Monthly Archives: September 2016

The 4 Stages of Love (Explained By Neuroscience) by Dawn Maslar


Julia floated up to me with a big smile, “Guess what?” she said.


“I think I’m in love,” she replied.

“That’s great, but I didn’t even know you were dating anyone.”

“I know! We met yesterday,” she said and flitted away.

You’ve probably guessed that what Julia was feeling was not love. It might eventually turn into love, but it wasn’t love yet. Over the last 20 years, researchers have discovered four distinct biological stages that make up what we refer to as love. These stages are often called different things, but here, we are going to refer to them as attraction, dating, falling in love, and true love. Let’s look at each in more detail.

1. Attraction

You know the feeling; you sense them from across the room. Your body tenses, your heart starts to race, and your palms begin to sweat, all before you’ve even met them. As they come closer your pupils dilate, but you experience a type of tunnel vision, and your mouth goes dry.

This instant response is sometimes called chemistry. You know you have just met someone important. In fact, many women I talk to will not entertain the idea of dating a man without this initial response. This is what Julia was feeling. But, unfortunately, this has very little to do with real love. This is about sexual attraction. Those feelings you’re experiencing—racing heart, sweaty palms, and dilated pupils—are caused when your body releases norepinephrine, a fight-or-flight hormone. Its job is to get your attention so you can investigate further. The next phase is when the investigation occurs.

2. Dating

I use the word dating as a type of catchall. It’s a simple word for a complicated process. When you’re dating, your brain is trying to determine if this is a person you’d like to fall in love with. As I explain in a moment, falling in love is a rather risky business. During the dating phase, your body releases different hormones, specifically dopamine and oxytocin for women, and dopamine, testosterone, and vasopressin for men.

Dopamine is released in both men and women when they are excited about the potential of winning the reward of love. Oxytocin in women is released as she begins to trust. It can also be released as she kisses, cuddles, and becomes sexual. Men, on the other hand, release vasopressin, which increases as he kisses, cuddles, and thinks about becoming sexual with her. And his testosterone goes up each time as he “wins” her attention and approval. If all goes well, these hormones reach a type of tipping point. On the other side of that tipping point is the glorious sensation we call falling in love.

4. Falling in love

Researchers in Italy discovered that when you fall in love, your hormones go haywire. For example, your stress hormone cortisol skyrockets. That’s the reason many people find it hard to eat or sleep during this time. Also, your happiness hormone actually decreases in activity. This is counterintuitive; most people indicate that during this time that they feel deliriously happy. But the reason you feel happy is because part of your brain, the amygdala, actually deactivates—that’s the part of your brain that would otherwise be sounding the alarm because your stress hormone is so high.

So even though your anxiety is high and your happiness is low, it doesn’t feel that way because the part of the brain that should be telling you that has taken a vacation. And, if that’s not bad enough, London researchers also found that your ventromedial prefrontal cortex has deactivated during this time as well. That’s the part of the brain that judges yourself and the other person. (Now you understand the saying, “love is blind.”) During this time, you can’t really see your lover for who they truly are. But, since you’re not judging yourself either, you are quite happy and content with your circumstances.

Of course, for anyone who has fallen in love, you already know that this is a temporary phase. Eventually, your brain must return to homeostasis, or relative stability. When this occurs, some couples break up, and others move to the next phase.

5. True love

This is the phase of relative stability. It feels like neurological excitement has settled down. But actually, brain scans show that love takes a dramatic shift. Where once there was decreased neural activity, now we see an overabundance of it. That’s one of the reasons we see more breakups after the hormones wear off. Here is where critical judgment returns.

However, couples that stay together have one thing in common: the ability to maintain positive illusions of the other. In other words, the judgment may come back, but they choose to focus on the good. They choose to look at the things they love in the other person and not those little irritating foibles we all have. Although your brain is busier than ever, this is a more grounded love that shares neural activity with morals, compassion, and unconditional love. Neurologically speaking, this is a higher love. Not only is it found in the more evolved brain, but when it’s practiced, you become more empathetic and caring.

