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I Would Walk 5,000 Miles

Here is my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM about Dr. Crocker:

What happens when you have a chance meeting with a beautiful woman in a foreign land but return home without getting her name? Evidently, it means that you ask your boss for four weeks off and go back to find her.

Dr. Sandy Crocker, a dentist from Kelowna, BC, was on vacation in Ireland with his brother over a year ago when he saw a gorgeous redhead in a café. Too shy to get any details of importance, or even give her a compliment to jump-start a conversation, he instead resorted to asking for directions. He has regretted that decision ever since.

After fourteen months of thinking about this mystery woman and second-guessing those few minutes, Dr. Crocker finally decided to quit pining away, and see if he could track her down. He is currently in Ireland, putting notes in the café where they met, advertising in the local newspaper, and enlisting as many news sources as possible to reach out to her.

What drives a person to trek thousands of miles to find someone he only spoke to for moments?

Infatuation.

When we become infatuated with someone, we have a spike of epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin and phenylethylamine (PEA). When this happens, we have more energy (even if we have been up until 4am talking to each other), lower inhibitions (we will try things we always swore we wouldn’t), and a higher-than-usual libido (we struggle to keep our hands off each other). Furthermore, we just can’t get this person out of our head. They consume our thoughts.

Fortunately, infatuation can mature into genuine love. As we discover common values, have shared experiences, and dream together for the future, infatuation can blossom into a solid foundation for life together. Over time, the hormones that give us those feelings of bliss give way to oxytocin, the bonding hormone that weaves richness and stability into our relationship.

I admire Dr. Crocker’s gutsy decision. According to the reports in the media, he seems quite aware that he may never find this woman…or, if he does, she might be happily married. However, he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life wondering what might have been had he not taken this trip. Bravo, Dr. Crocker. You remind all of us to pay attention to the little moments in life and not let them slip away.

Having Sex to Relieve Mental Stress

With very little effort I found quite a few websites and articles that talk about taking a “mental health day”.  Some of them are as simplistic as, “don’t go into to work if you think you might need to kill your boss – take a mental health day and relax”.  Others are fairly lengthy explanations about the existence of World Mental Heath Day – which is evidently every October 10th.  The bottom line is that we all get stressed at times in our lives.  And there is some evidence that taking a day to focus solely on yourself has tangible benefits to your mental well being.  But when a friend of mine pointed me to this article, The Benefits of Sex for Your Mind and Body, I realized that we don’t have to take a day – or wait for October 10th – before we can do something to reduce the amount of mental stress we carry.  We can have sex.  The article lays out 10 major benefits of sex that all relate to helping your mind and your body relax.

1.     Sex Makes You Sleepy.
“The sexual release you have after having sex actually helps you sleep better at night,” says Dr. Yvonne Fulbright, author of The Better Sex Guide to Extraordinary Love Making.

2.     Sex Makes you Happy.

Fulbright said that in a recent study of 4,000 American women, those who had the lowest stress and best overall mental well-being were those who were the most sexually active.

3.     Not having sex can lead to depression.

4.     Sex causes an “orgasmic pregnancy.”

“Women are the most interested in having sex when pregnant because they feel really good about themselves overall.”

5.     Sex will boost your self-esteem.

Fulbright says that having sex boosts your entire self-esteem, not just your body image.

6.     It releases oxytocin and endorphins.

Oxytocin is commonly referred to as the “love hormone” because it leads to feelings of intimacy, closeness, and strong social connections with someone else.

7.     Orgasms help mental health.

“Nothing is as relaxing as putting yourself in a place where you relieve stress,” says Dr. Gloria G. Bramer, a Georgia-based licensed clinical sexologist. “After you have an orgasm you release natural oxytocin to the brain, which balances you out.”

8.     Sex gets rid of cramps.

Bramer says that having sex may be the best way to relieve menstrual cramps. Many women say that by having an orgasm, they not only get instant relief from their cramps but also from other PMS related symptoms.

9.     Sex has healing powers.

Orgasm can help relieve chronic back and other pain.

10. Sex is connected to your libido.

Just as sex is tied to mental health and happiness, it’s also tied to your libido. Bramer says that when you are feeling stressed, your libido is going to suffer. This will in turn diminish your appetite for sex, which will also add to your risk of depression. Having sex is an instant mood enhancer that can reverse all of these symptoms.

Now, I will be the first to point out that the article, written by Colleen Moody, does not site source studies for these tidbits of information (other than the book by Dr. Fulbright and the quotes from Dr. Bramer), but I still find the list interesting.  These might be common sense things to some of you, but putting things into a neat little list can often be helpful.

