Connect — “Other people matter”

If you were looking for a summary of what science has discovered is at the core of improving wellbeing, this might be it.

The frequency and quality of our connections with those around us, including family, friends, colleagues and neighbours, have a profound impact on our health and happiness.

It is in the company of the others that we often experience pleasure, share jokes and joy, are given companionship, support, love and kindness.

Research has found that flourishing — feeling good and functioning well — is positively related to having quality social relationships. Strong social networks, not only foster our wellbeing, but can act as a buffer against stress and anxiety.

The relationship between wellness and social relationships is not such as a surprise when you consider that as a species we are hard-wired to inter-connect. We have a biological need for social interaction and each time we positively interact with someone, the pleasure-inducing hormone oxytocin is released. This has a number of biological benefits, including reducing anxiety and improving focus and alertness.

The greater the quality, frequency and length of the connections we make the better we tend to function. This is applicable to all aspects of our lives, including work. In fact, our interactions with others at work may be the best way to improve our wellbeing.

This may explain why research by Gallup found that employees who had high-quality friendships at work were seven times more likely to be engaged in their work than those that didn’t. The Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the longest running psychological studies of all time, has found that social connections go beyond predicting overall happiness but also our eventual career achievement, occupational success and income.

So people, and our day-to-day interactions, really do matter. The Connect pillar of the “five ways” of wellbeing is arguably one of the most important but also fortunately one of easiest to do something about — most of us will have the opportunity to interact with lots of different people on a daily basis.

Proven approaches to improve our social connections

There are an abundance of reasons to carefully think about the quality and frequency of the connections we make with others. Here are three ideas to improve the quality of our interactions.

1) Your complete focus and attention

Stop what you are doing and take a moment to truly make eye contact and focus intently on what someone is saying.

Now this seems incredibly straightforward. And it is. But too often we float through interactions without giving people our true focus and attention. To demonstrate you are listening to someone, just give them your full attention, supported with lots of eye contact. For example, when a colleague comes up to you when you at your desk, stop what you are doing, turn to face them (or stand up) and give them your full attention.

2) Respond actively and constructively

When someone shares good news, be interested, curious and engaged.

When we communicate actively, it shows our engagement and interest. Being constructive in our communication encourages celebration and shows our support. This technique has been shown to foster appreciation and a sense of connection when compared with other more neutral conversational styles.

Next time someone shares some positive information with you, respond actively and constructively by asking positive questions. This enables the other person to continue sharing and savoring their positive feelings. For example, if a colleague shares some positive feedback about a meeting they just had, ask them some further questions such as: “that sounds fantastic, well done, what exactly did X say to you?”

3) Say thanks — genuinely

Practice showing gratitude and appreciation for the work of your colleagues.

Giving thanks and practicing gratitude benefits not only you but those around you. Showing appreciation has been found to directly improve levels of positivity and the quality of relationships in the workplace. Studies have also found that generosity and gratitude is contagious. By giving sincere thanks and appreciation to a colleague, you in turn may encourage your colleague (or your colleague’s colleague) to say thanks.

Take the time to sincerely thank someone each day at work.

Where possible give specific rather generic thanks. For example, rather than just thanking your colleague for their help on a report (although this would be nice), single out the specific help or assistance they gave, such as “I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on my report — your insights made is crisper and clearer.”

How are you going to connect with others? Join the conversation on social media using #Juicevocates or comment below, we’d love to hear from you.

Written for Juice by our friends at Tailored Thinking.

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