Valentine’s Day can be such an upsetting holiday for single people. Especially, those of us who scour online dating sites, swiping left and then right hoping we may find true love, eventually. Some days (maybe even most days) it can feel fun and exciting; there are so many options! But then sometimes—like the week before, day before, even day of Valentine’s Day—online dating can feel exhausting, demoralizing, isolating and impersonal. Ironically, so, because traditionally, dating is meant to find romantic love where the end goal results in a sense of belonging and attachment. We all want that, right?
I want that too and believe that we are all deserving of such things. Regardless of where you are at in your journey to finding love and companionship, I have a suggestion that will reap the same neurobiological benefits.
Hug more. Like, real hugs. Bear hugs. The kind of hug that last longer than three seconds. The beauty of this suggestion is that you can do this whether you are single or in a relationship. You can hug best friends, family, strangers, coworkers or potential soulmates. Hugs are also free (where as some online dating sites are not). The other beauty is that we will achieve that sense of belonging and attachment.
Here’s why. When we hug someone, oxytocin is released into our bodies by our pituitary gland, lowering both our heart rates and our cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress, high blood pressure and even heart disease. On the other hand, oxytocin is linked to attachment and is a factor in bonding and monogamous pairing.
In addition to releasing oxytocin, hugs also stimulate our brains to release dopamine, our pleasure hormone. Dopamine sensors are also targeted by many stimulating drugs (such as cocaine and methamphetamines). There is some serious scientific validity to that saying ”love is a drug.” Dopamine brings people together and oxytocin keeps us attached. Attachment is how loving relationships are formed, FYI.