Why it's good to fall in love

By Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Feb 06 2013 01:49 PM | Updated as of Feb 07 2013 06:36 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Love has become fodder for countless songs, television shows and movies, and with good reason.

Although several people swear that their lives have been ruined because of it, love has more pros than cons, a psychiatrist said as he encouraged everyone to take the plunge at least once in their lives.

“I encourage everybody to fall in love,” Dr. Ronaldo Elepaño III of The Medical City’s Department of Psychiatry said in an interview on “[email protected]” on Wednesday.

“I would always encourage my patients who have been burned of hope by love to try again. It hurts, but the rewards are great,” he added.

Elepaño said that from a medical perspective, being in love can make one look younger and feel healthier, mainly because it inspires him or her to become a better person.

“There are also healthier sexual relationships because of the monogamy involved in it. And it protects you from depression,” he explained.

Still not enough? Here’s a more detailed list of the health benefits of being in love, as proven by studies:

  • Longevity
  • Boosted immunity
  • Higher sexual and reproductive behavior
  • Higher youth hormone levels
  • Potential cancer prevention
  • More restful sleep
  • Pain relief
  • Migraine relief
  • Depression treatment
  • Weight loss, overall fitness
  • Happiness

Components of love

Elepaño explained that love has three components, and the combination of these is called consummate love.

The first aspect of love is intimacy, which involves feelings of attachment, closeness and connectedness. Second is passion, which has a lot to do with sexual attraction.

The third component is commitment which, simply put, is the decision to remain with a person for the long haul.

While there can be love with only one or two of these components, it is best for a couple to have all three when they decide to get married so their union will last longer.

“That’s the time you say that’s the ultimate type of love,” Elepaño said.

Stages of love

Of course, love does not just appear out of nowhere, said Elepaño, as he shared that this type of affection can go through as many as three phases.

The first stage is lust, which is driven by sexual hormones – testosterone for men, and estrogen for women. Elepaño said one is initially drawn to another because of his or her “sex appeal”, or what makes a person attractive or a suitable mate.

“So how do you get attracted to the individual? First is the pheromones. You smell an individual, there’s a certain level of attraction to that. The other would be your appearance. Long ago, they say that men prefer women with big breasts because they can feed their offspring, and big hips because they can carry good offspring for labor. For women, they prefer men with broad shoulders mainly because women feel they can be good providers and that they can protect them in times of trouble,” he said.

The next stage is the “truly love-struck phase” motivated by the release of hormones such as dopamine and serotonin in the body. This is when one is slowly getting to know the person he is attracted to, and they become more intimate.

“This is when you have the surge of dopamine which is the chemical responsible for good addiction. It gives you that high,” Elepaño said, adding, “There is also the serotonin which is the happy hormone, so there’s a certain glow you have.”

Another factor, Elepaño said, is the kiss.

“There’s really a science to it when you kiss an individual. There’s a certain exchange. If you look at the brain which is, I would say, the ultimate organ love love – not the heart – it will tell you that the most sensitive part of your body is actually the lips, not the genitals. It’s (genitals) actually a small part of your sensitivity representation in your brain.

“So there’s really a sense when you say ‘when you kiss an individual, that’s when you know when you’re in love.’ The upper and lover lips have stronger sensitivity representations, and on top of that is the exchange of saliva,” he added, citing some scientific studies that use the exchange of saliva in determining a good gene match. “When you kiss somebody and you feel that ‘oh, it doesn’t work,’ it’s not a good gene match. So basically it’s like a taste test.”

The third and last stage, meanwhile, is one that not all couples are able to reach. Fueled by vasopressin and oxytocin, a hormone said to be important in “bonding” and fidelity, commitment involves “a higher function of the brain,” said Elepaño, and enables couples to stay together after getting married and having children.