Think you’re falling in love? Here are 10 ways to know for sure, according to science.
- Your partner is always on your mind.
You can blame your new obsession on something called “intrusive thinking.” According to biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, people in love spend approximately 85 per cent of their waking hours thinking about their object of affection. Scientists believe this is due to a decrease in central serotonin in the brain, which has been previously linked to obsessive behaviour.
- You’re lovesick.
Yes, lovesickness is real. Falling in love — and being rejected by a prospect — triggers activity in brain regions associated with cravings and addiction. And if you feel uneasy or can’t eat before a big date? Your body is signalling that you’re infatuated.
”Lovesickness may actually be the stress hormone cortisol contracting the blood vessels in your stomach, making you feel sick,” Kat Van Kirk, PhD, a clinical sexologist and licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Health.com.
This feeling typically fades over time, as you become more comfortable in your relationship and with your partner.
- Your pupils are dilating.
Got the hots for someone new? Your eyes might be giving you away.
Studies have shown that pupil dilation can indicate that we’re excited about something or someone new due to stimulation in the sympathetic branch of the nervous system. (And men unconsciously interpret women with larger pupils to be more attractive.)
- You embarrass yourself.
No, you’re not imagining things: you really are a little dumber when you’re in love. A 2013 study found that new love “is characterized by impaired cognitive control.” So if you catch yourself saying stupid things on a date, now you know why. (Fortunately, this stage is temporary. Your brain will return. We promise.)
- Your voice changes.
Researchers out of Albright College in Pennsylvania found that infatuated folks tend to mimic their partners’ voices on the phone. So in a new heterosexual relationship, the woman’s voice will likely drop, while the man’s voice will rise, representing a “desire for affiliation and intimacy.”
- You can’t sleep.
Euphoria messes with your sleep. The dopamine high of falling in love — not completely unlike the high of drug addiction — can shorten your nightly sleep, although one study indicated that that shortened sleep might still be of high quality. (And, as clinical psychologist and sleep researcher Dr. Judith R. Davidson points out, you’re probably too distracted by your new love to care about the sleep sacrifice.)
- You’ve put on a few pounds — or you’ve lost weight.
We call them “love handles” for a reason: people settling into marriage or happy, long-term relationships tend to put on weight. According to a study from Research on the National Center for Biotechnology Information, couples who gain weight together end up happier together, likely because they felt secure in the relationship and didn’t feel the pressure to impress each other.
A weight-gain culprit in the early stages of a relationship: the increase in dining out.
On the other hand, a study out of Harvard Medical School found that love doesn’t have to lead to a larger belt size. In fact, it can often suppress the appetite. Study subjects who received doses of “cuddle hormone” oxytocin ate less and experienced a boost in metabolic levels and insulin sensitivity.
- You feel more creative.
Apparently, thinking about love — but not necessarily sex — makes us think more “globally,” boosting our ability to come up with new ideas.
Psychologists out of the University of Amsterdam pointed to two studies to prove their hypothesis that romantic love helps to trigger a long-term perspective and, subsequently, alters the way we look at problem-solving and the world around us. This “psychological distancing” can create more of a big-picture perspective.
- You’re in less pain.
We know that love is a drug, but for those living with chronic pain, it might literally be the best pain reliever. Researchers from Stanford University studied the link between physical pain and love and discovered that the distraction of love can markedly decrease the experience of both moderate and severe pain.
Other researchers believe that romantic love can trigger dopamine, the body’s natural painkiller.
“Find things to give you pleasure in life, whether it be through the one you love or going and listening to great music or reading a good book,” Dr. Sean Mackey, chief of the division of pain management at Stanford and senior author of the study, tells the New York Times. “It suggests that activating this intrinsic reward system ultimately can reduce your pain.”
- Things taste sweeter.
In one study, students who had written about an experience with romantic love ranked candy — and even plain old water introduced as a “new drink product” — as sweeter than students who had written about jealousy or a neutral topic.
Love is sweet, indeed.