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Science Explains Why We Are All Love Addicts And How We Should Embrace It

Science Explains Why We Are All Love Addicts And How We Should Embrace It

We all know that crazy feeling of falling in love. We can’t stop thinking about our partner, from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to bed. Maybe this is happening to you right now. Do you find yourself distracted throughout the day? Can’t seem to think straight? It’s almost as if you are addicted to being in love. And the truth is – you are.

Or maybe you’re not addicted to a new love, but rather you can’t get over an old one. The two of you broke up and you know it was for the best, but you just can’t stop thinking about your ex. Maybe you’re wondering what exactly is going on to make you miss your ex so much. Well, science has an explanation.

Love is part of the reward system of the brain.

You know all of those crazy feelings and thoughts you have when you first fall in love? Your brain is responsible and starts mixing chemical cocktails that make you feel addicted to your partner. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist, explains:

“Love is not an emotion – it’s a motivation system, it’s a drive, it’s part of the reward system of the brain.”[1]

Neuroscientists Andreas Bartels and Semir Zeki conducted research to compare the brain activity of happily in-love couples with that of addicts who had just injected drugs.

What they found is shocking. It turns out that the two activities both activated the same regions in the brain’s reward system.[2] Additionally, further research has shown activity in the nucleus accumbens brain region, which controls all addictions, of in-love couples.

Like an addiction, you can’t stop your feelings from growing when you fall in love.

Two people in love exhibit all of the characteristics of a drug addict.

Think about it, you can’t wait for the next time you see your new love, hear their voice, or get to touch them. In fact, you crave for it.

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You feel a rush just thinking about your new partner, and your feeling only continues to grow. This growing obsession is referred to as “intensification” when talking about drug addictions.[3]

Yet your addiction doesn’t end when the relationship ends. Oh no, that would be too easy.

Instead, your brain goes through withdrawals, especially if you’re the person who was dumped. Crying, loss of appetite, eating too much, anxiety, not sleeping enough, sleeping too much, and feeling lonely. Have you experienced any of these symptoms after a breakup? You’re not alone. These are the same symptoms of drug withdrawal.

But this kind of addiction turns out to be what we need for survival.

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Survival of species relies on being addicted to love.

In order for the human species to survive, emotional attachment is necessary. In order to make sure that humans continue to thrive and multiply, your brain steps in.

When you start getting to know a potential romantic partner, the amygdala and prefrontal cortex in your brain turns off. These are the areas responsible for making judgment calls and producing negative thoughts. In other words, you are prevented from being judgmental and thinking negative thoughts about your new partner. Since all you can think of are hearts and flowers, the emotional attachment in your relationship grows.

Addiction to love can be a positive thing when the relationship is appropriate and the feelings are mutual. However, it can also be just as toxic as a drug addiction when the romantic advances are unwanted, rejected, or inappropriate.

Bravely face the emotions rollercoaster when you fall into and out of love.

If you find yourself falling in love with someone, remember to enjoy the rollercoaster of emotions. It’s one of the most amazing things that keeps us alive.

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If you find yourself staying in a toxic relationship or unable to get over an ex, remember that these thoughts and feelings are normal. However, don’t let loose of yourself and indulge yourself in it because like an addiction, you need to face it and do something in order to overcome it.

The good news is that science proves it can take only 11 weeks to get over your ex.[4] When you feel really hurtful trying to quit the “addiction”, hang out with friends and family. When you surround yourself with people who make you feel loved and safe, you can fill that feeling of emptiness. Being with close friends and family also helps your brain produce more opioids, which are like the natural painkillers.[5]

Or try repeat affirmation. Charlotte Davis Kasl writes in her book Women, Sex, and Addiction,[6]

Once the negative core beliefs have been exposed and challenged as false, you need to adopt positive, life-affirming beliefs. ‘I am unlovable’ becomes ‘I can love and be loved, I am a sacred child of the Universe.’ Feelings of hopelessness are counteracted by the new belief ‘I have the power to change my life.’ ‘I am defective’ slowly changes to ‘I get to make mistakes and be loved.’

Work on your mind, and your soul will heal. It takes time to quit any kind of addiction, but if you embrace the emotions and bravely face it, you’ll eventually overcome the withdrawal from a relationship.

Featured photo credit: Inna Lesyk via pexels.com

Reference

More by this author

Amber Pariona

EFL Teacher, Lifehack Writer, English/Spanish Translator, MPA

What Makes a Relationship Boring and How to Avoid It How to Know If You’re Really in Love or Not (Yes It Can Be Confusing) Why You and Your Partner Don’t Need to Speak the Same Love Language to Stay Together Why Worrying About Losing a Friend Is Unnecessary No.1 Relationship Killer: Your Good Intention to Advise Your Partner When They’re Upset

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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