Jay Shetty focused primarily on the topic of love in the months leading up to his most recent book, The 8 Rules of Love.
Often, we associate our feelings with our hearts or our gut, which is reflected in English language sentiments such as: "feeling heartbroken," "heart skipping a beat," "listening to your gut feeling," etc. On the other hand, the head stands for rational thinking, leading to expression such as: "have your head screwed on straight.”Studies have shown that men fall in love easier and are ready to say "I love you" after a much shorter time than women.1 This leads to questions regarding the chemical process involved in falling in love and how it influences our brains.
Three Types of Love
Three types of love show up in the brain, Jay Shetty explained. They are lust, attraction, and attachment. And for each of these feelings, a different chemical composition gets triggered in our brains.Lust is felt in the heat of the moment, and is dominated by testosterone and estrogen. Then, there is attraction. This stage is similar to lust but more long-term. Here, the most active chemicals are dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
Lastly, the attachment type of love is more long-term than the other two. It involves brain chemicals such as oxytocin and vasopressin.
Love And The Brain
A Harvard study found that when a person looks at a picture of someone they are romantically involved with, their brain’s dopamine levels increase. Jay Shetty explained that in the initial phase of romantic love, our body’s chemical reactions lead to results such as sweaty palms, racing hearts, and flushed cheeks. Then, as the cortisol level increases, feelings of passion and sometimes anxiety can overcome us.In this stage, the body acts as if in a state of crisis. We anxiously await the other person's reply, worry about what to wear when we meet them, etc. However, even if we experience a heightened sense of stress and pressure, we interpret it as excitement when we are in love.
Jay Shetty observed that we experience stress and pressure differently depending on the situation. Sometimes we see this excitement as something negative.As the cortisol level rises, serotonin becomes depleted, according to Richard Schwartz from the Harvard Medical School.3 In addition, these serotonin levels spark intrusive, preoccupying thoughts, such as hope and terror of early love.
It is essential to differentiate between lust, attraction, attachment, stress, anxiety, overwhelm, and burnout. They all cause a perceived lack of control over your sense of time and thoughts. However, knowing the difference will help you regulate yourself in situations that cause you stress.
What Is Lust?
Lust is driven primarily by our sex hormones: testosterone and estrogen. It is an impulse that we feel, which causes us to make spontaneous and sometimes regrettable decisions.
It is lust that makes us cheat or love-bomb someone and ghost them the day after. Jay Shetty pointed out that when our decision making capabilities are controlled by our desires, the results can be unhealthy.
Yet in general, the secular society of today glorifies lust. We see the spark, the pressure, and the stress as something positive. But, Jay Shetty warns listeners: "While it can be a sign, or an indicator, or a signal in the right direction, it is not a sign of love."
Though it can feel intoxicating to know someone is lusting after you, it is crucial to understand this emotion does not provide a solid base for a healthy relationship.
An Uncomfortable Truth
Often, people find themselves attracted to a different person at a breakneck pace. Even some who are in committed relationships can experience lust for someone else.
There are usually two types of responses to this feeling, according to Jay Shetty. Some act on it and later on may end up regretting it. Others may try to ignore their instincts and suppress them.
You may feel guilt, shame, or regret if you are in a committed relationship, yet act on your feelings of lust for another person. This is often the consequence of this behavior. This is why most affairs happen in secret.
However, if you find yourself lusting for others while you are in a committed relationship and suppress this feeling, this is also going to backfire. You avoid discussing it with your partner for fear of being judged. Yet the tension may accumulate over time until it will eventually erupt.
Jay Shetty explains that lust is a desire for sexual gratification, not something more profound or meaningful. This is why you must learn to coach yourself if you find yourself in a situation like the one above. Remind yourself that lust may come naturally, but this doesn't mean you must act on it whenever you feel this way. It would be better if you started an internal dialogue, reminding yourself of what is unique about your existing relationship, why it is important, and what you have built together. If the feelings for your partner wore off in time, try to reconnect with them. First, remember what made you choose them in the first place. Then, look deeper within yourself to understand why you felt attracted to them.
During the attraction stage, our bodies release high dopamine levels and norepinephrine. These chemicals can make us feel frivolous, energetic, and euphoric. In some cases, they can also lead to insomnia and decreased appetite.
If you find yourself attracted to someone, you probably experience these changes in your body and brain. Some might tell you that "you are just infatuated," which is not far from reality. It is essential to note that all these changes are, in fact, the chemical reactions caused by your feelings.
Feelings of attraction seem to lead to low serotonin levels, a hormone involved in appetite and mood, Jay Shetty said. This is similar to the levels we see in people who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).4 This discovery led researchers to believe that this is one of the reasons for the overpowering infatuation that we feel in the early stages of love.
When we fall in love, we can get obsessed. It is highly addictive. During studies involving MRI pictures, researchers have concluded that addiction and love light up the same brain regions. Jay Shetty pointed out that awareness of this chemical change within our brains is crucial. For example, when we are separated from someone we are attracted to, we may feel pain, but when we understand the chemicals at play that are ruling our brain, we are able to cope better. It becomes nothing more than an intense, but short-lived feeling.
Attachment is, in Jay Shetty's words, "the predominant factor in long-term relationships." This love stage is no longer exclusive to romantic relationships like lust and attraction. It is also important in friendships, parent-infant bonds, and many other intimate relationships.
The main hormones released by our bodies in this type of relationship are oxytocin and vasopressin. As you evolve in a relationship, you may notice that the levels of stress and the dizziness of the attraction stage fade out. But this is a healthy development.We encounter enough stress at work or in our daily lives. Having a stable partnership feels like a cushion to catch all of it and re-balance us.
People tend to look for the high in their relationships and want to keep it exciting at all times. However, as the calmness produced by oxytocin and vasopressin instills, the thrill dissipates.
Jay Shetty explained that it is often the case that we expect our partners to be everything. Moreover, he added, "they need to be interesting, as well as exciting. They need to be knowledgeable as well as silly. They need to be there for us as well as independent. They need to be confident as well as be vulnerable."
People jump from one romantic relationship to another because of the constant search for serotonin reduction. In addition, we are looking for the production of estrogen and testosterone because the feeling they produce is addictive.You may think your love has worn off because you don't feel the butterflies in your stomach anymore. Instead, ponder whether it may have deepened. Be curious about these changes in your brain and body. Lastly, embrace the beauty of each stage of the falling-in-love journey.
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “3 Ways Love Affects The Brain & 3 Steps For Healthy Relationships” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.
1Watkins, C. D., Bovet, J., Fernandez, A. M., Leongómez, J. D., Żelaźniewicz, A., Corrêa Varella, M. A., & Wagstaff, D. (2022). Men say “I love you” before women do: Robust across several countries. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 39(7), 2134–2153. https://doi.org/10.1177/02654075221075264
2Fisher HE, Aron A, Brown LL. Romantic love: a mammalian brain system for mate choice. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2006 Dec 29;361(1476):2173-86. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2006.1938. PMID: 17118931; PMCID: PMC1764845.
3Edwards, S. (2015). Love and the Brain. Harvard Medical School. https://hms.harvard.edu/news-events/publications-archive/brain/love-brain
4Acevedo BP, Aron A, Fisher HE, Brown LL. Neural correlates of long-term intense romantic love. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2012 Feb;7(2):145-59. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsq092. Epub 2011 Jan 5. PMID: 21208991; PMCID: PMC3277362.
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