5 Ways to Connect More with the Important People in Your Life
“Of all the things that wisdom provides to help one live one’s entire life in happiness, the greatest so far is friendship.”
–Epicurus, ancient Greek philosopher
Today, with social media becoming all-consuming, we are more connected than we have ever been, in a virtual sense; but in reality, studies have revealed that many people still feel alone. All the more reason to make an effort to increase real-world connections. As well as forging strong bonds with those we are especially fond of, it’s important to build “bridging connections” to unite different groups within a community.
Doing so demonstrates a commitment to the notion that we’re all in this together, and that the common good is important for a good life.
1. Build Social Capital
Consider ways in which you might bring people from different backgrounds together through a shared interest, to build what Harvard professor Robert Putnam calls the “social capital” of a community, facilitate trust, and impact positively on the well‑being of the whole community. For example, you could:
• Eat together around a campfire, BBQ or candle-lit table. Fire and food create that “hygge” feeling of cozy warmth and togetherness.
• Plant a community vegetable garden.
• Create a directory for your street, listing names, occupations, and resources that can be borrowed.
• Make a “street library” cupboard or fill an old phone-box with books, so that residents can donate and borrow books. Just make sure it’s waterproof!
2. Consider How You Make Others Feel
Notice the good in others. Focus on what’s right with people, rather than what’s wrong. The “Losada ratio”, named after Chilean psychologist Marcel Losada, states that in order to flourish you need to give/receive five positive statements for every critical statement. With that in mind, practice focusing on what your partner/family members/friends have done right, rather than on what they’ve done wrong. Praise and encourage rather than criticize.
3. Show Empathy & Consider Other People's Point of View Before You Respond
Or try viewing everyone as a vulnerable child, to minimize blame. Remind yourself that we’re all just muddling through, and we all make mistakes. It’s easier to judge and criticize than it is to praise and empathize. Yet the latter is far more rewarding and has a wide-ranging social impact. For example, teaching empathy in schools reduces bullying.
4. Do More Together as a Family
Whether it’s playing tennis, going for regular walks, popping to the park, finger-painting, kite-flying or playing Scrabble, create a routine that means you do at least one of those things together every week. It’s all too easy to sit and watch TV together. But interaction generates laughter and positivity resonance, which strengthens bonds. Teamwork and team-play, especially of the family kind, boost positive emotions and enhance relationships.
5. Make One Night Per Week "Analog Night"
Deposit all your devices in a basket and enjoy a “no-phone zone” for at least a few hours. If you have kids, they can play outdoors or find something to do that doesn’t involve a screen, and you can have extended talks around the dinner table or in the family room, read a book together, or make something.
We are all leading increasingly busy lives, and although we shouldn’t become over-dependent on others or allow them to dictate our mood, we should invest sufficient time to build quality relationships with those in our support network. Because positive connection is key to our happiness.
This article is excerpted from The Happiness Bible and is printed here with permission of the author. © The Happiness Bible, 2019
After both her parents' lives were cut short, Cheryl Rickman decided to devote her life to helping others make the most of their own precious lives, through the books she writes and the workshops she creates. She has written and ghostwritten 15 practical and inspirational guide books on flourishing in life and at work over the past 13 years. As well as writing empowering books to inspire, inform and help people fret less and flourish more, Cheryl is a qualified Positive Psychology Practitioner, an Ambassador of Wellbeing for the Network of Wellbeing and a contributor to Psychologies and Breathe magazines, among others. You can find out more at www.CherylRickman.co.uk. Her latest book is The Happiness Bible, which works with the reader to explain how happiness works and evolves; where it comes from, and how it can be nurtured and maintained in order to flourish.
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