What Julia is feeling right now is not quite love yet. But it may be the beginning of a wonderfully glorious adventure.


Why Travel is the Greatest Investment

“Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer”

It feels like every time I go on Facebook there’s someone announcing a baby, a house or an engagement. I’m 22 so most of my friends fall within the 20-25-year-old age bracket. But it made me think, I couldn’t even imagine that type of commitment even at 25, let alone right now.

If you’re an avid reader of my blog and follow along on social media, you’ll know travel is, and has always been, a top priority in my life. No matter how close or how far, I have always chosen to invest my time and money in travel over almost anything else, and many people I know tend to disagree with that.

I can’t count the times in the past I’ve heard “where do you find the money and the time?” or “shouldn’t you be saving?” But then I think, isn’t the whole point of life to live; to choose your own path and focus on what makes you happy? Yes, starting to save up for a house or something permanent would probably be very safe and smart, but it wouldn’t make me any happy. It wouldn’t do anything for me other than provide comfort and keep me locked down for a very long time.

I’m just not okay with that. In fact, it kind of leaves my chest feeling a little tight.

I would rather put my money towards seeing the world.

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

Travel allows you to step outside your own world and see your life from a third perspective. It puts almost all your stress at ease and makes you realize you don’t need to worry about most of the things you usually do at home. When you’re stuck in a rut living out the same routine every day at home, you lose sight of what truly matters in life.


In the short time that I have traveled, I have learned more about myself than I could have ever imagined. It pushes you to your absolute limits and challenges your mental and physical strengths. These challenges come in many different forms – from missing airplanes and being stranded on islands, to navigating foreign train stations and parachuting over mountains. Traveling isn’t all smooth sailing, the reality is there’s lots of mishaps and unexpected turns (literally going to glue my passport to my hand so I don’t lose it for the 84023987th time). Although incredibly frustrating at the time, these become invaluable life lessons. But nothing declares your independence and growth more than conquering challenges on a day to day basis. It really encourages you to come out of your shell, meet other people, and gain self-confidence. You learn to think on your own two feet. When you invest in travel, you invest in yourself.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine


Travel doesn’t just make you appreciate different cultures, it makes you experience them. It allows you to embrace how the locals live. It opens your eyes to different ways of living. There is more than one way of thinking, doing and living. It’s one thing to read and learn about a city, but it’s another thing to stand foot in it, and have a local show you around. When you embrace cultural and environmental differences, you can look at those in your own community without judgment and a better appreciation.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain


Words will just never do justice to some of the great travel moments I’ve experienced. Those memories are ones I’ll hold onto forever and that can make me smile even in the worst of situations. Some I can hardly believe happened and feel so surreal to think about. I would trade any material possession to relive those moments. Get lost in the medieval streets of Prague, dance until sunset in the bars of Cuba, embrace the crowds of times square, paraglide over Rio, and go on a 4WD off-road adventure in the middle east… Why live an ordinary life when it is meant for so much more?


5 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self by Gail Caldwell


1. Your father was saying something that you couldn’t hear.

My dad was a tough, sometimes domineering Texas patriarch, and his idea of protecting his two adolescent daughters was to scare hell out of the boys in the ‘hood. Granted, it was the Texas Panhandle in the 1950s: When a kid came to my or my sister’s window late at night, Wild Bill would do a patrol around the block with an unloaded rifle on his shoulder.

Why couldn’t he just tell us to watch our backs, or say how much he loved us? Now I know that he was telling us, but too often the greatest generation translated love into laconic shows of strength. I wish he could have said, “You are the most precious cargo in the world and I will do anything to keep you safe,” which might have helped me learn to say it to myself.

2. You have muscles and brain cells that are poised for amazing possibilities.

Like childbirth and mountain climbing and dancing until 3 a.m., you can learn calculus, or walk across half of Spain, and your body and brain will barely flinch. Then, you can sleep it off and start again. You will be able to do this for many, many years, particularly if you forego stupid drugs and too much booze and seven helpings of cheesecake and walking in front of speeding vehicles; or, for that matter, getting into them.

