Lesson 6 was all about health and happiness, and I gave you are peek into positivity resonance and the effects of our health on our happiness levels. In this lesson, we’ll build on this.
- it takes 21 days to form a habit
- and the formula for happiness is – H = G + C + T&A
Your thoughts and actions are the most important part of the change that you are wanting to make. Be the change you want to see.
How do you feel you went in the past 3 weeks?
One of the extensions to the research that I’ve done on achieving happiness is completing a 6-week certificate in Positive Psychology with Dr Barbara Frederickson from the University of North Carolina.
She has been researching and teaching the science of positive emotions for more than 25 years and has a very pragmatic view, and a wealth of research outcomes and statistics, on life, love, positivity and emotion.
Barbara’s latest book, Love 2.0, takes a scientific look at love. She writes,
“Just as your body was designed to extract oxygen from the Earth’s atmosphere, and nutrients from the foods you ingest, your body was designed to love.”
She is not talking about love as in the Hollywood depiction that encompasses desire, attraction, sexual tension and lasting exclusivity. Not at all. (That view must probably be ‘Love 1.0’, which is what sells movie tickets and airport bookshop paperbacks, as opposed to research and psychology based love scenarios.)
Where Dr Fredrickson differs is that she does not hold with the view that love is an exclusive lifelong bond we strive to create with a romantic partner, but is something we can continually experience many different times in a day, with those we know and are romantically connected to, but also with strangers under certain conditions.
Her clinical research has found that our bodies and our brains respond positively to authentic connection with other human beings, no matter how well we know that other person.
There are many positive emotions that we have in our arsenal, but where love differs from the others is that it is a shared experience, not a solitary one. Love can be the experience of sharing any other positive emotions.
It is an experience that resonates back and forth between two (or more) people, causing their bodies to synchronise, as each unconsciously mimics the other’s facial expressions, posture and biological state.
Dr Fredrickson’s theories on love thoroughly echo my thoughts on life and emotion through what she terms ‘positivity resonance’. She states that love is positivity resonance – a single positive emotion performed by two or more brain/body units.
This then further extrapolates to positivity resonance being micro-moments of shared connectivity and positive emotion between two or more people.
This is experienced when we ‘just get’ someone, or when we seriously connect with what someone is explaining. It encompasses laughing at the same joke, that may or may not be particularly funny, or meeting up with a friend you haven’t seen in a while.
How often have you been out and about and you see someone with a cute dog or an engaging child, and you connect eye to eye with the person and experience a micro-moment of positivity that uplifts both of you?
Have a think of a recent time that this has happened to you?
How did it make you feel?
How long did that feeling last?
There are pre-conditions to these micro-moments being able to bring about positivity and happiness.
Firstly, both parties need to feel a sense of safety in the moment. It can’t happen when people feel scared or threatened.
Secondly, people have to be connected in real-time. So it can’t be done via social media or typed in an email. There has to be a personal and real connection. It has to be authentic. It can be done via a phone call, and it can be done using Skype. This is when there are more than just typed words to go on.
A phone call brings in the voice and the tone. Skype or FaceTime go one step further, allowing two or more parties to see facial expressions, see eye-to-eye, as well as pick up on voice intonation. If you can see someone smile, it brings another dimension to the verbal connection.
However, it doesn’t just happen on the face – it takes place in the brain – and beyond. There is a mimicry that happens when two people, even strangers, connect that engage all of the human senses and have them working together to bring about a synchronicity.
A smile is a universal welcome to engage. We don’t have to know each other and we don’t need to speak the same language. But we open ourselves up to connection if we smile at another person.
So what is a smile for?
- It expresses positivity
- It evokes a positive reaction
- It opens us up to a shared subjective experience
- It broadens our collective mindset by building social resources
- It raises collective potential
- It creates the life-giving nutrients of positivity resonance.
When people authentically connect, strangers and lovers alike, they get increases in neuro-peptides such as oxytocin – A.K.A. the love hormone.
Oxytocin plays a role in social bonding and sexual reproduction. It is released into the bloodstream as a hormone to help with birth, bonding with the baby, and milk production.
Interestingly, oxytocin counters the effects of cortisol (the stress hormone). So surely there has to be a positive correlation between social connection, love and stress reduction that would help a lot of people today, if they only had the knowledge and the social support that they need.
Oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin are often referred to as our “happy hormones.” When you’re attracted to another person, your brain releases dopamine, your serotonin levels increase, and oxytocin is produced. This causes you to feel a surge of positive emotion.
This is what happens when two people are in the first stage of a new relationship. There is this incredible feeling of euphoria that comes from the excitement and emotions that are heightened with the first flurry of love. You feel invincible. You feel that the two of you are totally in sync with each other. You expect that feeling to last as long as the relationship.
But it doesn’t – and that can be the beginning of the end of the relationship when the bloom of ‘first love’ dies off. Some people are addicted to this feeling, and end up in relationship after relationship, chasing that first feeling that is fleeting, a dream that can never be realised.
Lasting relationships built on true love encompass so many other facets than the emotions that run high in the early days. For people to be happy within a loving relationship there has to be a broad base foundation that includes:
- the willingness to sometimes prioritise another person’s well-being or happiness above your own;
- feelings of affection and attachment;
- feelings of attraction and respect;
- a high desire to care for the person;
- a commitment to sharing experiences, both good and bad; and
- making the choice to commit to planning a future together.
Dr Fredrickson states that “micro-moments of love carry irrepressible ripple effects across whole social networks, helping each person who experiences positivity resonance to grow and in turn touch and uplift the lives of countless other’s.
This uplifts me in that this effect can be carried by us all into the world, creating more positivity, love, happiness and hope for a better future.
Let’s make an effort to do our part in lifting other people in the world. Maybe sometimes when you’re not feeling up to it, someone else will smile at you and lift your spirits that day.
Some Happiness Authors:
• Dr Barbara Frederickson
• Dr Martin Seligman
• Sonja Lyubomirsky
• Shawn Achor
• Michelle Gielan
• Sharon Salzberg
• Gretchen Rubin
• Tal Ben-Shahar
• Meik Wiking
• Amy Blankson
• Keep up your Gratitude Journaling
• Make an effort to really connect with the people you love having in your life
• Even just once a day, make the effort to smile at a stranger.
Better yet – set your own goal as to how many strangers you can authentically connect with, even if it is just a smile. You have no idea of the far-reaching consequences of your efforts or of how many people are hungry for what you can offer.