Feeling moments of support improve wellness

December 8, 2019

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Feeling moments of support improve wellness

Poets and songwriters may tend to focus their artistry on passion and romance, but it may be those unsung, brief feelings of love throughout the day that are connected with psychological well-being, according to a team of researchers.

In two studies, the researchers found that people who experienced higher "felt love"—brief experiences of love and connection in everyday life—also had significantly higher levels of psychological well-being, which includes feelings of purpose and optimism, compared to those who had lower felt love scores. They also found that people with higher felt love tended to have higher extraversion personality scores, while people with lower felt love scores were more likely to show signs of neuroticism.

What the researchers say: "We took a very broad approach when we looked at love," said the lead author of the study. "Everyday felt love is conceptually much broader than romantic love. It's those micro-moments in your life when you experience resonance with someone. For example, if you're talking to a neighbor and they express concern for your well-being, then you might resonate with that and experience it as a feeling of love, and that might improve your well-being."

According to the researchers, the baseline of the subjects' felt love experiences, in general, rose throughout the study, suggesting that the nudges to recognize examples of love and connection may also have gradually increased the subjects' overall sense of being loved. Stronger experiences of felt love, in turn, are associated with improvements in psychological well-being.

"It's something that we've seen in the literature on mindfulness, when people are reminded to focus attention on positive things, their overall awareness of those positive things begins to rise," said the researchers. "Similarly, just by paying attention to those everyday moments of felt love, we may also increase our awareness of the overall positive aspects of love in our daily lives. This effect replicates in both studies, implying that raising awareness of felt love in day-to-day life may itself be an intervention that raises levels of felt love over a longer period of time."

The researchers report their findings in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

The team gathered data from participants throughout their everyday lives. In the first study, they recruited 52 people of various ages. The second study consisted of 160 undergraduate students. Participants received six random prompts throughout the day over a four-week period to assess felt love and well-being. The authors said that sending these messages randomly throughout the day was critical to manage the possible effects of expectation bias.

So, what? More and more studies have come out showing the power of people being positive towards each other. In recent studies reported in TR we have found that praise is more powerful in evoking lasting change than criticism. That receiving a loving and respectful touch stimulates the immune system as well as the reward chemical oxytocin which makes us feel valued. That giving praise and acknowledgement prolongs the life of the giver—in fact giving anything of value does the same thing.

These things form a large part of individual and group resilience.

No wonder then that organizations with a culture of praise are, on average, 20% more profitable than those with no such tradition.

Praise, respectful touch, acknowledgement, courtesy are all examples of what the researchers call “felt love.” Using them we can make our families, or workplaces and even our societies that much richer and more resilient.

Dr Bob Murray

Bob Murray, MBA, PhD (Clinical Psychology), is an internationally recognised expert in strategy, leadership, influencing, human motivation and behavioural change.

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