You may have heard love described as a choice – or, alternatively, as something that you can’t help falling into or out of. You may think of it as the special bond between families or friends or as an intimate relationship. However, researcher Barbara Fredrickson looks at love a bit differently. Here are a few facts she’s explored about the scientific definition of love that may change how you think about and practice this key part of life:
- Love is an emotion – that is, a temporary physical and mental state – that literally changes your mind, expanding your and enhancing your ability to feel connected to others. Fredrickson calls it the “supreme emotion”.
- Love is essentially a “micro-moment of warmth and connection” that can happen with anyone.
- Love is a biological need, an “essential ingredient” of life. Our bodies are designed to experience love.
- Love leads to improved resilience, higher life expectancy and quality, and personal growth.
- Love is fueled by your brain, the “love hormone” oxytocin, and the vagus nerve (which connects the brain to the heart) all working together.
- Your ability to love can increase over time, building resources such as physical health, personality traits, and social bonds. These, in turn, improve your experience of love.
- Love both createsand is fueled byexclusive bonds, commitment, desire, and trust.
- The “positivity system”, which includes emotions such as serenity and joy, is sustained by love.
- Love enables you to “really see” the people around you, especially because it helps you be less focused on yourself.
- To experience love, you must first feel safe.
- Love occurs when there are shared positive emotions, when biology and/or behaviors are at least partially in sync, and when there is a sense of mutual care and concern. These factors combine to create what Fredrickson calls positivity resonance.
- Love is strongest in someone’s physical presence, especially with eye contact.
Research by: Kayla Clawson Alva