by Emma Green: When we think about love, we often think of big romantic gestures. Although such actions can be hugely impactful,
New research says that feeling even brief moments of love throughout your day can boost health and happiness.
it’s important not to underestimate the effectiveness of smaller and more subtle moments.
New research set out to test this idea. Scientists explored felt love, brief experiences of love and connection in daily life, and found that it was associated with improved wellbeing, including optimism and a greater sense of purpose. Equally, a higher baseline of gratitude was linked with more experiences of felt love, likely the result of fostering close relationships with others.
What is particularly interesting is that during the study, ratings of felt love increased. This suggests that the reminder to notice these experiences were successful in boosting wellbeing. So it is important for us to not only integrate more felt love into our daily lives, but also to focus our attention on such moments in order for them to be beneficial.
There are a number of ways to integrate more felt love into your life. Here are five of them:
1. Spend more time with your pet.
Previous studies have shown that people feel loved when their pets are happy to see them. You can amplify these effects further by spending more quality time with your pet. Perhaps that’s snuggling with them or taking them for a walk or a run around in the garden. Research has shown that these activities result in the brain releasing oxytocin, a hormone associated with feelings of wellbeing. Taking your pet out of the house can also be a great way to connect with others as you’ll meet like-minded owners. There are even apps where you can find local pet owners in your area.
2. Care for another person.
Doing something kind for another person is another way to experience felt love. This might mean a quick coffee with a friend who is having a difficult time, picking up the phone to speak to a family member who might be feeling lonely, or even volunteering for a charity in your local community. All of these not only benefit the recipient but also make you feel valued. Such activities don’t have to involve spending a lot of time or money, so they are relatively easy to integrate into your routine.
3. Donate belongings you no longer need.
You can also experience greater felt love through indirectly helping others. Reducing clutter is beneficial in itself for wellbeing but this can be enhanced by ensuring your items go to a person in need. Knowing that your belongings are not going to waste but instead will be used by someone else creates feelings of happiness and increases your sense of self-worth. Once you begin to start sorting, you might be surprised by how many of your possessions you no longer use.
4. Attend a yoga class.
Going to a yoga class can cultivate more felt love and therefore boost wellbeing. Yoga is about creating a healthy relationship with yourself and with others. There is something hugely powerful about practicing in a group, creating a sense of community and feeling the shared energy. Research has shown that your body releases more endorphins and endocannabinoids, hormones that boost happiness and relieve pain, when exercising with a group rather than alone. There are so many different styles of yoga so you can find the one that best suits you.
5. Compile a daily gratitude list.
It is easy to move through your day on autopilot, barely noticing what happens around you. This means that you often overlook the positive experiences and interactions that you have, rather than pausing, reflecting and savoring them. Creating a daily gratitude habit, where you write down three things that you’re grateful for each day can be hugely beneficial. These don’t have to major life events; they can be small but significant moments that were pleasurable. It’s important to continually look for new things you’re grateful for to prevent the task from becoming automatic. Writing a gratitude list will also help you to more easily identify enjoyable occasions in the future.
We all know that wellbeing is important, but we often overestimate what it takes to improve it. Cultivating more frequent, meaningful experiences of felt love and paying attention to them is a key strategy to boosting both health and happiness.