When you’re standing in a line, do you check your emails? When you’re early for an appointment, are you mindlessly scrolling through Facebook?
Yup, we’ve all been there - those moments in your day when you could be connecting to someone, yet technology dominates.
One distraction I’m often guilty of is listening to music - all of the time. I use music to make my workouts more bearable, make my commutes go by faster, or drown out the stress or boredom of my work. When I am walking to a class or in the city, I use music to literally tune out my surroundings. By listening to music to distract myself from the slight discomfort of walking from point A to point B, I am also isolating myself from others. Can you imagine how many more interactions I’d have if I stopped this habit? Perhaps I’d hear someone laughing or the birds chirping. Or, maybe I'd strike up a conversation with someone I see walking my same route every day.
Indeed, by choosing technology instead of taking a yoga class or talking to a stranger, we miss opportunities to connect with the people around us. Here are four simple tips to connect with others during your day.
1) Smile at Someone
Smiling takes very little energy and requires no money, and yet we rarely smile at a stranger in passing.
In fact, we smile at strangers so rarely that it could be perceived as strange behavior. But it’s not strange (as long as you’re not putting yourself or someone else in an uncomfortable situation)! A 2019 study from the Psychology Bulletin shows that smiling at someone has a “significant but small” effect on someone’s emotions. It’s like telling someone, “I see you” without words.
In one small moment, and with a gesture as simple as a smile, you can make someone feel appreciated, and receive a feeling of connection in return. Try sharing your smile when you’re walking into a store, a yoga class, or any room and watch the positivity unfold in front of you!
2) Make Eye Contact
Another easy way to connect to someone is through eye contact. In a study published by the Journal of General Psychology, subjects felt that “direct gaze blurred the other-self boundaries… participants felt a stranger who directly gazed at them to be closer and more similar to themselves.”
In other words, a mutual gaze initiates a sort of melding of the separation between yourself and another person. Making eye contact with someone you don’t know in a crowded room will very likely make both of you feel like you share a connection. Making direct eye contact in conversations with people you interact with regularly is also important. Why? Eye contact can be used to “show empathy, concern for others, to manage feelings or to help with communication.”
By looking at someone directly when they're talking to you, you’re telling them that what they have to say matters.
3) Take a Yoga Class
Whether you regularly practice yoga or not, there’s something to be said for taking group yoga classes or even a yoga teacher training.
Practicing on your own can be isolating. So, look up local yoga class classes and trainings in your area. Once you start practicing in a group class environment, you may begin to notice that you feel more connected to yourself and those around you. You can then smile at the person on the mat next to you or strike up a conversation with a fellow yogini before class.
4) Take the Question “How Are You?” Seriously
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked, “How are you?” and I’ve responded with the knee-jerk response “Great, how are you?” This is not really a conversation about how you are doing, and yet it’s such a common conversation framework.
Now, I challenge myself to be honest and vulnerable when asked that question. Maybe I am actually feeling great because I went on a nice run a few hours ago, or maybe I’m feeling overwhelmed with my responsibilities and deadlines. It’s important that I’m honest when I’m not doing great for a few reasons. First, because it erases the pressure for me to be perfect. Second, it assures the other person that he or she can be imperfect, too.
The world is full of imperfect people projecting a perfect image out of fear. So, admitting that you’re stressed, sad, or overwhelmed is a way to accept yourself and your emotions. Plus, answering honestly when you are asked how you’re doing is a win-win situation. You can talk about an accomplishment you’re proud of or something exciting you’ve got going on, and the listener can positively reinforce this. Or, you can share something that is burdening you and you may receive emotional support. Odds are, the listener will say, “me too.” Assuming your listener is supportive, expressing your vulnerability is a great way to connect.
If your listener does not positively reinforce you or offer emotional support, you may want to reconsider how often you interact with this person.
A Little Practice Goes a Long Way
Doing little things like smiling at people, making eye contact, taking yoga classes, and being honest about how you’re feeling can lead to more connectedness in your daily life.
There are many opportunities to put these four tips into practice! Whether you’re in an elevator, in a long line, or at a yoga class, choosing to connect to the people around you rather than scrolling through your phone can make a huge difference in your life. I’m not saying these are easy habits to start, but why not give these tips a try?
About Ocean Noah: Ocean is a content writer at Pretzel Kids yoga. Originally from Los Angeles, Ocean moved to San Francisco to study creative writing at San Francisco State University. She writes fiction, blog posts, and op-eds. Ocean is thrilled to write for Pretzel Kids, as her mother is a yogi too!