When you struggle in love or when people you love betray your trust, you may literally feel as if your heart is breaking. You may feel pain or tightness in what yogis call “the heart chakra.” You may feel as if you can barely breathe, and your heart may pound with anxiety. Conversely, when you fall passionately in love, your heart races with excitement and you feel joyful and elated. But what do we really know about love? Is it a state of passion or a more enduring sense of trust and companionship? And is love really good for your health? Read on to find out what science can tell us about love.
Science tells us that love is:
- A momentary state of empathic and attuned connection in which people mirror each other’s gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, and even heart rhythms.
- An enduring state of mind in which we consistently care for the wellbeing of a loved one and share in their joys and sorrows.
- A state that can only occur when we feel safe and trust enough that our bodies switch off our automatic “fight, flight, freeze, response.”
- A physiological state with hormonal markers, such as release of the hormone oxytocin, which occurs during orgasm and breastfeeding.
- Like a muscle that grows the more we use it. When we give care to others, this creates loving feelings and happiness in us as well.
- A spiritual state that can be brought about by compassion meditation and mindfulness practice. This loving and compassionate state leads your brain’s alpha waves to fire in a rhythmic way.
- A vital component of health and wellbeing which involves connection and caring, not only for our partners, but for our families, friends, and communities.
A Simple Lovingkindness Meditation
Practice This Exercise Daily to Grow Your Love and Compassion:
Direct these words first to yourself, then to a loved one or mentor, then to a neutral person, then to someone you are having difficulty with:
May You Be Well
May You Be Happy
May You Be Healthy in Mind and Body
May You Find Peace in Your Heart
Copyright: Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. 2013