Most of us have been trained to think that one of life’s primary goals is to find that one-and-only soul mate. But Barbara Fredrickson—a leading scholar and researcher in the fields of social psychology, affective science, and positive psychology—challenges this pie-eyed view of love in her new book, Love 2.0. Rather than simply debunking a daydream, her research brings us news that’s really revolutionary: as far as the impact on our bodies and our health is concerned, love is literally any positive connection between two or more people at any time. Here’s an excerpt from Barbara’s keynote at the 2014 Networker Symposium.
We sometimes forget that love is an emotion, and the truth about emotions is that they happen in the span of a micro-moment. It’s in that micro-moment that you truly connect with another living being, whether you share a laugh with a friend, hug your neighbor with compassion, or smile at a baby. When you really connect with another person, your smiles, your gestures, your postures come to mirror one another and come into synchrony. But that’s only the synchrony that you can see. In addition, there’s the synchrony that you can’t see, because when you really connect with another person—when you’re sharing this positive vibe with them—your neural firings come into synch, your biochemistries come into synch, even your heart rhythms come into synch. It’s as if in that moment of connection, a single emotion is growing across two brains and bodies at once.
Every day, our habits of connection deeply affect our physical health. So these micro-moments of connection should be considered on par with eating your vegetables and staying physically active. But more than other healthy behaviors, when you’re connecting with another person, it’s not just your heart and your immune system that’s getting a mini tune-up—the other person’s is, too.