Love is Good for Your Health
Since Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, I thought I’d dedicate this blog post to the topic of love. Barbara Fredrickson, who first peaked my interest in positive psychology with her wonderful book, Positivity, just published another book, Love 2.0. In it she summarizes findings from her research and other scientific studies showing the enormous power of love to transform your life for the better.
One of the most interesting aspects of this book is Barbara’s conception of love. Based on brain activity research, she redefines it as micro-moments of connection between people. When you share positive emotions with others you experience a positivity resonance. Your brain activity syncs up with that of the other person, which leads to a mutual motivation to invest in each other’s well-being. These micro-moments of connection can happen between two people who hardly know each other. Having a brief conversation with someone while waiting in line will increase your concern for that person.
Micro-moments of connection are important for your health because when your brain registers the emotion of love, the hormone oxytocin is released. Oxytocin reduces levels of stress hormones in your body, lowers your blood pressure and reduces inflammation, which can lead to heart failure, stroke, and diabetes.
So it is in your best interest to expand the amount of love in your life. Each time you encounter another person, you have the opportunity to connect with them with warmth, openness and goodwill. It helps to realize that each person you see has experienced both good and bad fortune. This means everyone deserves either your compassionate love for what they have suffered or your celebratory love for their good fortune.
Be mindful as you go about your day so that you notice people, on your commute, at work, in the grocery store (that means put your phone away!). Look for nonverbal signs that might indicate suffering or joy. Make eye contact, smile at them, and wish that they be released from suffering or that their good fortune continue.
You don’t have to be in a romantic relationship to reap the benefits of love. You can share micro-moments of connection with anyone. Short conversations, even eye contact, can trigger the release of hormones that will significantly improve your health.