How to Harness the Power of Love to Lead a More Fulfilling Life

Love is that famous four-letter word that makes our hearts thump, our minds race and our palms sweat. It is a complex emotion that can range from euphoria and passion to jealousy and envy. But what exactly is it? What causes this powerful feeling that can make us so happy, or so miserable? And how can we harness the power of love to lead a more fulfilling life?

The answer may lie in our brains, specifically, the ventral tegmental area. When we fall in love, this region floods with dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that activates the reward system in our brains, and it triggers other emotions like attachment and empathy. “Love can be intense, exciting and sometimes even a bit irrational,” Jacqueline Olds, MD, an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Harvard Medical School tells Oprah Daily. In addition to the rush of positive emotions, there can also be a physical response: restlessness, insomnia, loss of appetite and a racing heart rate.

Other chemicals and hormones play a role, too, such as serotonin, norepinephrine and vasopressin. And then there’s oxytocin, which is released in response to prosocial behaviors such as sex and childbirth, and helps promote bonding and emotional connection.

Aside from these biological factors, there are many things that can impact the way we feel about someone. Similarity in background, beliefs and values can foster a sense of understanding and connection, as can shared experiences and activities. Other factors that contribute to happiness include self-acceptance, personal growth and having a sense of purpose. And of course, close relationships with family and friends can greatly enhance feelings of happiness and fulfillment.