Welcome to Feelgood February! Full disclosure: this is a thing we made up because New Year’s Resolutions are so last month.
After the over-indulgence of Christmas, New Year’s Resolutions are often a way of making ourselves feel better for a little while. But what produces genuine happiness in the long haul?
Harvard professor Robert Waldinger is the director of the world’s longest running study into human development, following people’s lives for a staggering 75 years—from Harvard students through to kids growing up in the Boston ghettos, and even included President John F. Kennedy. Participants are now well into their eighties.
The study has found that the single biggest predictor of physical and mental health is good quality relationships. People with reliable relationships lived longer, had better physical health and even better memory retention as they aged. Those living with loneliness or in volatile relationships, had more health complications and died younger.
It’s not surprising, then, that many people who walk through the doors of The Salvation Army to access food parcels are experiencing relationship breakdown or isolation. But, time and time again, they say that finding acceptance and belonging at the Sallies becomes a turning point. ‘I had never thought anyone would want to hear my story, but when I walked into The Salvation Army I felt an immediate connection. They have become my family,’ says Leaso Tait, who came to the Army for a food parcel after her husband was arrested.
The Sallies also have dedicated social workers and programmes specifically aimed at restoring healthy relationships. This helps build the social protection people need, so they can move on positively with their lives. The key to long-lasting happiness and health, it seems, is the simple-but-complicated business of having good friends and family. So, the ‘Feelgood February’ challenge, is about finding ways to connect with and give to others.
Our team have come up with some ideas for how we’re going to connect with others in new ways:
1. Ask a neighbour we haven’t met around for a cup of tea.
2. Set up a recurring donation to The Foodbank Project, so we don’t forget to give.
3. Make a beautiful meal for our partner (’cos according to the Harvard study, they’re the ones that will keep us going into old age!)
4. Ask a work colleague we don’t know well out for coffee.
5. Give time to someone we suspect is lonely.
What feel-good goal are you going to make for yourself this February? Let us know in the comments.