Let’s take a second to step out of romanticized versions of love and life and look at ourselves as a species—a species that is wired for adaptation, and for scientific purposes, “survival.”
We all come programmed with different understandings of love, things that turn us towards it, or things that have made us run far away, yet according to current research by Fredrickson (2013) the body has a *behind the scenes* unconscious program that changes the way the body expresses DNA and physical processes in response to love.
Yes, I said “change your DNA.” Life can be misleading sometimes when the physical world appears as a *constant* reality. For example, Fredrickson (2013) explains that while somewhat consistent physical attributes persist through one’s life, the body’s biology lives in constant interaction with the environment and a state of continuous change and adaptation. So much so, that love’s biology has been pinpointed within real life biometrics.
Before I explain further, you must understand three connecting parts of the body’s biology explained by Fredrickson: “the hormone oxytocin, the vagus nerve, and the brain.”
Oxytocin is a fundamental neuropeptide that fosters bonding and attachment with others. It is released during connective moments with another such as having sex and childbirth, but also simple moments such as a conversation at the grocery store or an evening with your family (Fredrickson, 2013).
The vagus nerve then plays a major role of sending information from the brain to major organs and the heart (Fredrickson, 2013). The vagus nerve is what calms the heart rate down (with the help of oxytocin) after the body experiences a fight-or-flight reaction, and one’s vagal tone can be measured by the agility of this action. According the Fredrickson (2013) the greater one’s vagal tone, the greater biological ability they have to connect with others.
Fredrickson’s (2013) research also found that people with higher vagal tone (or greater connection between the brain and heart) experience more love, are more flexible to adapt within all parts of life, maintain greater attention and emotion regulation, and better regulate internal functions such as blood sugar and inflammation levels.
Okay—so having greater vagal tone and oxytocin release is known to make life easier, increase experiences of love, and make the body function better, but what does this all mean and can we increase this unconscious process within our body?
The answer is yes.
Fredrickson’s study participants practiced over an hour of “loving-kindness meditation” each week, while showing significant increases in vagal tone within months. Participants who had greater instances of positive connection had greater increases in vagal tone (Fredrickson, 2013).
The biology of love literally (and without our awareness) increases our vagal tone, while increasing health and biochemicals that have the potential to change the body’s cellular structures.
If you didn’t have faith in the human race before, here’s some pretty clear evidence that our health, survival, and adaptation is *fueled* by love. Even science can be romantic sometimes.
with love and DNA activations,
*Reference provided by Vanderbilt's Health Coaching Certificate Program*
Fredrickson, B. (2013). The Science of Love. Retrieved from https://aeon.co/essays/love-works-its-magic-in-mysterious-biochemical-ways