Happiness windfalls are rare. A growing body of scientific research has found that many small-scale positive events add up to improved well-being and happiness. The key is to seek out magical and memorable moments throughout your day, essentially micro-dosing on happiness. 

And how do you do that exactly?

Simple, according to a recent study. Strike up a short conversation with a stranger. If that's too intimidating, at least make eye contact and smile at a stranger

There are numerous opportunities to do this without getting stuck in a vicious cycle of awkward small talk. You could chat with the person waiting in line behind you to get coffee. Or say hello to someone on the elevator. You could flash a smile at one of your fellow commuters on the train.

Above all, it's important to do this: Put your smartphone away for a few minutes. When you're waiting in line or step onto the elevator, pocket your smartphone and smile at a stranger instead. Doing this is more likely to lead to a positive human interaction than sticking your nose in your screen ever will. 

Why you should talk to strangers

An earlier study by psychologists Elizabeth Dunn and Gillian M. Sandstrom found that social interactions between strangers could boost people's moods. Even though most people are reluctant to strike up a conversation with someone they don't know in public, most people reported positive feelings afterwards. 

Hiding behind our smartphones

Building upon these results, Dunn led a new study to explore if smartphones could be getting in the way of us experiencing these happiness boosts. It's aptly titled, "Smartphones reduce smiles between strangers."

Human beings are social creatures. Yet how many times have you been surrounded by other humans, all with their heads buried in their phones? 

The researchers found that participants were less likely to interact if they had their smartphones in hand. Being constantly connected to our phones diminishes the likelihood that we'll engage with those humans immediately around us. ​

Published on: Jul 30, 2019
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