Love has long been the subject of philosophy, religion and poetry, but it was only in the last 75 years that psychology started to study it as a specific emotion. In that time, researchers have debated whether or not love is actually an emotion (it’s generally agreed to be more than just a feeling) and what types of relationships can be described as being “in love.”
Love can take many forms. It can be the feeling of being with your soulmate, a desire to care for children or animals, an attachment to a creative project, or even the feeling you get when you’re watching your favorite sports team win. But no matter what type of love you feel, most psychologists agree that it’s rooted in biology. For example, when you’re in love, your brain actually fires in the same areas that respond to drugs like cocaine.
Experts also believe that love is a necessary part of human evolution. It helps us form strong bonds with those we care about, and in the process we learn the social skills and survival strategies we need to thrive. It also allows us to bond with our communities and the wider world, and gives us a reason to endure difficult circumstances.
However, if you’re one of those Pollyannas who always seem to be happy (no matter what happens), don’t be so sure that it’s all about the love. Happiness is about more than just smiling and feeling up, and is really a result of understanding your values and proactively making decisions that align with those values.