and rejection than the group that was not taking the acetaminophen but rather a placebo substance.

Geoff MacDonald, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, who is an expert in romantic relationships, co-authored this study. MacDonald states that our brain pain centers cannot tell the difference between physical pain and emotional pain.

So, while Tylenol is not recommended to be used routinely as it can lead to liver and digestive system disturbances, knowing that it can take away the pain of a broken heart, it may soon be that our therapists as well as our physicians will recommend that we “take two Tylenol and call me in the morning” for heartache as well as for headache!

 

FREE Whole Health Consultations available.
888-354-4325 Take charge of your health!

 

References

Medical News Today: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/227298.php http://web.psych.utoronto.ca/gmacdonald/Research%20Interests.html

10 Tips For Sustainable Love

It is not a coincidence that happy couples share many of the same behavioral patterns. Often, we think that being happy means we have fun sharing the same hobbies or doing everything as a couple. While sharing activities enhances relationships, the most important components to successful relationships are found in how individuals within a relationship treat each other. In large part, it relies on communication and behavior.

Some of the most important aspects of having a successful relationship with your significant other include:

Friendship: Being friends and genuinely liking your partner is one of the most important components of a happy and successful relationship. If you don’t like the other person, how can you truly love them?

Enjoying your partner’s company: Laughter is not only good medicine, but it is also the glue that binds relationships and creates memories. Laughing together and even crying together are meaningful in good relationships.

Being spontaneous: All of us have preferences, likes and dislikes. When you’re spontaneous about trying new food, travel plans, places to visit and other novel experiences, you expand your personal horizons and show respect for your partner’s preferences as well. Life is more interesting if we can be spontaneous together.

Having your own life: Developing a healthy relationship is about two independent and emotionally mature individuals joining company to share their lives together. Sometimes our needs can become interjected into our relationship in a way that creates a co-dependent dynamic. This can derail happiness in an intimate relationship.

Being fully, purely present to your partner: It has been said that there is no greater gift than our full, complete presence to another. Being authentically interested and attentive to the other person is a hallmark of a healthy, happy relationship.

Showing and expressing affection: Physical touch is an important part of happiness and fulfillment in relationships. Couples can often express that just by holding hands or sharing affection with their partner. This is a very important part of feeling loved and cared for.

Being caring and kind: Kindness is one of the most attractive things about another person. When we are kind, not only do we feel good about our behavior, but our significant other feels good about our behavior as well.

Being honest: If we give our partners a sense that we are devoted and loyal to them and they provide that for us, we create the foundation of a truly lasting and loving relationship. Marriages or relationships often break up because of trust issues. Trust is the foundation of all good interactions.

Being committed: When we are committed to someone, it means that we are there for them and can be counted on to support them in times of need. This is what we all want from our relationships. In order to depend on this benefit, we need to provide it as well.

Communicating: By actively communicating with your partner on an ongoing basis, you can avoid many of the problems that arise in relationships before they even get started. Being proactive and checking in with each other on a regular basis to see how things are for the other person goes a long way in preventing difficulties with conflicts and unmet needs.

Sustaining A Relationship

Creating and sustaining a loving, trusting and lasting relationship is one of the most fulfilling experiences a person can long for and look forward to. While this is not a complicated process, it does require awareness and cultivation similar to what you need in raising a child or growing a garden.

If you keep disruptive weeds from infiltrating the flower beds of your relationships, you can enjoy the uninterrupted beauty of longed-for interactions and reduce the work, wear and tear that neglect can produce. Relationships take time, caring and commitment, but they are truly worth it.

For a free download on communication skills for enhanced relationships, visit http://www.changingbehavior.org/

FREE Whole Health Consultations available.
888-354-4325 Take charge of your health!

 

The Science of Heartbreak

science of heartbreakLike most healthcare practitioners, I often hear clients discuss their fear of loving or trusting another person after they have been terribly disappointed or hurt in a romantic relationship.

Being deeply hurt or emotionally wounded through deception, rejection or infidelity cuts to the quick of the human heart. Many of us would like to be able to just “put it behind us” and move on with our lives, but the research of a remarkable scientist now explains why it is so painful and difficult to bounce back quickly from a broken heart. The research also throws light on how difficult and sometimes desperate we can feel during that experience.

Helen Fisher, Ph.D., biological anthropologist, is a research professor and member of the Center for Human Evolution Studies in the Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University and chief scientific adviser to the Internet dating site Chemistry.com (a division of Match.com). She has conducted extensive research and written five books on the evolution and future of human love, sexuality, marriage, gender differences in the brain and how your personality type shapes who you are and who you love.

