Love 2.0. Sounds cool, right?
It is…if you’re naturally outgoing and like talking to people.
That’s not me.
As much as I’d like to believe I’m an ambivert, the truth is, I can be a bit of a hermit.
I enjoy being by myself. I prefer my own company. And perhaps most telling, I’ll cross the street to avoid a conversation.
Spending time alone is important, but I do need to learn how to be a healthy introvert. When I hide away from the world I miss out on the opportunity to connect with others in a meaningful way.
Barbara Fredrickson —author of Love 2.0: Finding Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection— says the positivity we feel when we connect with the people around us nourishes us more than any other source of positivity.
But, here’s the interesting thing: Barbara doesn’t mean nourish in a touchy-feely kind of way. She says we need to appreciate how our heart —in the literal sense of the muscle beating inside our chest— appreciates love.
Love 2.0: An Upgraded Definition Of Love
Before we get into the science of love, we first need to upgrade our definition of it. Fredrickson claims our traditional view of love as the emotion you feel for your spouse or kids or family is too restrictive.
Instead, she says we need to radically upgrade our view of love. We need to embrace the notion that love is far more ubiquitous than we might imagine. For the simple reason, that love is connection.
It’s the welling in your heart when you hug a friend, gaze into a newborn’s eyes, or experience a shared sense of purpose with a group of strangers. Love 2.0, as she calls this upgraded version of love, is always available to us.
To tap into the source, all we need to do is connect with another human being —even a stranger— over a shared positive emotion. These micro-moments of warmth and connection, when we are truly present and engaged, are where love hangs out.
When shared positive emotions, biobehavioral synchrony, and mutual care all come together at the same time, a life-giving positivity resonates between and among people. Barbara calls this ‘positivity resonance.’
The Science of Love (Or, What Happens In Vagus)
Barbara’s aim with Love 2.0 is for us to notice love from our body’s perspective, rather just our mind or heart. Because love is more than just an emotion that makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. It’s actually good for our health, too.
One of the world’s leading positive psychologists, Barbara has spent the last two decades exploring the science of positive emotions at the University of North Carolina. What she’s found is the ripple effects of Love 2.0 can be seen in the very ribbons of your heart, right down to the cells of your immune system.
When you actively seek out and engage in micro-moments of love, changes occur at a biological level. Your vagus nerve is called into play. Emerging from your brain stem deep within your skull, this wandering nerve (as it’s often referred to) connects your brain to your heart.
Science has shown that people with higher vagal tone are more flexible and adapt better to change. They regulate their internal bodily processes more efficiently and are more adept at regulating their attention and emotions. They’re also socially more skilful.
The good news is that our vagal tone can be developed. This is not a once-off practice, however. We need to make it a habit to slow down and connect with our fellow humans. When we do, we’ll enjoy more positivity resonance.
“You can no more expect to become healthier through a single, isolated micro-moment of positivity resonance than you can by eating just one piece of broccoli per year,” Barbara says. “Yet just as a steady diet of a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables does indeed make you healthier, so does a steady diet of a wide range of loving moments.”
Where to Find Positivity Resonance
These micro-moments of connection are everywhere, we just need to be open to the possibility. It means putting your phone away and getting out of your cocoon of self-absorption. For me, it means not crossing the street to avoid a conversation.
While many of us are in lockdown and self-isolation, connecting with people may be a bit of a challenge. It’s not impossible, though.
You could chat to passers-by and neighbours from behind your gate. You could call friends and family and have an actual conversation, rather than messaging back and forth on Whatsapp.
If you are able to go out, there’s nothing stopping you from talking to people. Just make sure you keep a safe distance. We’re in this together, now more than ever we need to recognize our shared humanity.
Yes, we’re afraid. Yes, we’re unsure what the future holds in store for us. Instead of pulling away, let that be a reason to reach out (in spirit, if not physically) and connect with those around you.
Once Covid-19 is firmly in our rearview mirror, try out some of the examples I’ve laid out below.
When you’re at the check-out at the grocery store, take a moment to engage with the cashier. Ask them how their day is going and be genuinely interested in their response.
When you walk past a stranger on the street, smile. When you sit down next to someone on the bus, greet them.
Stop and acknowledge the homeless person, even if you don’t have anything to give. Sometimes a smile and a kind word can make all the difference.
Do this often enough, and you’ll find your mood lifts and the day seems more inviting. Throw in some hugs and it’ll be even brighter.
In the beginning, embracing Love 2.0 might feel uncomfortable (it still does for me), but it definitely gets easier and more enjoyable the more you do it.