Why You Should Savor Fleeting Moments of Joy

Why You Should Savor Fleeting Moments of Joy

Claudia HaaseClaudia Haase, associate professor, studies happy and healthy development across the life span.

Hold back on the bickering. New research co-authored by Northwestern University associate professor Claudia Haase suggests that couples who share sweet moments filled with humor and affection, and sync up biologically — two hearts beating as one — enjoy better health prospects and live longer than their more quarrelsome counterparts.

The findings, recently published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, are based on laboratory observations of 154 middle-aged and older married couples as each engaged in an intimate conversation about a conflict in their relationship.

“We focused on those fleeting moments when you light up together and experience sudden joy, closeness and intimacy,” said study author Robert Levenson, a University of California at Berkeley professor of psychology.

“What we found is that having these brief shared moments, known as ‘positivity resonance,’ is a powerful predictor of how healthy we’re going to be in the future and how long we’ll live,” he added.

Positivity resonance occurs when two people momentarily experience a mutual biological and behavioral surge of warmth, humor and affection and achieve a sense of oneness. Fear, anxiety and self-doubt can block this sense of connectedness.

“Couples in the study varied greatly in these measures of positivity resonance, with some couples showing dozens of moments of emotional and physiological synchrony and others showing few or none,” Levenson said.

Haase was a post doctoral fellow at UC Berkeley where she worked with Levenson. She is part of a new generation of multidisciplinary researchers who studies emotion in real time. By using a variety of research methods —including facial coding, physiological monitoring, and neuroimaging — she has become a leader in the burgeoning field of affective science, where she examines the relationship between emotions and marital conflict, aging, health, and more.

Her research has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Aging, the Retirement Research Foundation, and a NARSAD Young Investigator Award from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.


By Yasmin Anwar
Last Modified: 3/14/22