Brain Issues

Fisher’s research on heartbreak identifies areas of the brain, the caudate nucleus and the ventral tegmental area, whose involvement in romantic love proves this deep-seated drive to be far more powerful and urgent than we may have previously believed. Fisher says that romantic love is “really a drive that is deeply primordial and primitive.” She explains that romantic love experiences “are way below the emotional center and in fact are not emotions at all, but rather a powerful drive and need that is shared by all human beings.”

Through thousands of imaging studies both in the U.S. and in China, Fisher and her research team has established just how important it is for human beings to be in relationships where they experience reward for their feelings and efforts toward the significant other. There are additional studies that show that the same portion of the brain, the anterior insula, is both the location of physical pain, as well as heartache. In a previous article I discussed a study that showed how Tylenol influences this part of the brain and can reduce the discomfort of heartache as well as a headache.

If you want to understand more about this fascinating subject and how to help yourself overcome the heartache of lost love, visit www.helenfisher.com, where a book list on her research is available. You can also download a free excerpt from the Amazon #1 bestselling, multi-award winning book Changing Behavior, by going tohttp://www.changingbehavior.org/

Handling Conflict in Relationships

Conflict in relationships is inevitable, but the way we handle and respond to it is not. Some of us try to avoid dealing with conflict, while others want to immediately resolve things head on. Instead of trying to avoid the conflict, it can be constructive to objectively write down our thoughts and feelings and share them with the other person in a way that expresses how we feel, and in a style that makes us comfortable, such as possibly in a letter, a greeting card or by e-mail.

For those of us who tackle conflict “head on”, it can be helpful to take a step back and discern if this issue is something that must be resolved immediately, or can we give ourselves time to process what has occurred and see the conflict from the other person perspective.

Respecting your partner’s or friend’s experience of a particular conflict doesn’t mean you “go along to get along” or that you should not express your own experience or feelings about it. It does mean that you respect and consider the other individual’s unique experience of what has occurred and that they want to be seen, heard and valued just as much as you do.

By being open to accepting what the other person is feeling and what they have experienced, you send the message that you sincerely care about their feelings. And, while you may not agree with their feelings, you bring integrity to the relationship that allows them to be who they are and express how they feel in a safe and non-hostile environment.

Would You Rather Be Right or Be Loved?  An important question to ask ourselves when we are dealing with conflict in a significant relationship is would we rather be right or be loved. This is a simple litmus test that can help us to find a balance and a win-win situation for both the parties in a conflict, and also allows us to reflect on what is important in both our life and in our relationships.

Communication is a key to successful relationships and to solving relational conflicts. For a free chapter download to better understand why others behave as they do (and why we behave as we do) as well as for well-researched information about how to improve your relationship communications, visit www.changingbehavior.org.

 

Genes and Physical Attraction

During the summer my apple trees, with their sweet droppings all about the orchard, produce an enormous population of fruit flies. Apart from being occasionally annoying and making a bit of noise, they would not be a topic to capture one's attention. At least I never thought so, until I read a fascinating study about fruit flies that indicated our gender may be largely connected to our genes.

Geneticist Barry Dickson and graduate student Ebru Demir, of the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, Austria made a small change to a genetically altered gene that they engineered into female fruit flies. This very specific gene alteration that was integrated into the female flies would always produce male fruit fly protein.

The genetically altered female fruit flies behaved like amorous male flies – perusing other female fruit flies and wooing them with the species elaborate courtship display. This gene altering and its subsequent behavioral results were reported in the scientific professional journal Cell.

The engineered females rejected males that tried to mate with them and began to imitate the multi-step male courting dance which is truly fascinating but a bit too racy to describe in this article – I am not kidding! The two scientists hypothesize that the altered genes set into motion a cascade of genetic changes to re-program the female fruit flies sexual behavior.

One of the most spell binding books I have ever read about behavior and genetics is Melvin Konner's brilliant and stunning book, The Tangled Wing. His book is about humans and not fruit flies. So, if you are fascinated by how our amazing hormones and genetics create and effect our thoughts, behaviors and even sexual preferences, this book is a must read.

It is also an amazing book to read to better understand the wide range of “masculinity” and “feminine” behavior that exits in men and women. When we explore the science of how our brains function through our biochemistry and how this biochemistry is in control of the actions and behaviors it helps us to be more understanding and compassionate about ourselves and others.

