For a few years I’ve intermittently campaigned for the renaming of Valentines Day to Dopamine Day. After all, that’s what it’s really about. The thrill of romantic love is largely the handiwork of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
We would celebrate Dopamine Day by engaging in activities that increase dopamine, like savoring chocolates, giving and receiving gifts, enjoying a nice meal, catching a show, and being close to your lover. Sound familiar? That’s probably because Valentines Day already is Dopamine Day but under a less specific, or at least less alliterative, name.
Dopamine Day encompasses so much more, though. It doesn’t leave single people out in the cold, like Valentines Day does. Don’t have a lover? That’s not a problem for Dopamine Day! Your potential for enjoying dopamine isn’t dependent on your relationship status. The trick for releasing dopamine is to try something novel and thrilling, like exploring a new city or skydiving or rafting. Not very adventurous? Then engaging in fantasy, like a movie or a book may be more your style. The addition of chocolate never hurts.
It seems appropriate to interject here with a pertinent factini. The brains of people who are in the crazy-in-love stage of love look like the brains of people who are high on cocaine. Now, I’m not suggesting you celebrate Dopamine Day by snorting coke; that’s too easy - and therefore dangerous. (In fact one could argue whether or not celebrating Dopamine Day with someone you are madly in love with “too easy.” I’ll let that debate slide for now.)
To really give dopamine its awe-inspiring due, it’s important to note that cocaine and other drugs are addictive because they hijack the dopamine pleasure/reward system. Dopamine feels *that good* and its pull is *that irresistible*.
So, let’s celebrate the goodness and irresistibly of dopamine, without which we would lose our zest for much of life. In fact, without dopamine to pull us in the direction of maintaining our necessary life functions, I doubt we could exist. We would certainly not be human.
I plan to celebrate Dopamine Day with a wander in the redwoods, an indulgence in a novel, and plenty of chocolate & zinfandel. Maybe I’ll surprise people with little Dopamine Day cards, too. That will help spread the love!
Hooray for dopamine!