You wouldn’t think I’d learn much about making love when designing a museum exhibition...
But I did!
This week I’ve had the privilege to work on preparing the exhibition boards for our brand new Museum of Happiness opening in London.
Although I didn’t have the luxury of time to read the whole book, I did listen to several of her talks and podcasts, and made some fascinating discoveries I’d like to share.
Barb knows her stuff
First of all, Professor Fredrickson (known as Barb) is worth listening to. She’s been studying positive emotions for over 20 years and is one of the most highly-cited contributors to psychological science.
Barb has been awarded the Christopher Peterson Gold Medal - the highest honor bestowed by the International Positive Psychology Association.
Barb begins seemingly lacking in love
When she was a researcher in her early days, you wouldn’t have expected her to be an expert on love.
When her husband used to call her, she timed how long he was on the phone for. She then told him that this was the number of minutes he’d wasted where she could have been analysing data!
Fortunately for her, her husband stuck with her. And now she values every moment with him.
Of all the positive emotions that Barb has studied, she believes love is the most important one.
BUT, she's not talking about romantic love.
Try dropping what loves means to you completely
Worldwide polls find that people think love is romantic, everlasting and unconditional.
Our society seems to connect love with a single relationship.
This leads people to hunt for that special person - a soul mate - to find love. The dating industry takes advantage of this viewpoint and people can get trapped in this everlasting search for the perfect person.
But what if this isn’t where true love is to be found?
‘This romantic viewpoint limits the benefits that love might otherwise carry for us all.’ says Barb
But with approximately half of western society not in a relationship, it seems strange to think half the population has no love.
The film industry like Disney and Pixar, and endless pop songs, often drill within us the narrative of finding a soul mate with whom we will be happy ever after.
Reality is very different, with about half of all first marriages ending in divorce, and many others together but unhappy.
The point is, whether you’re in a relationship or not, let’s look at love from the perspective of your physical body, and find out when and how it arises, and what effect it has.
Love is a moment by moment arising
Barb looked at the actual physical body and heart and brain, immune system and more. And she observed exactly what happens when the feeling of love arises between human beings in the moment.
Barb found that love arises not exclusively or permanently in relationships, but in what she calls ‘micro moments.’
These micro moments of connection often involve eye contact.
And every day we have the possibility to nurture micro moments of connection - making love in the present!
Lovers... friends... even strangers
Barb found that love, as defined by these micro moments of love (or positivity resonance), is the same whether the moments occur between parent and child, friends, lovers, or even total strangers.
Barb found these experiences are “virtually identical.”
This is great news. Everyday, in hundreds of situations, you have the opportunity to literally generate or make love, moment by moment, boosting the health of you both.
Love is an emotion that unifies body, mind and heart
In the moment, when a feeling of love arises as you talk to someone, for example, your bodily response is not isolated to you.
Your gestures match. The chemicals in your bloodstream match. Even the activities in each of your brains match. It’s like the two people become one...connect...love arises within you both in a very physical, harmonious way. You positively resonate. It’s beautiful!
It’s deeply nourishing
This micro moments are nourishing for your health and wellbeing. Your body needs these micro moments of love just as much as food and exercise.
The more of these micro moments of love you have - the healthier, happier and wiser you and the people you resonate with, will be.
Health Benefits of Love Micro Moments
Barb began researching the vagus nerve.
This is the nerve that connects your brain to your heart - and making other stops along the way.
The vagus nerve is also connected to the relaxation system in your body - which you could call calm and connect system (officially the parasympathetic nervous system).
As you cultivate more micro moments of connection through the day, you get ‘better’ at it.
One of the measures of a healthy functioning vagus nerve is your vagal tone.
The higher your vagal tone, the better.
For decades, research has found a huge positive connection with how social people are and their levels of health and happiness.
Barb’s work finds that it’s these micro moments of love that improve your vagal tone and impact your overall physical and emotional health.
This is an incredible finding, as past theories stated that your vagal tone is fixed, like your height. But Barb’s work gives hope - you can fundamentally shift your body’s health and wellbeing through micro moments of love.
But what about meditation?
Benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation
Barb found this practice particularly powerful for improving vagal tone too. She even compared it to some other forms of meditation. So much so, she was invited to share her findings with the Dalai Lama.
So you can now also make love to yourself, through the practice of loving kindness meditation.
The three most important questions
This links beautifully to the Kindfulness meditations and way of living I’ve been sharing with you.
1. When is the most important time?
The past is gone. There’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. Let it go. The future has not arrived yet. It’s totally uncertain. However you expect it to be, it’ll be different. The only moment you can live in and do anything in for sure, is now! Value this moment for it is truly special and unique.
2. Who is the most important person?
The person in front of you.
Look at them in the eye. Connect with them authentically. Smile. Hug them if they’re willing. :)
And if you’re on your own, then you’re the most important person! Connect with yourself. Feel your body. Feel your breathing. Be curious to what’s happening within you. Smile at yourself. Say nice soothing words to yourself.
3. What’s the most important thing to do?
To care. To be kind. In the context of this piece, to LOVE!
This is love and kindfulness at its core.
This research shows you can not only improve your health, but other people’s health through micro moments of love. This is powerful. Let’s set our intention to be present and connect to fill the world with peace, joy and love.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article! I read and reply to all loving comments...thanks!