on the science of love

Welcome to my first love letter!  My intention is to spread science, stories, and some Stella perspective on how to amplify your awesomeness at work, home, and everywhere in between. I'm calling this a love letter because this comes from love, from a deep desire to see you flourish - feeling totally alive and awake to the amazing person you are and the life you live (even if you don't always see it that way). Since it's V-day I figured I'd kick off with an examination of the L-bomb itself.

A few days ago I sent an email to my advisor from grad school, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson. Barbara just happens to be the world's leading expert and researcher on positive emotion (isn't it cool that she's one of the first people who helped guide the foundations of WOOPAAH?! holla!). Barbara just released her new book, LOVE 2.0, where she gives the low down on this particular transcendent experience of our humanness from a scientific perspective. She also answered a few of my personal questions. Here's what I got:


 Why is love so grand?

 Love not only feels good but it literally nourishes our body just like food and sunlight. Out of all the positive emotions (joy, serenity, awe, etc) love is considered the SUPER emotion because of its powerful effects on our well-being. Love can literally influence what parts of our DNA get expressed in our cells.  


So what is love 2.0?

Fredrickson expands our notion of love, defining it the way your body does: a momentary state of warmth and connection that you share with another living being. It becomes less about relationships and more about moments - reverberation of feelings between two people. Here are the three things happen when you experience love:


1. A sharing of one of more positive emotions between you and another

2. A synchrony between your and another person's biochemistry and behaviors (for example, your brains sync up, you may start walking at the same pace, or breathing in the same rhythm)

3. A reflective motive to invest in each other's well-being that brings mutual care


How can love help you at work?

When we experience love, the walls between ourselves and the world outside of our bodies becomes one. Literally the signal we have in our brain that defines the border of our self (whatever is outside our skin) and non-self begins to blur.  Experiencing this sense of cohesion with others elevates your ability to work as a true team.   Studies show that literally your brain synchronizes to be on the same wavelength as another...this is called brain coupling.  Your brain can even begin to anticipate the other’s thoughts - not just mirror them. Shared emotions, brain synchrony, and mutual understanding emerge as an awesome trifecta when two people “get” each other, when you become attuned with another.


Easy ways to spread the love 2.0 today:

  1. When someone is speaking be there truly present and listen with care. 
  2. Notice positive qualities about someone and pay them an authentic compliment.
  3. Shine those whites on somebody today - authentically and unexpectedly - and watch how they light up. 
  4. Say a conscious thank you with all your heart when someone does something for you today. 
  5. Share this love letter with someone telling them you care about their well-being. 


We also asked Dr. Barbara Fredrickson for some personal insights, here's our interview with her:


In your book you talk about our need to consider love in new ways... how has this manifested in your life? 

It makes me realize even more so that I can’t take my loving relationships for granted.  With my husband – and with my kids – I look for more moments when we might share a common source of amusement, inspiration, awe, or affection.


WOOPAAH is all about getting grown-ups to play so they can be more awesome at work. Do you see a connection between play and love?

Most definitely!  Especially when we grown-ups play with others, and not just by ourselves (i.e., dancing in your own living room before anyone else in the house wakes up).


What's the role of love in the workplace?

You need not use the L-word in the workplace to benefit from knowing how and when to create more micro-moments of positive connection with work colleagues.  Doing so helps unlock collective capacity.


4. What question would you ask the next person that WOOPAAH interviews?

How connected and “in-tune” did you feel when interacting with people today?


More about Barbara Fredrickson:

Dr. Fredrickson is the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Principal Investigator of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab at the University of North Carolina. She is a leading scholar within social psychology, affective science, and positive psychology. Her research centers on positive emotions and human flourishing and is supported by grants from the National Institute of Health. Her research and her teaching have been recognized with numerous honors, including, the 2000 American Psychological Association's Templeton Prize in Positive Psychology. Her work is cited widely and she is regularly invited to give keynotes nationally and internationally. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband and two sons.


Until next time! 


With much love,