Love is one of the most important aspects of human life and a topic that has inspired songs, poems, books and movies throughout history. It’s the reason you forgive your partner for being late, push through a creative project or root for your favorite team. It’s what makes you want to move across the country for a new job, start dating again after a bad breakup or stay up all night to take care of an ill family member. And while there are some people who argue that a “one size fits all” kind of love exists, most psychologists agree that love manifests in many different ways — perhaps too many to count.
Some psychologists believe that love is a basic emotion, similar to happiness or anger. Others think that love is not an emotion at all, but rather a combination of feelings and actions. Still others, including some researchers who study emotions, describe love as an essential physiological drive.
It’s a difficult concept to define because everyone has a different definition of what love means to them. For some, it’s a feeling of attraction and affection toward another person or animal. For others, it’s a commitment to a relationship. And it can be something as simple as sharing a t-shirt or playlist with the person you love or making a daily habit of checking in with each other.
The question of what is love has inspired philosophers, writers and religious leaders through the ages, and it remains a topic that continues to fascinate scientists and the general public. The word itself has evolved over time, as have the theories that surround it.
Romantic love is the most common depiction of love in popular culture, and it’s been a source of inspiration for artists and musicians. In fact, a recent study found that romantic love is a universal feeling across cultures. It’s also the most well-documented form of love — as evidenced by the countless romantic comedies, novels and films that have been written.
Scientists have studied the effects of romantic love on the brain using functional MRI. The study found that when people fall in love, the areas of their brain associated with pleasure and reward become active. In addition, the area called the ventral tegmental area lights up, which is associated with cravings and motivation. It’s a similar reaction to what happens when someone takes cocaine.
A more complicated version of love is the love we have for our friends, family and children. This kind of love can be more complex and challenging than romantic love, because it often includes sacrifice and self-sacrifice. This type of love can also involve feelings of empathy and attachment, as well as a sense of obligation to help those we care about.
The best way to understand this type of love is to look at the examples set by the people who inspire us. Think about the people who have dedicated their lives to loving other people, like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey. Their devotion to love is not only beautiful, but has also helped to promote wellbeing for themselves and the world at large.