By Dr. Helen Fisher, Ph.D.
Kicking leaves, carving pumpkins, pencils, books and work: Sunday marked our first day back in the fall routine. And as we resume our autumn rituals, most of us take stock in our dating lives. Are you ready to find love as summer fades away?
We tend to think that spring and summer are the mating seasons — the key times that we engage in the pursuit of happiness. But as autumn gets under way, professionals, entrepreneurs, students, retirees… almost everyone returns to their schedules; to clubs, restaurants, gyms, sports and cultural events and parties — rekindling and expanding their social webs.
What makes fall such a dynamic mating season? First, it’s important to acknowledge that anytime is a good time for love and mating. Deer court in the fall; female dogs court when they are “in heat;” most female monkeys have a peak in their libido during the middle of their monthly cycle when they ovulate. Humans, however, have no courting or birthing season.
Certainly, summer has its thrills. The fireflies and crickets, the pungent smells of roses, barbeque and salty air, the sunning bodies on the beach or grass, the fresh peaches: summer magic invigorates our senses. But as poet John Keats wrote of autumn, “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness… thou hast thy music, too.” Keats had it right. As we hurtle toward crisp days and nights, new events — and new floods of chemicals — will propel us toward love.
Foremost, in autumn anticipation can run high. And novelty, unpredictability and anticipation can juice the dopamine circuits in the brain, making you feel good – very good. And the novelty of autumn can trigger this dopamine response, giving you energy, optimism, focus and motivation, as well as increasing your libido.
Autumn days also jump-start the production of testosterone — the premier hormone of lust. In autumn, this sap rises — giving men extra strength, energy, concentration and confidence. Moreover, as testosterone initiates sexual desire, the ensuing activity also triggers more testosterone. Thus, the cycle spins.
“In the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,” wrote Alfred, Lord Tennyson. But in late spring and early summer, levels of testosterone are at their lowest. They peak instead in November and early December. This testosterone surge may be part of nature’s plan to turn our thoughts to love in the waning days of autumn and reap love’s rewards going into the cold winter months, making autumn our primary time to love.
This fall, may it be yours.
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