Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Love & Sex

The “Micro-Moments” Theory of Love

By  / 
According to a radical new definition of love from a prominent psychologist, love can happen more easily than you might think.

You only need to open yourself up to the possibility of a “micro-moment of warmth and connection that you share with another person.” This is the concept of love that Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., a leading researcher in the field of positive psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, offers in her book Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become.

Sure, we often experience this flood of positive emotion with those closest to us. But we might also chance upon these magic moments with people we know casually or not at all. We feel a spark--through a shared smile or laugh, an easy exchange of niceties—with the person sitting across from us on the bus, a barista at the corner café or a helpful librarian.

Science shows that the biochemistry of love—or “positivity resonance,” as Dr. Fredrickson likes to say--is identical, whether it’s prompted by a cuddle between parent and child, a goodbye hug with a best friend or, “the fondness and sense of shared purpose you might unexpectedly feel with a group of strangers who’ve come together to cheer at a football game.”

During micro-moments of love, the brain activity of both people falls into sync; you are, literally, on the same wavelength. The feel-good hormone oxytocin surges. And the vagus nerve, which runs from deep inside the brain stem to your heart and other organs, deepens the connection through actions like stimulating facial muscles that allow you to maintain eye contact.

Brief positive encounters not only brighten our day, they strengthen our heart.

Dr. Fredrickson considers love a “nutrient,” and, she says, a “steady diet of a wide range of loving moments” increases what’s known as “cardiac vagal tone.” That, in turn, is associated with a lower risk of chronic inflammation, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke.

Reaping the health benefits of love doesn’t require a romantic relationship or close family nearby. All it takes is simply getting out and being among others. Stay open, Dr. Fredrickson suggests, to impromptu chances to forge meaningful connections with people at work, in your community, even with complete strangers. Smile. Make eye contact. Start a conversation.

Love, to quote the title of a Beatles song is, “Here, There and Everywhere.”

Read More In Love & Sex

How do you feel about getting old?

Take Our #FOGO QUIZ to Find Out

Start the Quiz →