Updated: Oct 19, 2020
Author: Sue Melaragno, LPC
Is it possible that “love” can actually heal us? I’m not sure about you, but that sounds a little soft! Can science truly back this claim? Well, from what I can tell, it’s worth considering. AND, if it IS true, then it might make sense for us to create intentional experiences of love in the form of something known as “micro-connections.”
According to Dr. Jeffrey Rediger, author of Cured, research has shown that love and connection (both for others and ourselves) keeps us healthier, while an absence of those relationships and connections can spell trouble for our immune system. In fact, according to Jane E. Brody, “loneliness is as important a risk factor for your health as poor nutrition, lack of exercise, obesity, or even smoking.”
So what is a micro-connection anyway? Dr. Rediger explains it as “a little power boost that fuels our brain with a feeling of love.” Of course, you can get these boosts with your partner, children, and closest friends, but these boosts can also come from contact with your mail carrier, local barista, and even a stranger on the street or in the grocery store.
When we experience these feelings of micro-connection, our brains release a cocktail of hormones and chemicals that include a combination of dopamine, testosterone, estrogen, vasopressin, and most importantly oxytocin. Oxytocin is known as the natural “love drug” because when activated it helps to create connection, attraction, love and bonding. Who wants more of that? I do, I do, please sign me up!
Barbara Fredrickson, a lead researcher at the University of North Carolina —Chapel Hill, found that “falling in love” with the people who surround you on a day-to-day basis has healing power. We tend to underestimate these fleeting moments of connection. It’s time to expand our definition of love and begin to see all moments of micro-connection as meaningful and important. How nice to feel frequent zaps of love, compassion and empathy throughout our days, and all for free! What if these boosts are actually improving our immune systems, helping us sleep better, reducing our stress hormones, and lowering inflammation in our body? The research suggests that’s exactly what is happening, especially when our micro-connections are in person.
So, what can we do next? We can slow down and NOTICE all the opportunities each day to connect even in the seemingly smallest way. Here are a few examples you may want to try:
• When walking your dog, stop and chat with your fellow neighbor.
• During the checkout at the grocery store, put down your phone and
instead make eye contact, smile, and ask how the clerk’s day is going.
• Take a minute during the work day to check in with a colleague and ask
about their weekend, family, or recent news.
• Learn the name of a food server whose restaurant or coffee shop you
frequent and grow the acquaintanceship.
• Attend a book study, group discussion, seminar, or lecture while enjoying
the exchange of ideas and opinions.
• Hold the door for someone as you walk into a building.
• Again, share a smile, eye contact and pleasantry.
It sounds simple, and maybe, just maybe it really is this simple. Let’s spread (and receive) a little love, and watch the healing begin.