By Jess Bolen
“If a client’s investment balance sheet shows an 8% increase over last year, does that mean they have experienced an 8% increase in well-being?” Our in-house financial advisor Patrick Johnson asked me this last week and it caught me by surprise. We talk a lot about well-being around the office, and the concept of well-being extends far beyond finances and legal documents. Well-being is a state of… feeling and being WELL. This got me thinking. What advice can I give to Hammond Law Group friends and family that will make a difference for your well-being this time of year?
Felt love is linked to well-being
Students recently undertook a study to see how feelings of well-being and feeling loved are linked. The good news is that EVERYONE can benefit from small gestures of feeling loved. The best news? Feelings of love weren’t limited to those felt in romantic relationships. Felt love is seen as micro-moments in life when you experience resonance with someone. It can arise in a conversation with a neighbor, a coworker, a friend, or even a stranger in line at the grocery store.
The research team defined “psychological well-being” as having feelings of purpose and optimism. There was a definite link between “felt love” and well-being. Additionally, the researchers found that felt love experiences rose throughout the length of the study, indicating that the more we pay attention to those feelings of ‘felt love’, the more our well-being can rise.
What does this mean for those of us who feel lonely? Those of us with few loved ones around us? Those of us who have lost loved ones? Happily, even those of us who are grieving, lonely, or alone can improve our feelings of well-being by simply doing these three things.
The power of a smile
As an introvert, making phone calls isn’t easy for me. Some years ago, I found that if I put a smile on my face a moment before I dial the phone, it contributes to an easier conversation. I find I am naturally more at peace in the conversation and enjoy it more. A simple smile costs me nothing and contributes everything. Recently I read an article about enthusiasm. In it, Seth Godin asked the question about the last person you saw really enjoying something: “were they enthusiastic because it was a great event? Or did it feel like a great event [to them] because they were enthusiastic?” I find a smile can do this for me–it adds enthusiasm to the moment simply when I smile. Try it next time you’re in line with someone. Give a smile. Sometimes it won’t be returned. In other cases, though, it will be. It’s a great feeling knowing you brought a smile to someone’s face.
Reach out to someone
I’m sure we all remember the old AT&T slogan “reach out and touch someone.” Introverts will find this more difficult than extroverts. But the research shows that people with more extraversion tend to experience more felt love. While it takes more effort for some introverts to overcome internal inhibitions, it’s worth it. Felt love starts with reaching out to someone.
Reach out to someone, near or far, with a gesture of kindness. Send a card, send a text, dial the phone. Send a note on Facebook. Let someone know you’re thinking of them. Maybe it’s a grandchild or old friend. Not only will you have contributed to that person’s well-being, but your own sense of purpose and optimism will rise, and with it, your own well-being.
Hug it out
Don’t laugh at this one. I know that those of us from the stoic midwest backgrounds don’t always welcome effusive physical touch. Growing up midwestern, the mystical world of physical touch in a household eluded me, but I appreciated it when I saw it in my friends’ households of other ethnic backgrounds. I haven’t been able to outgrow my reservations about physical touch. What I have been able to do is appreciate research, which shows that physical touch is ESSENTIAL to well-being. I want my kids to be well. Therefore I remind myself to reach out and touch them. I hug my friends when we go out to coffee. I hug the greeter at church on Sundays. My chiropractor hugged me recently. Even doctors need hugs! 😉 Not able or willing to give or receive hugs for some reason? Take a hot bath instead. Benefits of submersion in a hot bath or shower are similar to those experienced in a long hug.
Keep it going
The bottom line? Start with a smile. In this season where things start to feel hectic and hurried, when holiday demands start piling on, the tendency is to withdraw and constrict to conserve energy. However, it takes less energy to smile than to frown. Commit to smiling at one stranger each day. This alone may transform your life. Next, reach out to someone. Maybe it’s a stranger who looks flustered or unhappy. Or an old friend or neighbor that you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Reaching out to offer small words of encouragement can make not only their day, but yours as well.
Relationships need maintenance. It’s easy to forget to maintain the ones that are closest to us. Those are the ones that require the most intentionality. Write a note or send a text letting someone know you’re thinking of them. Your heart will warm in response. Finally, ask for or offer a hug. You’d be surprised at how welcome hugs are. If the only one around to hug is your dog or cat, don’t underestimate the power of a hug, especially of a fur-friend.
As in the case of basic hair-care: wash, rinse, repeat. Smile, Reach out, Hug. Repeat. Be well.