If you were in an elevator with one other person, which would you do?
A - Stare at your shoes
B - Pull out your cell phone
C - Make brief eye contact
D - Initiate chit chat
The majority of people would do B, pull out their cell phone and avoid the chance to interact with a stranger.
But here's the thing, research says that a smile, a wave, a conversation... simple interaction with a stranger is an easy way to boost your mood.
Nicholas Epley, a scientist from the University of Chicago, found that most people have a fear that the other person, the stranger, won't enjoy talking to us so we don't interact at all. He also found that when we do talk to each other, social interactions with strangers tend to be less awkward and more enjoyable than we predict.
So if interactions with strangers are better than we think they will be, then why do we avoid them?
Another study from Georgetown University shows that short interactions with strangers can lift your mood, even if it's just a smile. So boosting your mood by talking to strangers is an easy way to add positivity in your life.
The researchers also found that the participants in their study who had quick interactions with strangers had a greater mood and felt a greater sense of belonging in their community.
If talking to strangers can boost our mood and not be as bad as we think it's going to be, why don't we do it more often? We look down at our cell phones and show more interest on the screen than in the people around us.
But if we took the time to talk to strangers in our community (at the grocery store, the bank, the dog park, the post office, wherever we are!), it would increase our moods AND increase the mood of others in our community.
But hey, you may be saying, "I can't do that. Talking to strangers makes me uncomfortable, gives me hives, causes a panic attack," there's an alternative.
Research also says that moods can be improved by simply smiling and making eye contact. You don't even have to speak to get a mood booster!
Nicholas Epley continues to say that a happy life is made up of a high frequency of positive events and even small positive experiences will make a difference in our moods. He explains that happiness is a little like a leaky tire in a car. We have to keep pumping it up to maintain it. We need to be more intentional with our interactions with strangers to boost our moods.
1 - Don't make it all about you. Don't let your feelings or your bad mood dictate whether or not you interact with a stranger. Everybody goes through bad moods and has a bad day. And we don't want to pass that along to others. Think "how can I encourage someone else today? How can I acknowledge someone?"
2 - Put your phone down. Have your face up looking at other people. Don't be so consumed with your phone when you are in public places. Take the time to interact with strangers.
3 - See. Smile. Speak. See the person: make eye contact. Smile at the person. Then speak to the person if you can.
Follow these tips to boost your mood and boost the moods of others, feel more encouraged, and create a sense of belonging for you and others.
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