When people ask what Local First is all about, I generally share the same response: Local First is about relationships. Relationships between people. Relationships between businesses. Relationships between people and businesses and place. “Living local” is about recognizing and celebrating those connections. Intuitively, we know that relationships matter. We believe this when it comes to family and friends. But how often do we consider our interactions with strangers? Or with those with whom we do business?
This past winter, I read a book that’s profoundly impacted my life and my work: Love 2.0: Creating Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection. Written by Barbara Fredrickson, a professor of psychology at the University of Northern Carolina, the book examines the way our daily interactions affect our feelings of connectedness. Fredrickson argues that “love blossoms virtually anytime two or more people – even strangers – connect over a shared positive emotion” and that love increases with a frequency of interaction. Fredrickson’s not arguing that the intimate love one shares with one’s family or friends is less valuable, but that there are an incredible number of opportunities to find meaningful joy and connection in our day to day interactions with other people.
Reading “Love 2.0” has helped me to understand the joy I’ve experienced as I’ve shifted more and more parts of my life to “local.” A stop at my locally-owned bank isn’t just an opportunity to make a deposit; it is a chance to connect with my favorite teller – Lynn – to hear about how her kids are doing. Buying a birthday gift at my local wine shop gives me a chance to connect to the clerk – Lora – and for us to compare notes on our winter running schedules. Going local has allowed me to frequently interact with people as I tackle my daily chores – and to build moments of love and connectedness into my daily life.
We live in an era that celebrates busy-ness. A time of extreme virtual connection and physical disconnection. But that doesn’t have to be how we live our lives. I encourage you, this winter, to transition one regular chore to “local” and to build an opportunity for kindness and connection into your everyday life. Move your money to a local bank, join a CSA or attend a year-round farmers market, grab your morning coffee at the same local coffee shop. Whatever you choose to do, build a relationship – it will be good for your happiness and health.
Originally published in Grand Rapids Magazine's "Living Local" column in February 2015.