Forget romance – everyday kind gestures from strangers may boost your well-being even more than being in a relationship, study finds
- Researchers surveyed 212 people for weeks, with questionnaires multiple times a day
- They asked questions about their emotional wellbeing and feelings of love
- Overall they found most people felt more loved as the day went on
- Specific kind gestures were followed by increases in feeling loved
People who feel love every day are healthier, happier, and more expressive – but that love does not have to be romantic.
In fact, researchers at Penn Medicine found, everyday small gestures from strangers, colleagues, and friends can be even more powerful.
Those gestures – asking how you are, giving you a hand with your bag, a supportive text – also trigger feelings of love.
Since they are often unexpected, at random times in the day, and come from different people, they appear to have a more powerful overall impact on your wellbeing than just one channel of love from one person.
Generally, most of the study participants’ feelings of love rose as the day went on, and people reported feeling more loved after experiencing specific kind gestures – regardless of whether they are in a romantic relationship or not (file image)
Zita Oravecz, assistant professor of human development at Penn Medicine, said: ‘We took a very broad approach when we looked at love.
‘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.’
For the study, published today in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, researchers conducted two surveys to gauge how people’s emotions fluctuated throughout the day.
At first, they worked with a group of 52 people of various ages for one months, then with 160 undergraduate students for eight weeks.
The researchers sent text messages with survey questions six times a day at random intervals times in the day to study participants.
They asked about accomplishments, notable moments, mood, and more. Sometimes they would ask, ‘how much do you feel loved right now?’, with a link to a visual sliding scale from ‘not at all’ to ‘extremely’.
Generally, most of the participants’ feelings of love rose as the day went on, and people reported feeling more loved after experiencing specific kind gestures – regardless of whether they are in a romantic relationship or not.
Dr Oravecz says that suggests that everyday, sometimes seemingly unremarkable interactions have a powerful impact on our feelings of love.
The team could not show a direct link between kind gestures and feeling loved.
But Dr Oravecz says the findings could open the door to new techniques for mental health care, such as a service that sends random supportive text messages throughout the day.
‘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 Oravecz.
‘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.’