What if we’ve been thinking about love too narrowly? What if love can actually be obtained anywhere and from almost anybody?
OK, I guess we could argue about semantics and our definitions of love. But at least one definition of love by positive psychology researcher Barbara Frederickson, in her book Love 2.0, shows us how we can increase our capacity for and availability of love whenever we want. Her definition of love has to do with positivity resonance (PR). PR occurs between two people when they form a connection. That connection consists of eye contact or touch, and a shared positive emotion. When that connection occurs, then our brain waves and hormone release aligns with the other, thus reinforcing the connection and the resonance. Generally, a feeling of safety is a prerequisite for PR to occur.
Let’s assume for now that this definition of love is a reasonable working hypothesis. Therefore, love of this nature is available and abundant all around us. These connections are available from strangers, acquaintances and loved ones alike. We just simply need to make the time (a moment or two) and the effort to form a connection with someone else. Have you ever saw something amusing, and happened to catch a stranger’s eye just as they noticed the same thing? Have you ever made eye contact with a stranger in passing and caught a glimpse of their humanity in that second or two you contained their gaze? How many times has a moment of mutual affection or admiration passed between you and a colleague or classmate? These are all examples of PR with people we “don’t love” according to traditional definitions. If we wish to increase the love in our lives, we can easily cultivate this kind of love throughout our day.
PR occurs the same way with loved ones as strangers, but there is an added level of safety, trust, and history with a loved one. The PR intensity and frequency will be elevated with loved ones. We can also cultivate PR with our loved ones by intentionally improving PR. For example, shared or mirrored movements (such as dancing or other synchronous activity) improves PR, as does constructive positive communication and expressions of appreciation. So, explore something new, mirror your loved one’s body language, respond enthusiastically and positively to your partner’s good news, and express your appreciation for each other. Want to improve your ability to positively resonate? Practice a little loving-kindness meditation every day. This exercise has been shown to increase the tone of the vagal nerve and the amount of positive emotion in one’s life.
Even if you don’t buy this definition of love, PR is worth doing. The more positive emotion and/or PR you experience, the broader your awareness and creativity, the better your health and IQ, the better your access to your wisdom, and the more resilient you will be. The recipient of your PR will also enjoy these improved qualities, so what better way to pay it forward?