The secret to a happy life is...
Research tells us that high-quality relationships help us live longer and happier, yet many of us still arrange our lives around work and the accumulation of things. How can you make the shift toward building your life around people?
I'm excited to share these 5 ideas based on research that will help you enjoy the happiness benefits of good relationships.
1. Convince yourself that the people hypothesis is true
For the next week, write down the top three highlights of your day. It may surprise you (as it did me) to discover how many highlights involve people, and how many involve casual interactions with friendly strangers. Talking to strangers is something we tend to shy away from, but if you want to invite highlights and happiness into your day, the research clearly states that you should make a point of striking up a friendly conversation with a stranger. Especially if you’re an introvert.
Find out more about the joys of talking to strangers in The Happiness Lab episode, “Mistakingly Seeking Solitude.”
Please watch this classic TED Talk in which Robert Waldinger, lead researcher of The Harvard Study of Adult Development, presents compelling evidence that good relationships keep us happier and healthier.
2. Make friends like the Okinawans
Okinawa Japan is a “Blue Zone” where it’s not unusual to encounter a person 100 years of age or older. One of the secrets of Okinawan longevity is the moai, a tradition of lifelong friendship in which people form social support groups that begin in childhood and continue throughout life. If you don’t have a moai, it’s not too late to set one up. Recently, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the current (and former) US Surgeon General, decided to form a moai with two friends. Dave, Sonny, and Vivek committed to video conference once a month for two hours, to text one another when important things (good or bad) came up in their lives, and to be real with each other about topics friends don’t often talk about—health, finances, and failures. Making a commitment like Vivek Murthy, in which expectations are crystal clear, is the secret to creating a successful moai.
“Over the last year, that moai with Sonny and Dave has been transformative for me.”
- Vivek Murthy
Find out more about Vivek Murthy’s moai and the five-minute photo show-and-tell that can add some humanity to your business meetings in the “How to Know You’re Lonely” episode of the How to Build a Happy Life podcast.
3. What about the people who bug you?
People can bring us joy but frankly, at times they can annoy or even enrage. Former ABC news anchor and current meditation evangelist Dan Harris has a solution. Mentally wish the people who trigger you well. In the heat of the moment, wishing someone well may be the last thing you want to do, but meditation can help you lengthen the gap between someone's annoying action and your response. Inserting the wish “May you be happy” into the gap could be the difference between a blip in an otherwise good day, and a good day crashing into road rage.
Find out more about how you can manage your feelings so that they don’t manage you in this How to Build a Happy Life interview with Dan Harris.
4. “You see, but you do not observe.”
- Sherlock Holmes
We’re not taught to observe, to use all of our senses to decode the world around us, but it’s a critical skill for fictional detectives and experienced FBI agents such as Joe Navarro. Navarro asserts that honing your ability to observe will enrich your life and deepen your relationships. The idea is not to observe with a critical eye, but to ask yourself: “What would provide psychological comfort to this person at this moment?” You may believe that what people want from you is your attention, but what they really want is to feel safe.
5. The CIA technique that will help you build relationships
You me, same same. As the name of the technique suggests, you me, same same is about finding a topic of shared genuine interest and diving in together. It helps to be a well-rounded person with the breadth of knowledge of a Jeopardy! champion, but even if you don’t know a lot about the topic that your conversation partner is passionate about, you can build rapport by being a captivated student. Just be sure to take notes. Seriously. You’ll forget most of the conversation if you don’t write down what you learned, and will impress your new friend the next time you meet with all you remembered about them and their favorite subject.
Source: Harvard Business Review “5 Techniques to Build Rapport with Your Colleagues.”
Your Recharge Quote of the Week:
“When you get to the end of your life, the sum total of all the things you paid attention to will have been your life.”
- Oliver Burkeman, from NPR Life Kit