Feeling like Falling in Love

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“What is love?” No other question has inspired more poets to write, singers to sing and car windows to be broken by Chris Kattan. Thanks to Rutgers University anthropologist and renowned romance researcher Helen Fisher, though, we have an answer: “Love,” it turns out, can be broken down into three stages—lust, attraction and attachment—which can all be differentiated by their own set of hormones that are released into the brain.

While that totally undermines the idea that love has anything to do with our hearts, it also means that we can experience the euphoric side effects of love without actually falling in love. There are other ways to produce these hormones, after all.

Stage 1: Lust
The first stage of love, known as lust, is driven predominantly by our sex hormones, testosterone and oestrogen. They’re at work in both men and women and work a lot like Spanish Fly is supposed to work—they’re aphrodisiacs that encourage us to get out there and continue the human race. But if you’re looking to take it slow, there are more innocent ways to boost testosterone and oestrogen levels…
Boosting Testosterone: High-intensity workouts like wind sprints are proven to increase testosterone levels and your libido.
Boosting Oestrogen: Mom was right: Eating lots of veggies is good for you. Broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts all contain high amounts of indole-3-carbinol, a compound that not only keeps oestrogen levels in check, it prevents cancer, too.

Stage 2: Attraction
Attraction is fueled by a trio of chemicals—dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, collectively known as monoamines. These chemicals act like a reward system, transmitting happy feelings to nerve endings in our brains while participating in a pleasurable activity like binging on Netflix, or opting for a second helping of fries. So much so, that an MRI of the brain during the attraction stage looks almost exactly like a brain on cocaine. But there are healthier ways to produce monoamines, too…
Boosting Dopamine, Norepinephrine & Serotonin: Drugs might be out of the picture, but rock and roll isn’t. Science says that listening to your favorite song can send your monoamines through the roof. So next time you’re feeling blue, crank up the volume.

Stage 3: Attachment
The attachment stage occurs when hormones like oxytocin are released into the brain. Oxytocin is known as the “bonding hormone” because of its habit of being released during moments like childbirth, sex and when you’re daydreaming about your significant other. But you don’t have to put a ring on it to hike up your oxytocin levels…
Boosting Oxytocin: According to a 2012 study, massage therapy can cause your oxytocin levels to go through the roof. Just try not to take it out on the masseuse.