3. Walk tall, even—especially—when you are afraid, or cowed, or insecure.

If you assume you are too good to be taken advantage of, the bullies of the world will usually believe you, and move on.

This skill involves daily practice, like sports or meditation, and, as my gun-toting, poker-playing dad would say, a little bluff at the right time. I had a creepy guy twice my size acting inappropriately in an airplane aisle recently—he reached his hand around my waist—and without thinking, I looked him in the eye, moved toward him with my hand up, and said, “Sir, you’re going to need to step back, now.”

I think I’ve been watching too much Matthew McConaughey in “True Detective.” But hey, the man got out of my way, fast.

4. Everything—I mean everything—matters.

The friend’s kid brother you were nice to when no one else was; the parking place you got into a screaming match over; the bearable, or awful, breakup you had. What matters is not the parking place, but the way you react: the kindness you display, and the mercy and the poise to be your own best self when you can. Everything matters because it morphs into this giant thing called history, or experience, and eventually life itself. Even the murderous Hound in “Game of Thrones” tells Arya, “A man’s got to have a code.” Find yours and live by it.

5. Remember the gulping-air surprise of being alive.

Love, color, music, the beauty of the planet—all these things will serve you later, decades later, when you are walking down a street in St. Louis, or a beach on Cape Cod, and you hear a song that sends you spinning. You hear “Night Swimming” and want to weep because it takes you back to Point Reyes in California, or a sunset over Mount Bonnell in Texas. Your memory is the motherboard. Feed it the experience and it will always give it back.

P.S. You will note that I have left out much counsel about the bad times in life. That’s because they will always be there, the worry and sorrow and little hells that we can do nothing about. No prep book for those. Do the good stuff, see above, and it will cushion the rest.



The Power of No by Matthew Williams

It’s only one syllable, only two letters, yet for many it’s the most difficult word to say. Elton John – you’re wrong; it seems to me that ‘no’ seems to be the hardest word.

No – a small word with huge power, power over ourselves and power over others.

It is a word that carries with it the weight of negativity. Saying no signals refusal, non-compliance, denial; obstinance and obstruction. In our desire to please others, to be amenable, to avoid conflict and to not let people down it’s often far easier to just say yes. Oh go on then.

There may be times when that is fine, wherein the service of expediency saying yes when we rather wouldn’t, serves a wider purpose, even if that purpose is just to get someone off our back or to stall a difficult situation that requires us to gather our resources and address the issue on our own terms.

In life picking our battles is an important skill, as Sebastian Coe puts it, we ought to fight those battles that are small enough to win but big enough to matter.

What matters? This to me is a crucial question. What matters to us? What do we believe in? What are our values? Where are our boundaries? What are we prepared to accept from others? What do we expect from ourselves?

Saying no becomes easier when we have answers to these questions. Greater self-awareness gives rise to greater self-possession and greater self-determination, each of which helps us to take difficult decisions, unpopular decisions; decisions that require us to say no.

Self-determination and self-possession in this sense need not mean self-obsession. No. These traits can help us to better serve others by allowing us to better understand where our efforts and energies are best directed, helping us to prioritise and to say no to those things that steer us away from our most constructive course.

Because when we say yes when we want to say no when we know we ought to say no – when we say yes to get us out of a tight spot or an uncomfortable situation or to save somebody else’s feelings – well, we often end up saying no anyway. Not through saying the word, which remains tightly locked behind gritted teeth, but in our subsequent actions – our attempts to wriggle out of our unwanted commitment, to make our excuses, to act out of barely concealed sufferance, or to simply disappear and hope that somehow the situation will magically go away.

And that’s no good, to anybody. Our energies are wasted, we inconvenience others, we compromise ourselves, we fail to fulfill our potential… we simply replace one set of concerns with a whole load of others.

Learn to say no, for in those two letters lie power, potential, and freedom.

Freedom from the desire to please others, freedom from putting down your own best interests to serve interests that compromise your goals or even your values, freedom from the judgements of others.

Say no and do the difficult thing.

