I come from a relatively large family – I have three sisters (one of those is my twin) and a brother. So we grew up as a family of seven (with Mum and Dad) on a vineyard. While I’m not going to pretend that everything was always rosy in our house, one thing I do know is Mum and Dad were jointly clear about one thing, “if you can’t get along with your family first, how do you expect to get along with anyone else in this world?” We lived by that. Today, we’re all grown up and have families of our own but collectively we still find our family get-togethers some of the best times we have.
Last weekend we went away for our annual Girls’ Weekend. For 20 years we’ve been going away for one weekend a year with Mum, my three sisters, sister-in-law and now our daughters come too – 11 of us all together (that's us in the photo - minus my niece who was taking the picture!). I noticed how uplifting the weekend was for my spirit, my energy, my happiness and my positive feelings. So much goodness from a mere weekend away. Why? I believe that there were a couple of things at play. Firstly, it was because we were connecting socially and secondly we were sharing stories with people who really cared and listened.
Research by Barbara Fredrickson, a professor at the University of North Carolina, found that positive emotions and social connectedness helped moderate negative emotions and blood pressure. In Fredrickson’s newest book, Love 2.0, she says “The love you do or do not experience today may quite literally change key aspects of your cellular architecture next season and next year – cells that affect your physical health, your vitality, and your overall wellbeing.” Science is showing that spending time with your family or friends not only feels good in the moment but it is important for our ongoing health and wellbeing.
Further to this, work by psychologist Shelly Gable and colleagues, from the University of California, found that sharing in the good times with our family and friends is equally as important as being there for them in the bad times. People who celebrate each other’s accomplishments are more likely to be satisfied and committed to their relationships, and are able to enjoy greater love and happiness. If you use generous listening and questioning when a friend is sharing a positive experience, it helps the friend to consolidate that memory as even more positive than it actually was and it will be easier for them to recall this good memory for years to come. Importantly, the research says that you will also feel happier from sharing in your friend’s experience. This develops a special connection between the two of you, for the betterment of you both.
My guess is that was what was happening for me following our Girls’ Weekend. Being surrounded by loving and generous listeners, I got to share and re-live some of my positive experiences and I also got to
listen to others share theirs. All this happening while we were socially connecting – and maybe some great food and wine helped too!
This is accessible to anyone. You can create new and strong friendships by being a generous listener and inviting people to share their good news, in as much detail as possible. This will help to build positive emotions and overall wellbeing.
I’m very thankful to my parents for insisting that we got along. I have been able to take that outside of the family and enjoy some wonderful friendships too. You too can do this for yourself and your children and friends, by sharing time together and being interested in their lives – the good and the bad. Perhaps you could give it a try, what have you got to lose?