Want to add to the list?  What mental health benefits do you find accompany sex and orgasm?

For those interested, you can find the original article here.

The Notebook

Taking my daughter to ballet classes is one of those love-hate jobs for me.  She’s a 5 year old, and I am under no illusions about the talent level in her class.  It is cute.  Seriously cute…but at the end of the day it’s cute.  That being said, there are just some days that I have had all the cute I can handle…today was one of those days.  I brought my computer with me and put my head down to get some work done.

“So what do you do?”

It was an innocent question that completely interrupted my train of thought.  I looked up, smiled politely and internally braced myself.  There are times that I hate that question. Don’t get me wrong…I love what I do, but it’s an awkward answer for some people, and I did not know this lady and could not have guessed how this was going to go.

So, I took a breath and said, “I am a Passion Coach. I coach couples on their sex lives.” Then I smiled.

“Their what?”

At this point, I was really hoping it was the dull roar of casual conversations in the room that prompted her to ask me to repeat myself. I widened my smile. “Their SEX lives.”

Her eyes lit up. “OH! If I had met you two weeks ago, I would have needed to come to you for coaching!”

And then she proceeded to tell me about her sex life. (Believe it or not, this is the response that I look forward to most – it’s much better than the startled and horrified look that some give me as they shuffle away.)

The reason she no longer “need to come to me for coaching’ is because she had an “ah-ha moment” while watching the movie, The Notebook.

I was completely enthralled in her story, partly because I think the movie is brilliant. I love the story as it is told from the perspective of an elderly man who is telling a “love story” to his wife with Alzheimer’s. I love the passion of a young couple who truly do defy all the odds to make their relationship last the test of time.  It’s a great movie.

But, even as a big fan, I was a little bit baffled as to how it could radically change the sex life of a woman who had been married for 10 years.

She began to explain to me that as the story unfolded, she noticed that the two lovers were never burdened by the need to do the dishes. Or clean the house. Or tend to the children. Or mow the lawn. Without these cluttering details, she just saw the passion.

Now many people might see the same logistical details lacking in the movie, and think to themselves, “Well, that is such a fairy tale. See, she didn’t even have to do housework!” That kind of cynicism would miss the moral of the story on which this woman focused.

“They are totally different things!” She said proudly. “Passion and the little details of life have nothing to do with each other!” She then proceeded to tell me how she had decided, after watching the movie, to put all the little annoyances on the back burner when it came to having sex with her husband. It used to be that if he failed to help around the house, he would be “cut off”. If he didn’t pitch in with the kids – cut off.

But, under these circumstances, how were they ever going to have sex? “It could be a year!” She said.

After this little revelation, she decided to have sex with him regardless of what had happened during the day. They had sex so often, in fact, that one evening he said he was too tired and begged off for the night. “I can’t remember the last time THAT happened.” In the meantime, she found that he was helping around the house more and he was willing to pitch in with the kids.  It was clear she was a happy woman.
What she had stumbled upon was a principle that I preach to women far and wide. Men, when they are taken care of sexually, become more involved around the house. They become more attentive. They are more pleasant to live with.

Believe it or not, there is science to back this up. As women, we naturally have more oxytocin (the bonding hormone) in our systems. Call it part of our nature – we are built to bond. But there is one time that men can match us in the amount of oxytocin. It is right after orgasm.

Men feel closer to us when they have had sex.

So why would we withhold sex from them because they aren’t being emotionally close to us? It doesn’t make any sense. It is a chicken vs. egg argument which has disastrous consequences.

“It just wasn’t working.” The woman concluded. So she found a way to make it work for them.  Sometimes people need to hear this truth over and over again before it starts to sink in.  This lady just had to watch The Notebook.

Today, ballet class was the highlight of my day.

Mix a Sexy Love Chemical Cocktail

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In my last guest post, I explained the brain chemistry behind romance and committed love. You can read it here. Now. Let’s talk about how you can use this knowledge to add sparkle to your relationship.

Here’s the recipe:

2 parts novelty (dopamine)

1 part danger (adrenaline)

1 part sensuality (oxytocin)

Shake it up really well, and then enjoy it together.

