What do you think of when I mention love?
Do you think of romance with its flowers, hearts and suspension of reality?
Do you think of life-long commitment and staying together through thick and thin?
Do you think of your connection to your children and the sense you will always protect them, no matter what?
Those would all be typical first thoughts. Our culture pays great attention to the idea of love and does it in ways that are usually big and expansive. Love will turn your life upside down. Find your one true love. Love is hard and requires huge sacrifices.
What if love were something else entirely? What if it was small and simple and yet more powerful than any of the stereotypes?
Think back over your day yesterday. Specifically look at the interactions you had with other people. Were there any that felt like you really connected with the other person in a positive way, no matter how brief? That is what your body considers love.
It’s also called positivity resonance in the psychological research world. It is that small moment of warmth and connection you share with another human being.
Love is simple. Love is positive connection.
There are likely examples of this all around you. The conversation between coworkers when you hear shared laughter is an example. That couple in a restaurant who are smiling at each other have positivity resonance. The pair of men walking down the street intently talking about baseball like nothing else happens in the spring are deep into a warm connection.
Now I probably have you wondering how all these small things could be love. They are all alike because of your body’s reaction to the positive connection with another. It’s a physical definition of love.
From the many small moments when these physical changes occur all the way to close relationships, like those with your spouse and children, that build many of these small changes over time, the body reaction is the same. It is love.
Humans are built for these connections and have an internal system that makes the most of them. There are physical changes that happen in both people’s bodies when these warm connections are made and it creates a beautiful choreographed dance between the two. They become physically in synch.
Sometimes you can see a synchronicity of movement between the people. One person smiles and nods and then the other does it too. One person shifts in their chair and the other does the same thing at much the same time.
What’s more… in response to the interaction and to the other person, each person’s biochemistry shifts slightly. The heart rates, respiration rates and neuropeptide levels of the two people move into synchrony. Imagine that! Warm connection between two people leads to physical changes in both!
You may have heard that having strong relationships is one of the key components of living a long and healthy life. That’s the power of love. As science moves forward in understanding of what happens to us biologically during our connections with others, we are starting to understand why relationships affect health. The radical finding here is that the impact of love happens in many tiny ways throughout the course of normal life, not just in our deep and lasting relationships.
Your conversation with the grocery store clerk can have a small and measurable impact on both your emotional and your physical wellbeing. At the same time, it has the same impact on the clerk. And the physical impact mirrors the emotional impact.
Each interaction you have in the course of a day can make a tiny deposit in your health bank account. It only takes a positive shared connection with the other person.
The reverse is also true. A lack of positivity resonance in your life is very destructive to your emotional wellbeing and your physical health. Chronic loneliness and its yearning for connection demonstrate the emotional impact. The damage to your health from lack of connection is hard to overstate as it has a stronger impact than cigarette smoking, obesity and excessive drinking of alcohol.
Developing a larger presence for positivity resonance – love- in your life requires you to start with some introspection. Your goal is to be sincere about any connections you try to make with others and to be able to set your own self-absorption aside.
Here’s an exercise you can try right now:
- Mentally review the past 24 hours for the three longest social interactions you had.
- Ask yourself how “in tune” you felt overall with the people in these interactions.
- Then ask yourself how close you felt to these people overall.
- Think of ways you could have connected more strongly with each of these people.
Over the next several days, try to intentionally create opportunities to sincerely connect with someone as you go through your day. Simply offer your attention towards others, share your lighthearted thoughts and feelings and stay present as the other person shares theirs. Then savor the energy and rewards of feeling a connection.
How do you feel about the “new definition of love”? Leave us your thoughts in the comments.