Love 2.0: Finding Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection

by Barbara L. Fredrickson Ph.D.

I learned about this book from Jane E. Brody’s article, “Turning Negative Thinkers into Positive Ones”, in the New York Times on April 3, 2017. I was struggling with getting back to normal after losing both my parents within a year, the death of my favorite cousin at age 54, and choosing to estrange myself from my siblings. I thought this book might help.

Barbara is a psychologist at the University of North Carolina and  collaborated with Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist and founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. They demonstrated that the brain is “aplastic” and can generate new cells and pathways, and that it is possible to generate more positivity. My “Aha Moment” from this book is that I can enhance my happiness by creating more positive experiences with others.

Barbara’s theory is that you can accumulate micro-moments of positively through your daily interactions with people which over time will result in greater overall well-being. She begins by encouraging readers to upgrade our definition of love from a romantic vision to an every-day version she calls “positive resonance,” and writes “Love springs up anytime any two or more people connect over a shared positive emotion.”

Her research demonstrates that the extent to which we can generate positive emotions from even everyday activities can determine who flourishes and who doesn’t. Repeated brief, positive interactions can provide a buffer against stress and depression, and foster greater mental and physical well-being. The more frequently older adults connect with others, the lower their risks are for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

If you are not quite ready to think about Alzheimer’s, she cites evidence that suggests positive resonance raises your oxytocin levels. Under the influence of oxytocin, you grow calmer, more attuned to others, friendlier, and more open. For me, the most important idea is that if you increase positive resonance, you will feel more connected to your friends, community, and network. I live in New York City and spend most of my days walking around and interacting with people on the street, on the subway, in restaurants, theaters, and art museums. I have focused on cultivating more positive micro-moments of love, which has resulted in more lighthearted and enjoyable interactions and increased my own happiness during a sad time.

The technique I found most helpful is practicing loving kindness towards myself, then extending that feeling towards others. The author cites interesting research that in the United Statees, our culture focuses more on self-deprecation and high self-esteem – which results in lower levels of self-love, and by consequence higher rates of depression and dissatisfaction with life. By contrast, people in countries like Thailand—where Buddhism infuses more self-acceptance into daily life—show higher levels of self-love and lower levels of depression and dissatisfaction.

She distinguishes self-love from narcissism as being your own dear friend and treating yourself with warmth and tenderness. It doesn’t mean that you are not open to criticism or feedback, it means that by repeating mantras such as “May I feel safe, peaceful, and protected,” you can provide yourself with protection from despair. You will also recognize sources of goodness in others. This research reminded me of the importance of talking to myself with loving kindness, and to be more vigilant about saying my positive mantras.

Based on this book’s guidance, I made a real effort to reach out and generate positive resonance with more people.

My favorite story occurred when shopping for a new pair of glasses. I was trying on frames with two other people—both strangers—in a small shop in New York City. With each pair, I asked the others for their perspectives and they offered me positive feedback on a riskier, more colorful style that I wasn’t so certain about.

Then, one of the other customers, a man, tried on a very unusual pair of glasses. I told him they made him look cool, and he encouraged me to buy the frames I was unsure about. The shopping trip ended with him inviting all of us to visit him at his place of work, the Shops at the Plaza Hotel.

A week later I was near The Plaza and thought, “Why not try the Plaza Food Hall and say hello?” After a tasty crepe for lunch, I wandered over to his shop. I didn’t know his name, but he remembered me and was thrilled to see me. After introducing ourselves, he gave me a tour of the Plaza’s food court and shops, offering his views on where the best coffee, chocolate, and cologne could be found. The highlight of the tour was his story about how the original chandelier at the Plaza has been taken down, and a jewelry maker is now creating necklaces with the crystals.

The tour made my day—and it all began by me taking tiny steps to create positive resonance with strangers. That wonderful feeling lasted all day and encouraged me to continue reaching out in small ways to connect.


One Response to Love 2.0: Creating Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection

  1. Nancy Kent says:

    I just ordered this book. Thanks for the reference.

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