“We human beings are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.” ― Dalai Lama XIV
Social connection often is an overlooked aspect of our well-being. Often when we are not feeling our best we pull away from others, we spend time mulling over our thoughts on our own, we try not to burden others with our troubles.
Instead, we should be doing the exact opposite.
Science proves that reaching out and connecting to others is exactly what we should be doing to enhance our well-being. As the Dalai Lama states in the quote above, we benefit from the relationships we build with others. Relationships can be hard to build and sustain, especially when physical distance is a barrier.
Here are three tips for cultivating positive relationships that will enhance our well-being.
1. Connect authentically
What type of communication channel is most comfortable for you? Is it talking on the phone, texting, chatting through social media, FaceTime? Think about how you can connect with others in the most authentic way. The time you spend connecting should be quality time. Make the most of it by using the type of communication channel that allows you to be yourself, allows you to spend quality time with others. For example, I find that I get less distracted when I’m on FaceTime, it forces me to look at who I am talking to and I have more meaningful conversations.
Summary: Identify the way you connect best and use it.
2. Hone your listening skills
Using good listening skills allows you to focus, engage, and create a meaningful connection with the person talking. It also encourages others to do the same. Having quality conversations requires the people involved to be empathetic and engaged. Good listening skills ― being attentive, asking open-ended questions, asking probing questions, requesting clarification, paraphrasing and summarizing ― do not require you to agree/disagree, offer advice, or fix problems; they help you understand and support other people.
Summary: During moments of connection, listening is key.
3. Seek out connections
Connection can happen through a variety of ways, and we can feel social connections to others we have things in common with and share experiences with. We can build these connections through our involvement and active participation in activities like community service, fitness classes or groups, book or cooking clubs, and other hobbies or interests that are with others ― the great thing is that they do not have to be in-person activities. Connection can happen virtually through Facebook groups or text chats. One thing to remember is that you contribute to the group connection by participating!
Summary: Once you find a way to connect, keep connecting!
Consider doing an inventory of your social network, who are you regularly connecting with and how. Are you finding joy from these connections? Are they enhancing your well-being? Perhaps you can use the tips above to set a goal that can help you build and maintain a positive social network. Be creative and stick to the topics, activities, and people that fill your life with meaning and support, we are all in this life together.