Science Says Experiencing Love in Everyday Life Improves Your Mental Well-Being
Studies out of Penn State suggest that consistent love can lead to heightened feelings of purpose and optimism.
If you've always thought that you're happier when you regularly feel love—either romantic or platonic—new research reveals that you've been right all along. Researchers out of the Penn State Institute for Computational and Data Sciences (ICDS) collected data from over 200 participants to evaluate people who did and did not experience love in their daily lives, according to ScienceDaily. The lead researchers, Zita Oravecz and Timothy Brick, stated that people who regularly "felt love" had higher levels of psychological well-being and purpose, whereas people who did not showed signs of neuroticism.
The researchers used a unique tactic to analyze love. "We took a very broad approach when we looked at love," said Oravecz, assistant professor of human development and family studies and ICDS faculty co-hire. "Everyday 'felt love' is conceptually much broader than romantic love. It's those micro-moments in your life when you experience resonance with someone. For example, if you're talking to a neighbor and they express concern for your well-being, then you might resonate with that and experience it as a feeling of love, and that might improve your well-being."
The team of researchers used smartphones to collect data from participants throughout their everyday lives. The first study gathered data from 52 people of various ages, and the second recorded from 160 undergraduate students. Per Brick, the assistant professor of human development and family studies and ICDS co-hire, participants were sent six messages each day over a four-week period to evaluate "felt love" and well-being. The messages were pivotal to the research, as this is how the research team assessed the impact of expectations and biases, Brick noted. "It's important from a research point-of-view," said Brick. "If the participants expect a call or a text at a certain time of day, they are no longer reacting to what's going on in their daily life, but are expecting the prompt and reacting to that expectation."
Results from the study state that the participants' "felt love" experiences increased after receiving messages related to love and connection. The researchers noted that the studies can lead to forward movement in how love is emphasized in everyday life to promote mental health. "With the right statistical methods, we can start to get at questions about difficult constructs like love or compassion, and hopefully build interventions to promote them," Oravecz said.