#341 The Art and Science of the World’s Gooiest Cliche | Barbara Fredrickson

Ten Percent Happier
April 26, 2021
#341 The Art and Science of the World’s Gooiest Cliche | Barbara Fredrickson
Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris

One of our primary missions on this show is to rescue vital ideas that have lapsed into cliches. There are so many important concepts out there that many of us might be tempted to dismiss because they are encrusted with cultural baggage or have been reduced to potentially annoying or sappy slogans. So, for example, we’ve talked a lot on this podcast about things like: hope, gratitude, and “listening to your body.” All of which can sound like the type of empty bromide that your spin instructor yells at you while encouraging you to pedal faster. But, in fact, these are all incredibly important operating principles for a healthy life. And, not for nothing, they are all backed up by hard science.

So today we’re going to tackle what may be the oldest and gooieset cliche of them all: love. The word has been ruined, in many ways, by Hollywood and pop songs. For many of us, the mere mention of the word conjures images of Tom Cruise, with tears in his eyes, while the string music swells, declaring, “You complete me.” 

But in my view, and in the view of my guest today, love needs to be usefully defined down. In other words, we need to knock love off its plinth, and apply it to a much wider range of human interactions. We also need to think of love not as something magical that requires luck or money or looks, but instead as a trainable skill -- one with profound implications for our health. 

Barbara Fredrickson is the Kenan Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has written two books: one is called Positivity, the other is called Love 2.0. In this interview, we talk about how she defines love, based on her research; how meditation can help build this skill; how taking a few extra minutes to chat with people, even if you feel busy, can have psychological, physiological, and even professional benefits; and how to manage social anxiety as we emerge from our Covid cocoons.

This episode is actually part one of a two part series running this week on social connection. Coming up on Wednesday, we’ll hear from Marissa King, a professor at Yale who studies how to create social networks, even when it feels uncomfortable. And by social network, I don't mean something like Facebook. I mean actual networks of actual human beings that you see in person. She’s got a lot of practical and actionable advice about how to do that, even within the context of COVID. So be sure to listen in on Wednesday.

One more item of business, and it is an invitation for you to participate in this show. In June, we’ll be launching a special series of podcast episodes focusing on anxiety, something I’m sure we’re all too familiar with. In this series, you’ll become intimately familiar with the mechanics of anxiety: how and why it shows up, and what you may be doing to feed it. 

And this is where you come in. We’d love to hear from you with your questions about anxiety that experts will answer during our anxiety series on the podcast. So whether you’re struggling with social anxiety, anxiety about re-entering the world post-COVID, or have any other questions about anxiety - we want to hear from you. To submit a question or share a reflection call (646) 883-8326 and leave us a voicemail. If you’re outside the United States, you can email us a voice memo file in mp3 format to listener@tenpercent.com. The deadline for submissions is Wednesday, May 12th.

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