No; I will not lie, I will not cheat, I will not compromise and I will not let anybody else lie to, cheat on or compromise me.

I will respect my boundaries because if I don’t then nobody else will.

Learn to say no, for when you do you are also learning to say yes – to yourself.



5 Reasons To Be Glad You’re A Late Bloomer

Being a late bloomer can be immensely exasperating. It’s frustrating to see your peers flourish and thrive while you struggle to find your footing.

However, finding your calling late in life has its upsides. No one wants to be the person who peaked too early, either professionally or personally. Pushing yourself 24/7 can lead to early burnout. And, often, it’s the people who take the time to experiment and know themselves deeply who set themselves up for sustained success. Just look at Julia Child, Toni Morrison, Morgan Freeman – the list of actors, writers, and artists who found success late in life goes on and on.

Here are five reasons to be glad you’re a late bloomer.

  1. You understand that life is a marathon, not a sprint.

It was true for Aesop and it’s still true today: Slow and steady wins the race.

Just look at Helen Mirren. Mirren began acting at the age of 18 with the National Youth Theatre in London, but she didn’t find mainstream success until her mid-forties with her breakout role in Prime SuspectSince then, she’s nabbed four Oscar nominations and one win for The Queen.

“There are the privileged few who just seem to waft through life without having to ever meet any adversity or difficulty, which is really annoying,” Mirren told Gloucestershire Live. “The rest of us, we have to struggle and fight. We get knocked back and we have to come forward again.”

  1. You fully appreciate your achievements once you’ve earned them. 

Reed Birney, of House of Cards fame, won a Tony Award this year for his performance in ‘The Humans.’ In his acceptance speech, Birney acknowledged the years of hard work and disappointment he put in before his incredible big breaks.

“The last thing I want to say is I’ve been an actor for almost 42 years,” Birney told the audience. “35 of them were pretty bad…and that’s a lot of them, and I just couldn’t get anything going. So the last eight have been great.”

Unlike the people who find success early on in life, Birney understands exactly how long it’s taken to reach each new milestone. His road to success was littered with detours, but those can be the most valuable, instructive periods of the journey.

  1. You know there’s no shame in failure. 

In the moments when everything seems lost, late bloomers truly thrive.

In her mid-twenties, J.K. Rowling was a single mother struggling to support her daughter and get her work published. Rowling said she received “loads” of rejections before Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published. But by 34, Rowling was a literary sensation.

“Some failure in life is inevitable,” Rowling said in her 2008 Harvard Commencement Address. “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.”

It’s not the failures that define you – it’s the moments you got back up and tried again.

  1. You don’t torture yourself with an unrealistic timeline.

Julia Child is one of the world’s most renowned chefs and television personalities. But did you know that Child didn’t start cooking until her late 30s? She didn’t publish Mastering the Art of French Cooking until her late 40s and didn’t become a cooking sensation until her 50s. Her late-blooming success means that Child reminds us again and again that success doesn’t come overnight, and that you don’t need to have it all figured out right now.

Like Julia, you don’t bother setting expectations on an arbitrary timeline. You’ll reach life’s milestones on your own time, and you won’t agonize over how long it takes you. In doing so, you’ll avoid rushing headlong into jobs and relationships that don’t feel right, just because the timing aligns with your schedule. You also won’t close yourself off to opportunities that come late in life, when most people stop expanding their horizons.

  1. You don’t settle until you’ve found your true passion.

Morgan Freeman worked in the U.S. Air Force before his illustrious acting career.

“I had this very clear epiphany,” Freeman told AARP Magazine. “You are not in love with this; you are in love with the idea of this.”

Even after Freeman began acting full time, it took years to break into movies. He didn’t become a true movie star until the age of 50, after his Oscar-nominated turn in Street Smart. Two years later, Freeman won a Golden Globe and earned a second Oscar nomination for Driving Miss Daisy.

Follow Freeman’s lead: don’t rest until you’ve found your calling. You know that a job or relationship shouldn’t just be a means of passing time; you should love every second of it.

In the company of these greats, anyone should feel proud to be a late bloomer.

by Abigail Williams