Humans are social creatures by nature, and one Canadian psychologist says our close attachments are a phenomenon worthy of both studying and celebrating.
Dr. Rotem Regev, a Vancouver-based registered psychologist, told Daily Hive she thinks love is a “superpower” because it can “totally elevate our life and can elevate our health.”
“It’s our first instinct in life to seek that contact, to seek that closeness to someone,” she said. “And we do that throughout our lives.”
She’s giving a very Valentine’s Day-appropriate talk called “The Superpower of Love” for Psychology Month, a yearly initiative by the BC Psychological Association where mental health professionals give education seminars in the community.
Evolutionarily speaking, forming social bonds and being co-dependent has been humans’ strength in order to accomplish more together, Regev said.
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Feeling close to others in our lives can lead to better health outcomes, including lower blood pressure, a healthier immune system, and fewer incidents of heart disease, she added.
“There’s no replacement for one-on-one relationships where we feel like this person hears me, this person cares about me.”
So how do we make these connections a priority?
Tips to cultivate love
Regev has some pointers for people looking to forge or enhance those close relationships that bring us so many mental health benefits.
First, she suggests tuning into how you feel in the moment while you’re connecting with someone. Try and stay open, curious, and non-judgemental, she said. As an extra step, try asking yourself what the experience is like for the other person.
“When we drop a little bit of the masks that we wear … and show more of ourselves, that’s where connection can occur,” she said. So don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.
Regev has three main tips for when you’re spending time with someone you want to connect with:
- Be available: Set aside time. Put down your phone, and look at your person’s eyes.
- Be responsive: Help them feel seen and heard in the moment with an empathetic response.
- Be engaged: Communicate that you have their back, that you are on the same team.
These principles were first outlined by Dr. Sue Johnson, a leading attachment researcher.
“We used to say love is a mystery,” Regev said. But thanks to scientific research, psychologists “know the building blocks now.”