Posted by: ginalazenby | February 13, 2013

New brain research on finding alternatives to happy-ever-after love

heart lipstick

I came across a great article about love … just when I was feeling that I  needed to get to grips with a bigger understanding of different kinds of love. It said that our accepted notion of romantic love is out-dated with new brain research showing us a different way of having more love in our lives … even if we are not in a relationship. Well that’s perfect for those of us who might be single during Valentine’s season.

Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson has written a brave new book called LOVE 2.0 How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become and an article in the Atlantic Magazine presents what it calls a “radically new concept of love”.  Barbara is a researcher of positive emotions and she says that thinking of love purely as romance and commitment with one special person (the kind that Hollywood has long packaged and peddled for decades) limits the potential happiness which we could derive from love. And apparently, a study in the USA showed that 50% of people who were single said their happiness would be greatly uplifted if they found a romantic partner….. a Mr or Miss Right. With our current cultural expectations pushing us to find “the one”, it seems there is no love, and therefore no happiness, to be gained from simply knowing a Mr Quite Nice or Miss Almost There.

She says that instead of just focussing on the romantic quest, we can have more love if we see that it really is about small moments of connection that can happen every day, at anytime. These “micro moments of positive resonance” described in her book are dependent on three biological processes.

You can read the full article but I will outline here briefly those 3 things that happen in our bodies:

1 Your brain mirrors the brain of another person in a special way when you really tune in to them – particularly where there is some shared emotion or a deep mutual understanding.

2 The level of the love and cuddle hormone oxytocin has a big spike –  that hormone washes through us during moments of intimate connection, physical closeness and bonding.

3 The strength of the Vagus Nerve – this connects your brain to your heart, helping us synchronise our facial expressions and make good eye contact. What it does is enable us to be more loving and make positive connections with others…. be more socially adept.

The neat research that Barbara did was to find ways to stimulate more the Vagus Nerve. She got people to do Loving Kindness Meditations so they could be more tender, warm and compassionate with others. The results were so powerful that she was invited to present to the Dalai Lama himself. By being more loving and kind (what Dadi Janki calls giving everyone good wishes) you actually become more capable of giving and receiving love everyday in these small (and large) moments of connection.

Barbara’s research has shown that love does not have to be so glamorous and mysterious at all – it becomes very accessible when we know there is a state we can be in with some of the people we meet, that will feed our hunger for love. It doesn’t just need to be about finding that elusive special someone and making promises about forever (fabulous as that is)  …. it can be about little beautiful connections where we exchange kindness in a tender moment.

I think this is so transformative. It seems that if we can tune in and develop further our own capacities for compassion, inner peace, tenderness and kindness, we can be in control of how much love we put out and therefore receive. Brilliant insight!  That opens up a whole world of happiness and connection for everybody because it means that you don’t have to be lonely just because you are single (of course many singles are happy to be alone but not all!).

Personally, I have pushed against the cultural drive for me to find a new husband/loving partner in order to feel complete and fulfilled with my life. Yes I would like one but I have had to work hard to shift away from “needing” one. There’s a big difference.  I have long practised tuning in to my compassionate heart, accessing feelings of tenderness and being in a space of kind, open, non-judgement which has meant that I have experienced huge amounts of love on a regular basis from many different sources instead of one main relationship. Like Barbara’s research suggests, I used a positive attitude and my creativity to find love.

Barbara also talks about love as a nutrient, an idea I very much align to following my years working with the nourishment of homes and food. They are nothing without the addition of love!   Nourishment is one of my highest values so I just adore the idea of nourishing people, homes, events and gatherings with love. Everyday.

red heart cushionSo do enjoy your Valentine’s Day and feel loved up whether it is with your special someone, your family, a circle of friends or just a mate.  If you are on your own as I was last year then maybe try reaching out through technology. I sent all my male and female friends a sweet text and was overwhelmed with a wave of love sent back in response!!

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Responses

  1. Another great blog post. What interesting articles you share with us. Thank you, Gina. Look forward to seeing you again in London on 10 April. Enjoy rest of your stay. xx

  2. Some of us just ‘know’ we are loved and take this gift for granted. Gina I am always soo greatful that you came into my life all those years ago, you have enriched my life in so many ways, Thank you. I am sending you a great big ‘loving’ hug today. Bless from Colette

    • Thank you Colette for your kind words …… You are such a blessing to me, I am so lucky that we have connected and known each other over the years. Love from Bali x


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