The renowned behaviorist, B.F. Skinner, stated many decades ago that our hormones were the most powerful movers of how we lived our lives. More recently, Candyce Pert, PhD, author of Molecules of Emotions, has done the research that demonstrates exactly how the brain’s neuropeptides achieve our behavior outcomes.

For those interested in the subject of behavior and brain function, Melvin Konner’s and Candyce Pert’s work is highly recommended. For a free download of the bestselling, award winning behavior change book, Changing Behavior, visit www.changingbehavior.org.

 

What Happens to Relationships When We Don’t Feel Understood


When couples are asked what it is in their relationship that makes them feel fulfilled, the answer is inevitably that they feel “understood and cared about”. Contrary to what many of us believe, having misunderstandings is not the problem in our relationships. It is not having a misunderstanding that is what creates bad feelings and unhappiness in relationships, but rather not feeling that the person we are most intimate with and care most deeply about doesn’t understand who we are and what we are feeling.

In order to feel loved we must first experience that others understand us and regard us as good and valuable human beings. If our significant others do not understand or get who we are and how we feel, that leaves us with a feeling of being misunderstood. It can also lead to our feeling alone because only someone who truly knows us, rather than just thinking they know us, can truly love us for who we actually are.

When we are in a relationship we do not want to continually explain ourselves to another person, or justify our values, beliefs or the choices we make in our lives. If after a time, that person cannot be really present to us, listening to what we have to share and sharing their own thoughts and feelings, the relationship quickly deteriorates. This is why one of the important focal points in good couples counseling is learning what is called “active listening.”

The main purpose of active listening is to let your partner know that you are truly listening to them and that you are really “present” to them as well – that means they have our full attention.  And by giving them our full attention, we can more authentically understand how they feel and what their point of view and opinions are about the important discussions that make up all relationships.

A key component of active listening is when we reflect back to the other person what we understand they were communicating to us so that we can be sure that we understand and not mis-interpret their communication. When we do this, we ask questions to clarify, such as “Are you saying that you were upset that I did not go to your aunt’s house for dinner on Sunday, even though you had said it didn’t matter if I went or not?

By working together so that the listening partner and the speaking partner both understand that clarifying their understanding of what is being communicated and also participating in active communication as well as active listening, the relationship can take on a greater depth, intimacy and fulfillment. Effective communication is always the key to any good relationship. For a free chapter download from the award winning, Changing Behavior, visit changingbehavior.org.

Research on Love, Sex and Romance

With help from Reader’s Digest, Huffington Post, AOL, and AARP, along with Pepper Schwartz, PhD, from Yale and James Witte, PhD, from Harvard, screenwriter and author Chrisanna Northrup, not to be confused with women’s health specialist Christiane Northrup, MD, has done interesting and revealing research on the “secrets of happy couples”.

Ms. Northrup and the doctors from Yale and Harvard put together a survey that was then taken worldwide by over 80,000 participants. The survey revealed fascinating surprises about love and romance surprises.

The research findings were the basis of her book, The Normal Bar, which reveals fascinating aspects of romance that many of us may have had an inkling about, but how now been shown to be grounded in the day to day reality of relationships. Some of her revealing “romantic secrets” have shown that:

1. Two-thirds of couples don’t agree with each other’s politics
2. 56 percent of people say they never or rarely passionately kiss.
3. 70 percent of couples in England say they laugh often or all of the time
4. Two-thirds of men say their female partner criticizes them a lot
5. 75% of men and women in France and Italy keep secrets from their partner
6. 25 % of men and women do not talk to their partners about how much they earn
7. Over half of men and women pretend they’re happier with their partners than they really are
8. 33% more men than women around the world say it bothers them "a lot" that their significant other isn't more romantic.

9. Men are much more likely than women—48% vs. 28%—to fall in love at first sight.
10. The richest couples surveyed were less likely to be happy than those with less money. In fact, couples who earn $20,000 or less argue less frequently than couples who earn $250,000 to $500,000.
11. 57% of those in unhappy relationships still find their partner extremely attractive.
12. More than 33% of men and women say they have watched a TV show or movie that affected them so much they considered breaking up.
13. Those who put their partners in the category of a “good teammate” were most likely to describe their relationships as slightly unhappy.
14. Nearly 60% of both men and women who were unhappy with their relationships say they would still be happy to spend eternity with their partners.

For a free download from the award-winning book on transforming your relationships, Changing Behavior, visitwww.changingbehavior.com