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There’s an interesting question on a happiness survey I take regularly. It’s simply labeled question #8, and it asks you to choose one of these items based on how you feel
- I feel cut off from other people.
- I feel neither close to nor cut off from other people.
- I feel close to friends and family members.
- I feel close to most people, even if I do not know them well.
- I feel close to everyone in the world.
That last one always gets me. What a nice feeling it must be to feel close to everyone in the world. Delusional, but nice.
But I see that sentence every month, over and over. "How on earth do people really feel close to everyone in the world?" I start to wonder. If you feel close to everyone in the world, does that make you happier? And how is feeling close to friends and family members the “average” of the available answers? It’s strangely third on on the scale of one to five. Feeling close to friends and family members is weighed neutrally?
Can it be assumed that “I feel close to everyone in the world” is intended to be the best and ideal answer out of the five choices? Let’s look at the other end of the scale.
Sure, feeling cut off from other people feels downright awful. Even for introverts, feeling isolated and left out from get-togethers is a cut to your self-esteem. And if you feel like you can’t turn to anyone for support, you feel desolate.
So the question does imply that feeling close to everyone in the world makes you happiest. But let’s think about this for a second.
How many people do you come across in a day that you don’t think twice about? When you go to the grocery store and are milling through the aisles, how many times do you stop to smile at someone or truly ponder about what their day is like or what they do for a living? Hardly at all. We tend only to notice people when they’re in our way.
This goes back to the David Foster Wallace This Is Water speech. We’re all in a world where we don’t know what we’re surrounded by. We don’t take the time to appreciate what’s around us, and we feel less and less compassion for our fellow man every day. DFW invites the graduates at his commencement speech to pay attention to the world they’re entering and not take it for granted.
How do we apply this in our every day lives? It’s so easy to get into a pattern of feeling distant from people that don’t have an immediate impact on our day.
I was wandering around Target with Adams the other night when, out of inspiration or out of sheer hunger in anticipation of dinner, I began to wonder: how many people in here are going through the exact same things we are? Are they putting the same amount of consideration into their facial tissue purchase as I am? Are they going to treat themselves to a new shirt just because?
And on a bigger scale: Are they having the best day of their lives? The worst? Are they going home to a happy full house or going home alone?
And then on a weirder, more personal scale: Is it possible that they would read my blog or book?
I continued intently (and probably creepily) staring at one person at a time in that Target, creating a story in my mind about what she does, what she dreams of doing, what she’s most scared of, what her day was like, what her significant other is like, etc. Suddenly I felt a warmth come over me and it made me realize how similar we all are.
Is the checkout lady just like my best friend? Is the man in front of me at line like my uncle? Is the woman looking at me strangely doing the same thing I’m doing to her?
So often we get wrapped up in our own stuff. We’re in a hurry to work on our own agendas and we don’t see other people. But according to that happiness survey, we could be doing ourselves a disservice by not taking the time to pause to think about other random people we come across.
How do we work to feel more connected to everyone in the world, and not just our closest friends and family members?
4 Small Ways to Feel More Connected
Find your tribe
The good news, the internet makes the world a lot smaller. The women and men I’ve met through blogging and design circles both online and through meet-ups never cease to amaze me. It’s a huge relief to find your people in a community dedicated to your common interests and be able to bounce things off of them. You’re already on the same wavelengths. Introduce yourself and make friends, help each other, and geek out on stuff together. It’s an incredibly rewarding endeavor once you’ve found your tribe.
Take time to say hi to people, and really mean it
Simply saying hi to people you know, asking them how they are, and stopping to listen can really change the way you feel about your coworkers or acquaintances. You don’t have to be a happiness bully, like author Gretchen Rubin perfectly describes in her books. Don’t shove morning sunshine down peoples’ throats. If you catch them in a good spot, engage in a brief and honest conversation, even if it is something as cliché as what they did that past weekend. Genuinely caring and listening to others will go far, and may even be reciprocated.
Be a supporter
Help others where you can. Don't just support your friends, but support your acquaintances (a.k.a. the we’re-only-really-Facebook-friends-friends) in their endeavors. Cheer for your coworkers when they make a good presentation. This doesn’t have to be over the top either; a high five or a quick email or text will do. Radio silence is strange. It doesn’t benefit either party, and it won’t make you feel more connected to anyone.
Case and point: since I wrote the My Miracle Morning post and shared it on social media, Hal Elrod (the author of The Miracle Morning book) took time to like, share, and comment on my post. He invited me to join his Facebook group to chat with other likeminded individuals (which ties nicely back to the tribe thing). In Hal’s Facebook group, he takes time to like almost everyone’s posts and comments. Hal Elrod has changed many peoples’ lives, so getting support from him in any arena feels amazing. Personally, it makes me feel more connected to him and his mission, and it makes me want to engage in his Facebook group and share his book even more.
This is both the easiest and most difficult thing to do. This involves chilling out when you’re out in a crowded area and you feel like other people are holding you back by getting in your way. It’s easy because all you have to do is slow down and relax. It’s hard because relaxing can be one of the hardest things to remember to do, especially when you’re in a rush or you’re having a bad day.
I had this fortune cookie once that said:
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting their own battles.
Try to remember that every person is human just like you. They have their own crap going on. They may be having the best day of their lives or the worst. So, chill out and cut everyone some slack.
To feel more connected to people, I can’t recommend going to your local Target or crowded city park and staring at others until you’ve “figured them out” in your mind. It’s not healthy and you may end up in a fight with someone who feels like you’re all up in their space.
If feeling connected to others is a huge part of being happy, try finding your tribe, chilling out, supporting others, and saying “how are you” and really meaning it. The world will be a better place for it.
How close do you feel to everyone in the world?
Cover photo by Ron Smith