After going back home for the Holidays, I asked myself who needs love? The thought wasn’t prompted by a bad breakup or an episode of reality TV but the frustration that came with being asked, repeatedly, when was I going to have a baby? As a 28 year old black male it’s understandable why they would be curious. My friends and family seemed to be forgetting some steps like having a deep bond with someone, genuinely trusting someone, and most importantly being in a healthy relationship with that woman. I’m not sure why my mind associates having a baby with being in a loving relationship in today’s instant access to everything (I’m talking about the internet) culture, but it is too late to change my mind now.
I asked Google the same question I asked myself. To my surprise, the first result was a song titled “Who Needs Love” by Razorlight. I didn’t listen and decided maybe I needed to actually research how being in love could benefit me. Turns out matters of the heart are somewhat of a mystery since it is a psychological need that activates many of the 160 billion cells that make up the brain.
Researchers come to conclusions about love by analyzing levels of certain brain cells called neurotransmitters. Dopamine, the “pleasure” hormone, seems to be highly associated with love and the feeling of euphoria in the early stages of relationships, and continues to influence the brain’s reward system as the bond becomes long term. Another neuron named Norepinephrine combines with the pleasure hormone creating feelings of infatuation.
Oxytocin, another neurotransmitter, had increased levels in people who were in love. Oxytocin is nicknamed the “love” hormone because it creates bonding, intimacy, and trust prompted by closeness as well as comfort. The gist of the neuron seemed to be a nonverbal “I love you” transferred from person to person through kisses and/or hugs with a loved one. I’m sure holding hands, cuddling, and massages produce similar effects that block cortisol, the “stress” hormone. When there are high levels present cortisol causes high blood pressure, anxiety, fatigue, depression, and more.
With stress being highly associated with many African American health disparities, the act of being in love seemed more valuable as the positive effects tend to lower the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart failure. Having a deep bond with a loved one reduces the odds of developing conditions that African American have a predisposition for. These conditions, such as hypertension and heart disease, are primarily prevented by practicing healthy habits (dieting, exercising, etc.) along with having a meaningful relationship that can provide support and a sense of serenity.
I was amazed that dopamine, oxytocin, and many more neurons cause attraction to evolve into attachment, and then commitment. Consequently, the process of falling in love causes people to be more optimistic, have more energy, and increases overall health. Next time I return to Denver, I’ll have to explain to my relatives I need to be experiencing the health benefits of love before I bring home an addition to our loving family.
By: Franklin O’ Connor