It Can Be Hard to Talk about Love in Scientific Terms
The vision of love that emerges from the latest science requires a radical shift. Dr. Frederickson learned to ask people to leave love as they knew it to consider it from a different perspective: their body's perspective. Love is not romance, sexual desire, or that special bond you feel with family or significant others.
And perhaps most challenging of all, love is neither lasting nor unconditional. The radical shift we need to make is this: love, as your body experiences it, is a micro-moment of connection shared with another.
Love Is Not Exclusive
We tend to think of love and loved ones at the same time, and perhaps as even the same thing. When you take these to be only your circle of family and friends, you inadvertently limit opportunities for health, growth and well-being.
You can experience micro-moments of connection and positivity with anyone -- whether with your soul mate or a stranger. You can love far more, and far more often, than you thought.
Love Doesn't Belong to One Person
We tend to think of emotions as private events, confined to one person's mind and skin. Upgrading our view of love to Love 2.0 leaves that perspective behind. Evidence suggests that when you really "click" with someone else, a discernible yet momentary synchrony emerges between the two of you, as your gestures and biochemistries, even your respective neural firings, come to mirror one another in a pattern Dr. Frederickson calls "positivity resonance." Love is "a biological wave of good feeling and mutual care that rolls through two or more brains and bodies at once."
Making Eye Contact Is a Key Gateway for Love
Your body has the built-in ability to "catch" the emotions of those around you, making your prospects for love -- defined as micro-moments of positivity resonance -- nearly limitless. As hopeful as this sounds -- wouldn't limitless love be great? -- Dr. Frederickson also noted that people often short-circuit this natural ability by not making eye contact with the other person. Meeting eyes is a key gatekeeper to neural synchrony.
Love Fortifies the Connection between Your Brain and Your Heart Health
Decades of research show that people who are more socially connected live longer and healthier lives. Yet precisely how social ties affect health has remained one of the great mysteries of science.
Dr. Frederickson's research team learned that when they made a random group of people learn ways to create more of these micro-moments of love in their daily lives, they lastingly improved the function of the vagus nerve, a key conduit that connects the brain to the heart. This discovery provides a new window into how micro-moments of love serve as nutrients for your health.
Your Immune Cells Reflect Your past Experiences of Love
Too often, you get the message that your future prospects hinge on your DNA. Yet the ways that your genes get expressed at the cellular level depends mightily on many factors, including whether you consider yourself to be socially connected or chronically lonely.
Dr. Frederick's team is now investigating the cellular effects of love, testing whether people who build more micro-moments of love in daily life also build healthier immune cells. It is possible that changing your daily habits can affect these fundamental aspects of your physiology.
Small Emotional Moments Can Have Large Biological Effects
Are you surprised that a micro-moment can have any lasting effect on your health and longevity? Dr. Frederickson has learned that there's an "upward spiral between your social and your physical well-being." A positive feedback loop, as it were, where each new level of health increases your own ability to love more, and in turn be healthier.
Take Good Care of a Loving Marriage
Dr. Frederickson's own perspective on love changed during the course of writing her book about love. Far from being a single, steady thing, she began to see love as the consequence of all of these micro-moments of bonding and synchrony -- one that can only continue if they continue to generate those micro-bonding moments.
This approach makes daily maintenance of the relationship all the more important.
Love and Compassion Can Be the Same
One important aspect of this re-imagining of love as micro-moments of connection, is divorcing it from necessarily positive feelings. They may well be positive, but a compassionate moment with a loved one who is stressed, in pain or upset is no less of a bond, no less of a moment. Love still consists of positive moments, but does not require the absence of the negative.
Upgrade Your View of Love to 2.0
The latest science offers new lenses through which to see your every interaction. The people Dr. Frederickson interviewed for her book shared moving stories about how they used these micro-moments of positivity and connection to make big changes in their personal personal and work lives.
One of the best practices I learned from this research is that when people take just a minute or so each day to think about whether they felt connected and attuned to others (and how they did), they began to reap the benefits of Love 2.0. You could start doing this today, having learned even just this much more about how love works.