As a very social person I’ve known this for years. My mood ALWAYS brightens when I spend time with people. Even if it’s someone behind the counter in the store. It’s also why I loved to waitress when I was a young woman. I purposely tried to connect with my customers.
For some people though connecting with people might not be so natural and easy but this guy is suggesting it can help anyone feel happier. If your nature is reserved why not try what the guy writing this article tried. Experimentation won’t ever hurt.
I’m conducting an experiment designed by Canada’s top subjective well-being researcher, Dr. John Helliwell. My assignment: to record my level of happiness and then get on a bus and initiate a conversation with a stranger. When I get off the bus, I will record my happiness level again. Helliwell’s research has proven that the more positive social interactions we have, the higher our happiness levels. To test this claim, I have decided that my subjective happiness level is six out of ten. If Dr. Helliwell is correct, a conversation with the gangster knitter will raise my happiness level to seven.
I throw my best “what’s up?” look across the aisle, but the gangster knitter’s gaze, hooded by thick brown lashes, is fixed out the window. Her gaze drifts to the Full Throttle energy drink advertisement above my head, to the floor, to the yellow safety bars near the back door. I remember what Helliwell told me. “On a bus you think, ‘I’m being nice to these people by not invading their space.’ But research tells me that, in fact, if we shared a little more space, they’d be happier and I’d be happier. So who’s the loser?”
Ten minutes later, the bus pulls up to my stop. At the door I turn and say, “I like your tattoos.” She removes her iPod buds and looks up at me (hazel eyes. I love hazel eyes). “Thank you,” she says, a smile dancing at the edges of her lips. As the bus pulls away from the curb, I record a happiness level of seven into my logbook. (rest of article)
The whole peer support movement operates on this principle as well, I think.
And thanks to the reader and friend who turned me onto this article!
Just love to strike up a conversation with strangers! Yep – it does improve the mood, if only for that brief moment. And you never know – it could be this chance encounter that is the beginning of a beautiful and lasting relationship!
Hi…I have definitely found this to be true as well…especially have noticed it with my drug withdrawal issues with Prozac…one of my symptoms when tapering and experiencing acute withdrawal, is my social anxiety increases (I have a lot more dread of anything social, don’t feel like talking to folks, feel anxiety even about getting out of the house to walk the dog in case I encounter people)….BUT, I’ve noticed if I just make myself do it, and I do happen to encounter people and have low-key social exchanges along the way, I feel much, much better. It’s almost feels like a shot of serotonin!
Jaleesa, your comment made me chuckle…I can so relate to what you’re saying!
yes Susan I think it is a skill…one that comes naturally to some like you and me…
but for you Jaleesa and Oz— I would imagine practice would sharpen the skill!!
Very interesting article. I love talking to people on buses, and I strike up conversations in lines for movies, while waiting at the bank, in line at the post office, et al.
I consider the ability to do this a “skill” that I learned from my mother, who wrote a neighborhood column for 40 years, and often made friends of total strangers. She was truly my mentor in this, and I often feel grateful to her on so many levels.
As much as my social anxiety issues make this a problem, it helps me, too, once I get past the initial fears.
This is an excellent article. I’m one of the reserved people. I usually assume people don’t want to be talked to and don’t want to talk to me, but remember how shocking it was to discover the other person had been wanted to talk to me for awhile, and it does make me happier when I can talk smoothly with other people and realize I’m not as socially retarded as I thought I was.
Gianna- I loved this article! This practice is something I have often used to assist in maintaining my own recovery, and it has worked extemely well. (I have a friend who once said after watching me do it that I was at my most charming with wait staff and store clerks.) When I am feeling somewhat isolated, as I was when I first moved up to Atlanta three years ago, I began striking up conversations with the checkers in the grocery store where I shopped. It worked! And now many of them know me by name, and I feel a connection with them. I’m just sayin’…
yes!! I love talking to strangers in line too…and all the people you mentioned as well! It’s really amazing…and I think if people have never tried it they might be pleasantly surprised if they do.