In many ways, we’re more connected now than ever before: in fact, much of our days are filled with constant pinging, sharing, and selfie-ing. However, this constant, distant connection negatively affects our real relationships — increasing loneliness and reducing social capital.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development, also known as the longest ever study on human happiness, found that meaningful, deep relationships improve health. People who are more connected to a small group of friends and loved ones live longer, have healthier brains, and are more emotionally stable than those who connect less to a wider group of people. It’s the quality, not quantity, of these relationships that counts: the opposite of how social media trains us to think. As humans we are social creatures, but social media is not the means to creating social connections. Try these methods instead:
Take a genuine interest in people. Remember everyone is an individual with her own story to share. Be inquisitive, ask questions, and you’ll get the same in return. A study published in the Journal of Personality demonstrated that being curious, and showing a desire to discover and learn about someone, is the best way to connect and create positive relationships.
Connect With Yourself
To connect with others, first connect with yourself, neuropsychologist and psychotherapist Dr Marsha Lucas explains. “Improving your relationship with yourself is the first step to being able to have better connections with others. I think of the practice of mindfulness as a way of cultivating more loving, compassionate relationships with everyone, and that includes you.” Practicing self-care for just a few minutes every day is a great way to achieve this self-connection.
Showering honest praise and gratitude on deserving people helps deepen your connection to them. Need more encouragement? Research shows that openly expressing appreciation for friends and loved ones increases your own satisfaction in the relationship.
Make Eye Contact
Body language is key to creating connections. In fact, research conducted by Dr. Adrian Furnham reveals that this language is even more important than words. Make eye contact, open them wide, smile often, and stand tall. We can all be the radiant and welcoming person everyone wants to befriend.
Show your appreciation for a loved one with visible, tangible acts. Simply making a cup of tea, sending a thank you note, or gifting a bunch of flowers can go far in deepening your relationship, proves a study published in the Journal of Happiness.
Set aside time to spend with friends and family, and be fully present during this time (that means put the phone away!). Spending 30 minutes of quality, focused time together is better than 60 accompanied by emails and push notifications. Research shows that being mindful and present improves your relationships and wellbeing.
Connecting with others takes a conscious effort, but the mental and emotional benefits are lasting. Give the people who bring you joy the focus and attention they deserve: you’ll receive a kind of happiness that only real human connection can deliver.