As we approach Valentine’s Day, our notions of love are often focused on those of a romantic nature. Today, I want to challenge us to think broader than that. In fact, it might require a significant shift in the way you think about love. The kind of perspective we are going to be talking about today is your body’s perspective and experience of love.
Scientific evidence (from Carolina university under Barbara Fredrickson’s team) shows that love, as your body experiences it, is not sexual, not romantic, not the connection you feel to your spouse or child but rather just a micro-moment of connection shared between yourself and another. This means that the benefits of love can be experienced hundreds of times a day and are not confined to romantic, family or friendship connections. In fact, love can be experienced anywhere (yes, even on a work Zoom call), with anyone and we should embrace these findings because love helps you live longer and keeps you healthier. Let’s take Key Steps to understand how love affects our well-being and really can…
- Love strengthens the connection between your brain and your heart. Decades of research show that people who are more socially connected live longer and healthier lives. Yet precisely how social ties affect health is often not understood. Barbara Fredrickson’s research team was one of the first to demystify this for us. They learnt that when they randomly assigned one group of people to learn ways to create more micro-moments of love in daily life, they lastingly improved the function of the vaygus nerve. This nerve network is a key conduit that connects your brain to your body and regulates numerous bodily functions. This discovery gives us the scientific basis for how micro-moments of love can serve as nutrients for your – and others’ – health.
- Small emotional moments can have disproportionately large biological effects. Just a micro-moment can have a long-lasting effect on your health and longevity. It gives rise to an important feedback loop that creates an upward spiral between your social and your physical well-being. The more micro-moments you experience, the healthier you become and the healthier you become (and the healthier you become), and the more able you are to create micro-moments of love.
- Love and empathy can be the same. Because we are talking of love as micro-moments of shared positivity or a positive connection, it can seem like love requires that you always feel happy. This of course is definitely not the case. You can experience love even as you or the person with whom you connect suffers. Love doesn’t require that you ignore or suppress any emotions. It simply requires that some element of kindness, empathy or acknowledgment be added. As Barbara Frederickson puts it, “Empathy is the form love takes when suffering occurs.”
- Remember that love is a decision, not an emotion. The deepest type of love is based on a decision and a commitment you make to love another. I am not denying the emotional aspect of love. In a relationship, we are drawn to another (at first) based upon feelings. But feelings cannot be trusted for the long haul. Emotions come and go like a roller coaster and if we depend on our emotions we will be falling in and out of love all of the time. To decide to love despite how we feel requires sacrifice, commitment and hard work. It requires selflessness, self-esteem and humility. It requires a high level of emotional maturity and courage. It is a decision you make every day. A decision that affect’s the physical well-being of everyone around us… including ourself!
So, this week, we can use these interesting research findings to make significant turnarounds in both our personal and work life. All it takes is just a minute or two each day to think about whether you feel connected and attuned to others and then consciously create that positive connection. It can be as simple as eye contact, awareness of the other’s state of being, showing an interest in them (a comment in an online chat or even sending an email has the same benefits as in-person contact), and you’ll initiate a cascade of benefits you can hardly imagine. Don’t wait for Valentine’s Day, do it today and every day that follows and you’ll…
‘be the difference that makes the difference.’
NOTE: The information in my blog may be freely shared and re-used in any online or offline publication, provided it is accompanied by the following credit line: This was written by Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, and originally appeared in her free weekly ‘Key Steps Food for Thought Blog’ available on the Key Steps website.
Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 25 years’ experience in leadership development and organisational transformation. Her PhD thesis contributed a framework for holistic and sustainable leadership development that was published by Rutgers University in the USA. She is faculty of numerous business schools and highly sought-after by leading corporates because she works hand-in-hand with them to create sustainable results and long-term success. In 2020, Sharon was inducted into the Educators Hall of Fame, which is a lifetime achievement award, recognising excellence and her contribution to the field.
Sharon is one of only three women in South Africa to have achieved the title of Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – the Oscar of the speaking industry. She is also a COMENSA Master Practitioner (CMP), a qualified Modern Classroom Certified Trainer (MCCT™) and an accredited Global Virtual Speaker. Sharon is also a registered Education, Training and Development Practitioner (ETDP), holds an Honours degree in Psychology and practices as an NLP master practitioner.
Most important to Sharon is that she has become known for her genuinely caring manner, practical and transformational approach, and for providing valuable tools and that allow people to take Key Steps to really… ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’