Love is the theme of Valentine’s Day so let’s talk about it here today. And not just romantic love – wonderful as that is – but love as a basis for our relationships with those we care about and for how we live our lives. Let’s face it – is there any topic more popular? We all grow up with our varied notions of love: what it means, what it looks like, what the latest songs have to say about it. By the time we’re adults, we are usually pretty fixed in our views of what love is, and what it isn’t.
In her recent, groundbreaking book, Love 2.0,: Finding Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection, psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., approaches love from a more global vantage point – the vantage point of how this positive emotion can and does affect more than just our closer relationships. According to Dr. Fredrickson, love is a renewable resource that affects our health and sense of well-being and connectedness to the world around us and to ourselves. She’s spent years studying the effect of positive emotions and the emotion of love as director of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After years of study on the topic, Dr. Fredrickson has concluded that this healthy emotion literally affects our very biology and health in ways previously unsuspected. She states: “The love you do or do not experience today may quite literally change key aspects of your cellular architecture next season and next year – cells that affect your physical health, your vitality, and your overall wellbeing.” Having loving connections in our lives literally makes us healthier.
Some of her other findings include:
- Feelings of love can blossom virtually at any time between people when they reflect and connect over a shared positive emotion. Dr. Fredrickson’s term for this is “positivity resonance.” Simply put, love is connection.
- Love builds resources. It can make us more effective and productive, and more resilient. It makes us wiser and more attuned to others. It nourishes our bodies and builds stronger immune systems.
- Because love is a positive emotion, it broadens our awareness which can lead to an increase in problem-solving capabilities and creativity.
- Opportunities for loving connections are everywhere – at home, at work, and in your community. These micro-moments of connection, as Fredrickson refers to them, can be intentionally created and cultivated in such ways as being open, freely offering attention and interest, sharing thoughts and feelings, and staying present as the other person shares theirs.
- In a larger sense, these micro-moments of love, of connection benefit both the giver and the recipient. This back-and-forth helps not only the individuals involved but also, over time, can help establish and strengthen healthy communities and cultures.
So what’s the take-away for you? In Fredrickson’s view, love is the supreme emotion and “perhaps the most essential emotional experience for thriving and health.” Love “influences everything we feel, think, do, and become.” Connect with others. Care about them. Stay in touch. Pay a compliment. Smile, make eye contact. Be open to everyday opportunities with those around you. Share your stories and be present to others sharing theirs. Barbara Fredrickson believes you have everything to gain.
Coach’s action step: At least three times this week, seek out chances to connect with others in a spirit of warmth, caring and respect. Notice and reflect on how these interchanges impact you. If you find yourself feeling a bit more uplifted, more positive, you may want to do this more often.