These are the three ingredients you need for your love chemical cocktail:

Novel sensory stimuli: I know, you’ve been told before to light scented candles and take a bubble bath together. Actually, this is a recipe for boring sex. One thing that attracts man and woman is otherness, so when you envelop him in feminine scents, he loses his focus on you as the Other, while he may seem less manly to you. Besides, that bubble bath may relax you but it will knock him out. Instead, go for a stimulating stew of unfamiliar sights, sounds, smells and tastes that will stimulate dopamine. Hit an ethnic enclave to enjoy a cuisine you’ve never tried, and then walk the streets or stop into a club. Spicy food is a plus, because the fire of the chili stimulates a bit of stress response. (Just don’t get indigestion, that will spoil the night.)

Danger: There’s a reason why people who’ve been through a disaster together often fall in love or become lifelong friends. Fear stimulates adrenaline, that potent liquor of romance. In addition, men’s desire to bond seems to be somewhat dependent on vasopressin, a chemical like oxytocin that triggers protective behaviors. So, do something together that feels dangerous. You both need to really get outside your comfort zone. Fire-walk or go zip-lining. If you’re not the physically adventurous type, put yourself into social danger. Crash a party or take an improv class. Even if you don’t enjoy the actual experience, the jolt of adrenaline will jazz you both up.

Sensuality: You don’t need to reject the deep oxytocin connection you share. Instead, honor it. Nature designed our bodies to link sex and connection. Not only is oxytocin released at orgasm, it’s also responsible for engorgement. After you’re revved up and in the mood for pleasure, thanks to adrenaline and dopamine, it’s time to set off some sparks. I’m not talking about jumping into bed, I’m talking about a continuum of physical contact that moves from sensual to sexual. Remember how the anticipation of reward is so, well, rewarding? And how novel stimuli increase levels of dopamine? Set aside enough time to get to know each other physically in a new way and to let interest and excitement build. Promise each other an orgasm. You can begin talking about what you’d like to do or simply hold hands. Shoot for 65 percent anticipation and only 35 percent activation. As you move into more intimate gestures, this is not the time to fall back on your tried-and-true sexual practice. It is the time to try something kinky or just different, if you’ve always wanted to. But don’t feel pressure to be inventive, simply let excitement and enjoyment build in a way that feels right to both of you.

Hone your love mixology skills and enjoy the intoxication of love all over again!

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Susan Kuchinskas is the author of The Chemistry of Connection: How the oxytocin response can help you find trust, intimacy and love. She blogs about love, trust and oxytocin at Hug the Monkey.

Email her at susan at chemistryofconnection dot com.

Love Those Love Chemicals

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Wouldn’t it be great if there were a pill that could fire up you marriage? No, I am not talking about that little blue pill. I mean a drug that could bring back the passionate excitement you felt when you first met your mate.

Big Pharma doesn’t have anything like that in the works, but you can make your own passion-power drug at home, using that amazing chemical factory known as your brain. I’m not talking about alcohol, I’m talking about your body’s natural intoxicants, the brain chemicals that can bring you both to new heights of attraction and connection.

Before I explain how to become a brain-chemical barista, let’s talk about what’s happening in your brain when the chemistry between you and your mate goes from wow to whatever.

Those things we call feelings or emotions are the result of small changes in the chemicals flowing through our bloodstreams and circulating in our brains. The chemical composition can easily tilt as the result of outside stimuli, like a kind word or a bumped shin, and it can be shaped by our thoughts, as well.

After years of marriage, the neurochemical balance inevitably tilts toward an abundance of oxytocin, the chemical of nesting. Oxytocin is released in the brain in response at times when we’re near people we know and trust. It’s nicknamed the cuddle hormone because it seems to produce that calm, peaceful, connected feeling.

You could say that oxytocin is the chemical of committed love. Romantic passion, however, seems to be fueled by a combination of dopamine and adrenaline. Dopamine is the chemical of reward-seeking. Dopamine impels us to go after a reward, and at the same time, it tingles the brain’s pleasure centers. In fact, seeking a reward feels better than actually obtaining it. This was nature’s way of making sure we got off our butts each morning to climb that tree in search of more fruit.

Adrenaline, which is also part of the fight-or-flight response, gives us extra energy and puts all our senses on high alert. It gives that speedy, do-anything flavor to romance.

The oxytocin-based feeling of safety, comfort and connection in the home you’ve made together is one of the lovely things about marriage or cohabitation. But it’s not exciting; it’s not sexy. And humans have a powerful need for novelty and excitement. This is probably a leftover from the days when we ranged over the savannahs, hunting for food. You two don’t need to hunt for a mate, but you do need to get more adrenaline and dopamine into your relationship.

