You know when someone smiles at you in such a way that you catch it and smile back without even thinking? That feeling of connection that lights you up? It can be sharing a funny story with the check out person at Trader Joe’s, getting together with a friend, or smiling at a neighbor on the street.
Creating moments of connection with another person creates what researcher Barbara Fredrickson calls “positive resonance” that can boost your positive emotions which contribute to your overall health and well being. “Under the influence of positive emotions, your sense of self actually expands to include others to greater degrees.”
Oxytocin is also known as the “cuddle” or “love hormone.” It is a key player in establishing our attachments and bonds to other people, but it also has immediate benefits for hugging. It calms anxiety and stress, increases trust and connection. It’s what makes holding a baby and cuddling with someone we love so relaxing.
According to the National Institute of Play, play relieves stress and builds resilience. “It generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun, leads to mastery, gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community.” So, you’re never too old to play. Let loose a little, play pretend, tell jokes, and make people laugh!
Do something you love at just the right amount of challenge so that it captures your attention, time disappears and you get lost in it. Research shows that this state of “flow” improves your emotional regulation and your productivity. You may experience more confidence, self esteem and find more meaning in life.
We experience awe when we encounter something so vast and exceptional that we struggle to comprehend it. It can be seeing the starry sky from the desert on a clear night, watching Niagra Falls, standing on a mountaintop, encountering a breathtaking work of art, or watching someone display Olympian skills that surpass our imagination. The positive emotions experienced through awe can promote health and well being.
Whether or not we are moms, many of us are caregivers of some sort and could derive happiness and long term benefits from these five experiences.