“Love” gets batted around quite a bit during the month of February, for obvious reasons. We thought we would offer a different take on love emerging from research of psychologist Barbara Fredrickson.
“Love is not romance. It’s not sexual desire. It’s not even that special bond you feel with family or significant others.” According to Barbara Fredrickson, whose recent work has focused of measuring love and its effects, has determined that love is a micro-moment of connection shared with another. Fredrickson, in her new book, Love2.0, is suggesting that we redefine how we approach and think of love.
For example, we may think that love belongs in the domain of romantic relationships or family and friends. But if we expand love to include co-workers, clients, casual acquaintances and even strangers, we can invite the benefits that love creates. Fredrickson suggests that love is “micro-moments of positivity resonance” that occur between two or more people. She explains that love is a discernible yet momentary “biological wave of good feeling and mutual care that rolls through two or more brains and bodies at once.”
Most of us do, because we instinctively know that love matters. Additionally, research shows that people who are more socially connected are healthier and live longer.
Love has positive effects on our immune system. Love heals!
How Do We Increase Our Capacity to Love?
One of our favorite strategies comes from applying a term coined by psychologist Ed Diener–“attend to the good”. Research has shown that cultivating appreciation and gratitude on a daily basis helps strengthen our relationships. This can include writing a list several times a week of the things that are working and functional in our relationships or noticing the positive qualities that people in our lives embody and how they contribute to either our wellbeing or the wellbeing of others.
Another strategy, called “reappraisal”, emerges from research with couples. Couples were told to think about a recent disagreement and try to imagine it from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for all involved. Couples who engaged in this activity 3 times a year for two years experienced a significant increase in marital satisfaction. Interestingly, these couples fought just as frequently as they had before, but they were less distressed about these arguments. As Fredrickson said, “Love doesn’t require that you ignore or suppress negativity. It simply requires that some element of kindness, empathy or appreciation be added to the mix.”
With love, Rebecca and Gioia
A Creative Take on Gratitude and Appreciation to Increase Love.
Because we are art therapists, we are always thinking of creative ways to apply these interventions. Here is a suggestion: Think of three characteristics you appreciate about someone in your life. Choose a symbol for each of those strengths and represent those qualities in a drawing or collage.