Friday, February 3, 2012

Tips for Finding a Date Before Valentine’s Day

In her book DIRTY MINDS: How Our Brains Influence Love, Sex, and Relationships (Free Press hardcover; January 3, 2012; $25.00), acclaimed science writer Kayt Sukel delves into the latest neuroscientific research concerning love and sex (even getting her brain scanned while having an orgasm) to explain what “chemistry” really means for the way we approach our relationships.

Here is Kayt’s 9 Tips for Finding a Date Before Valentine’s Day:

1. Drop the list. We all have them—that list of must-have attributes we are looking for in our partners. Now, I’m not suggesting that you settle for Mr. Good Enough just to have someone to go out with on Valentine’s Day. But it’s important to note that research into the neurobiology of attraction has found that individuals are often most attracted to—and most compatible with—folks who don’t match that idealized inventory of qualities. By dropping that list, you may open up your dating pool to include some great new candidates.

2. Up your oxytocin…naturally. It seems like you can’t pick up a women’s magazine without hearing about the many magnificent properties of oxytocin, a.k.a. the cuddle chemical. This neuropeptide works in your brain to promote trust, attraction, comfort and bonding. So, yes, it’s a good thing for attracting (and being receptive) to a new person. But while you can find oxytocin for sale on the Internet, you are better off upping your oxytocin in a more organic fashion. Before you head out for the evening, hug your friends, cuddle your dog or get a massage to up those endogenous chemicals.

3. Don’t overdo the fragrance. Our medicine cabinets are full of fragranced deodorants, shampoos, perfumes, hair gels and other cosmetic items. Our natural body odor plays an important role in interpersonal attraction—and by dousing yourself with Axe body spray, you may be inadvertently thwarting your body’s best chemosensory signals and turning off the folks you want to turn on.

4. Be comfortable. When you are out on the prowl, you want to look your best. But, often, we do ourselves up into a state of discomfort between tight clothes, crazy shoes and too many cosmetic items. It may seem counter-intuitive but doing yourself up like a peacock may repel more potential dates than it attracts because you spend more time fidgeting than being able to relax and enjoy yourself.

5. Get off the pill. It may be a staple in the single girl’s medicine cabinet but the birth control pill makes significant changes to a woman’s hormonal profile. In studies, men find women on the pill to be less attractive—and women who are on it are less receptive to new men. Staying away from the contraceptives may help speed up the process of finding a date.

6. Avoid the set-up. Your besties may know that you hate cherries in your cocktails and all about your secret love for Katy Perry. But as attraction is a very personal thing, they aren’t going to know who you will really click with. They may think they do but they are wrong. While meeting a friend of a friend in a group setting is a way to let everyone feel more comfortable, avoid set-ups at all costs. They are bound to disappoint.

7. Don’t discount a friend. While you shouldn’t rely on your friends’ taste in the opposite sex, you may find some previously undiscovered gems in your current social circle. Neuroscientific research has demonstrated three separate yet overlapping systems for love—which means someone who was in the friend category can transform into something more with just a slight change of mindset.

8. Meet more people. You are never going to meet someone new if you go to all the same places with all the same people all the time. Love may only require you meeting a few more people! Go out to new places. Try new things. Take a class. Go out for coffee with that online dating person even if you aren’t 100% sure about it. Just meet more people and increase your odds for finding a Valentine.

9. Don’t overthink it. When it comes to dating, we’re our own worst enemies. We have these elegantly designed biological love systems that drive us to connect with others—but they can be easily overridden by our pesky frontal lobes. Go out. Have fun. Don’t overanalyze yourself or your situation. Do that and that Valentine will show up before you know it.


Kayt Sukel earned a BS in cognitive psychology from Carnegie Mellon University and an MS in engineering psychology from the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is a passionate traveler and science writer, and her work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the New Scientist, USA Today, The Washington Post, Islands, Parenting, The Bark, American Baby, and the AARP Bulletin. She is a partner at the award-winning family travel website Travel Savvy Mom (www.travelsavvymom.com) and is also a frequent contributor to the Dana Foundation’s many science publications (www.dana.org).

A video about DIRTY MINDS, and much of her work, can be found on her website, kaytsukel.typepad.com, including stories about of-of-body experiences, computer models of schizophrenia, and exotic travel with young children. She lives outside Houston and frequently overshares on Twitter as @kaytsukel.

Disclosure: I did not receive any products nor was paid for this post. I was provided info from the PR firm to share. Any expressed opinions are my own and personal thoughts. No other compensation was given.

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