Love is an unselfish devotion. Love may be unconditional love towards a child or romantic love exchanged between two people. This cultural definition of eternal love has inspired music, movies, poems and novels from the world’s greatest artists and created traditional wedding services that promise a life-long commitment of love that moves mountains and mends all wounds.
Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, a leading researcher of positive emotions at the University of North Carolina believes that love should not be considered as a special bond or commitment. She offers the concept of love as the emotion which happens in “micro-moments of positivity resonance”. What she means is that love is a connection characterized by a flood of positive emotions which you share with another person, whether a child, close friend, or romantic partner. By looking at love as ‘micro-moments of positivity resonance’ all of us can find smaller ways to experience love irrespective of whether we are in a relationship or single, divorced or widowed.
Fredrickson’s theory is based on the biochemical influences that create love. Love only exists in the physical connection between two people, it cannot be aroused individually like joy or happiness. A mutual understanding and shared emotions generates a micro-moment of love, which as stated by Fredrickson “is a single act, performed by two brains”.
Biological love system
The biological love system has three components: mirror neurons, oxytocin, and vagal tone. When you experience love, research has shown your brain mirrors the person’s you are connecting with in a unique way.
Oxytocin is a hormone released during moments of intimate connection. It works by making people feel more trusting and open to connection and spikes during micro-moments of love such as making eye contact and smiling, when oxytocin levels are synchronized in both parties.
The vagus nerve also helps you connect via vagal tone, measured by examining a person’s heart rate together with their breathing rate. People who have a high “vagal tone” have more control over their emotions, and are able to create more positive connections with others. High vagal tone is also associated with lowered risk of inflammation, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke.
By lowering our cultural expectations and having love in reach everyday regardless of our relationship status, we can each seek out love in little moments of connection many times a day, reducing loneliness and improving physical health.