What’s the flavor of your domestic brew? Is it a bland milkshake or a cup of bitter tea? Shake it into a fun cocktail with a parasol in it or a top-shelf martini, even if you don’t drink. In part two, I’ll give you the recipe and instructions for your sexy love cocktail.

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Susan Kuchinskas is the author of The Chemistry of Connection: How the oxytocin response can help you find trust, intimacy and love. She blogs about love, trust and oxytocin at Hug the Monkey.

Email her at susan at chemistryofconnection dot com.

Guest Writer – Susan Kuchinskas

Next week we have a real treat!  A 2 part series on “Love Chemicals” by renown author and expert Susan Kuchinskas.  She will be sharing her expertise with us – helping us understand the connections between the brain and our emotions.

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Susan Kuchinskas is the author of The Chemistry of Connection: How the Oxytocin Response Can Help You Find Trust, Intimacy, and Love, combining cutting-edge research from neuroscience, psychology and biology to offer a full understanding of love — and how to get more of it.

Her radio and TV appearances include Mornings with Mike & Juliet, The View from the Bay, and Michael Roizen’s You the Owners Manual Radio Show.

She writes the blog Hug the Monkey, which is now recognized as one of the most authoritative sources for information on oxytocin on the web.

Hint #40

It may sound corny, but holding hands before sex is an orgasm booster.  The bonding effect releases oxytocin, a hormone released when you climax.

The Science of Kissing

The Science of Kissing

Did you know that there is a science that studies kissing? It is called Philematology! Scientists study everything from the origins of kissing, to its effect on the brain, to its role in effecting long term attachment. Here are some of the things that they have found:

  • Evidence suggest that kissing most likely began as a way for mothers to feed their children. Due to the lack of food processors millions of years ago, they would chew up food and pass it to their infants, mouth to mouth, so that the children could derive the benefits of nutrition of this pre-chewed food.
  • There are many nerve endings in lips and tongue, which are stimulated by kissing and make it a pleasurable experience.
  • There are 3 sets of muscles that act on the lips, and they are an anchor point for 10 others.
  • Kissing is thought to have been important from an evolutionary perspective because a bad first kiss might have indicated that you would not be compatible with this person as a life-long mate.
  • Passionate kissing releases oxytocin and other “feel-good hormones” into the brain. (Oxytocin is the same hormone which is released during orgasm and breast feeding).
  • Cortisol, the stress hormone, decreases during a session of kissing.
  • Men are often “wet” or “open mouthed” kissers and they have testosterone (linked to sex drive) in their saliva. Some believe that this was so that the sex drive in females would be triggered through kissing.

Helen Fisher, a renowned anthropologist with Rutgers University, has spent years researching and writing about the effects of love on the brain. Ms Fisher found that when subjects looked at pictures of their loved one as they had their brains scanned with a MRI machine, the most active areas of the brain were the regions which govern pleasure, motivation and reward. In fact, these are the very areas which are activated during the use of drugs such as cocaine! Now it makes sense that when we are deeply in love with another, it feels like we are on a “high”!

Furthermore, she believes that there are three regions of the brain which are responsible for mating and reproduction: the sex drive, the passion of being in love, and attachment. According to the results from the MRIs, the chemicals and hormones released during kissing can activate any or all of these three areas of the brain.

This is amazing to me! Want to increase your sense of passionate love? Kiss! Want to deepen your long-term attachment to your spouse? Kiss! Want to end up in the sack? Kiss!

Here are some ideas for you to implement this week:

  1. Experiment with different types of kisses. Vary the type of kiss as well its placement. Try pecks on the cheek, a kiss on the head, a warm kiss on the palm of your lover’s hand, a closed-mouth kiss after a deep gaze into your lover’s eyes, a lingering wet kiss. Try kissing with your eyes open. Kiss with your eyes closed.
  2. Feeling like you are about to fight? Try kissing instead. I know you won’t feel like it, but try it anyways. See what happens to your disagreement. Worst case scenario, you end up fighting after the kiss, but you were well on your way to doing that anyways. Maybe kissing will remind you why you are together and help you come to a more productive resolution to your dispute.
  3. Decide that you will not allow your spouse to walk out or come into the house without a kiss. Perhaps this can become one of your greeting rituals to increase the intimacy in your relationship.

Sometimes, we want to feel the intimacy and love and passion before we take action. However, if you believe the science, it seems that we might have to take the action first. So, give yourself permission to act regardless of your feelings and see where it leads you. You might be surprised when your feelings fall in line!