Do you ever feel lonely, even though you are surrounded by people? Have you found it harder than you expected to find happiness after 60?
Things were much simpler a few thousand years ago. In a small tribe, everyone knows each other intimately. In a village, no man is an island and everyone understands his or her role.
Life in the modern world is different. Every morning, we silently pass hundreds of people on the street. We order our triple-shot lattes without so much as a word of greeting to the barista. We offer the security guard outside our office a curt nod, even if we aren’t rushing to a meeting.
On the way home, we sit on the bus with our headphones on, listening to a self-help tape about how to make friends, while the person across from us does the same.
Well, according to researchers from the University of British Columbia, our efficiency bias may be causing us to miss out on everyday social interactions that could make us happier. In a recent study, they found that even a short conversation with a barista at your local coffee shop could make you happier.
Specifically, they were quoted as saying that:
People who had a social interaction with a barista (i.e., smiled, made eye contact, and had a brief conversation) experienced more positive effect than people who were as efficient as possible.
What is important about this research is that it challenges the idea that only intimate friendships and romantic relationships can make us happy. Finding true friends takes time. Searching for a romantic partner can take even longer. But, reaching out to others on a daily basis is something over which we have complete control.
There are plenty of people that you can reach out to every day, including:
- Shop keepers
- Bus drivers
- Security guards
- Hair stylists
- And many more…
When we are kids, our parents drill into our brains that talking to strangers is dangerous. In the movies, we are shown example after example of people being kidnapped or killed by strangers.
The truth is that the world is much safer than we think it is. In fact, when it comes to your happiness, not reaching out to people may be one of the greatest risks of all.
Do you go out of your way to turn impersonal exchanges, like ordering a coffee, into short conversations? What have you done to find happiness recently? What is the biggest thing preventing you from reaching out to others? Please join the conversation.