Should You Talk to Strangers?

blur of smile

A half dozen recent studies demonstrate the power that connecting with strangers has to make us happier. Research also suggests that that talking to strangers makes us luckier.

In one study, researchers randomly assigned volunteers to talk to the strangers who sat down next to them on the train during their morning commutes. Pretty much no one thought they were going to enjoy giving up their solitude to make small talk with someone they didn’t know and would probably never see again. But guess what? The volunteers enjoyed their commutes more than the people in the study who got to read their books and finish their crossword puzzles in silence. What’s more, not a single study participant was snubbed. Other research indicates that the strangers being chatted up in public spaces similarly think they won’t want to talk, but then end up enjoying themselves.

In another study, researchers measured how much people enjoyed interacting with people they barely knew, and how much they enjoyed connecting with loved ones. Turns out that interacting with both types of people made both introverts and extroverts happier — and the more social interactions they had, the happier people were.

Finally, research shows that even just acknowledging someone else’s presence by making eye contact and smiling at them helps people feel more connected. So yes: Talking to strangers strangely makes us happy.

Take Action: See how many strangers you can interact with today. Smile at the woman you pass getting on the bus. Chat up the barista. Compliment the grocery checker.

Join the Discussion: How does talking to strangers make you feel? Inspire others in the comments!

Blind Trust Experiment

A beautiful and moving demonstration of blind trust and and important reminder that we are all a part of a common humanity.

Thursday Thought

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. ― Clarissa Pinkola Estés

A Flourishing Life

I had another fun interview with Mindfulness 4 Mothers’ Kellie Edwards! Take a listen to her “A Flourishing Life” show.

CLICK HERE to play or right click to download .mp3 file of the interview
(Choose “save as” and then drag the downloaded file to iTunes or your music player.)

Do you have a middle-schooler?

2947544298_5a7d01e286_z I do! In fact, I have THREE middle schoolers. It’s safe to say I think a lot about this critical developmental period in children’s lives. Which is why I’m excited about a special interactive event where New York Times columnist Jess Lahey and I will be presenting as a part of Project EMSE (Excellence in Middle School Education). We’ll be looking at case studies and taking your questions about this tricky time in children’s lives.

The Happy Middle School Student
Tuesday, April 21st, 2015
7:00-9:00 PM
Crystal Springs Uplands
Hillsborough, CA 94010

Reserve Your Seats Now



Other upcoming events:

Tuesday, April 14, 2015
The Lindsay Olive Company, Corporate Retreat (Private Event)
Sacramento, CA

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Women’s Executive Leadership Program (Private Event)
Haas School of Business, Berkeley, CA

Thursday, April 30, 2015
Google, Inc.
Women’s Leadership Development Workshop (Private Event)
Calistoga, CA

Change The Way You Look At Women

Isn’t it time to see more realistic — and truly inspiring—images of women in the media? I’m sure ready. This video is a wonderful, and inspirational, start. I’ll be sharing it with my daughters today.

Thursday Thought

tt-whartonThere are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. –Edith Wharton

The Opposite of Optional

by MommyTasker

Finding the right balance can be tricky and takes concentration

If I take a brief scan of my life over the last decade where I have been working seriously, raising kids improvisationally, or doing both simultaneously, I can say with some certainty that if I ever allowed any “me time” to be “optional” there was a good chance that that me time thing – whatever it was – “didn’t happen”.

I’ll “try” to squeeze in a work out today…. didn’t happen or timing/activity/duration was sub-optimal.
I “should” make plans with my girlfriends…. weeks or even months would go by.
I’d “like” to get my hair done soon… roots for miles.

See how I actually managed to get things done for myself in the full post on MommyTasker

Break yourself off a piece of happiness

Photo by José Manuel Ríos Valiente

To celebrate the International Day of Happiness this past Friday, I participated in an interview with Snapchat Stories. Enjoy!

Snapchat: What’s one of the biggest myths about happiness?
CC: We think that happiness is a personality trait, when really it is better thought of as a skill, or a set of skills that we can learn and practice. Obviously we do have genetically-based personality differences, but I think of happiness like learning a language. Some people pick up languages really easily—especially those taught when they are young. Other people have to do more work to speak and write well. But either way, we all need to be taught the basic “grammar” and “vocabulary” of happiness, and we need to practice those things in order to become fluent.

How often should a “normal” person feel happy?
There is no normal; life can be difficult, and when it is, few people feel happy about it. We do know that once a person’s ratio of positive to negative exceeds about 3:1 (three positive emotions or experiences to every one negative) their whole system seems to change -— they are said to “flourish.” Flourishing people, who represent less than 20% of the population, are more creative and resilient in the face of difficulty.

Are people generally happier as children or adults?
Happiness levels change throughout the life course. Most research shows that people’s happiness tends to follow a U-shaped curve: it is highest when they are young, and it tends to bottom out between our late 30s and early 50s. Fortunately, happiness levels tend to rebound again around age 60.

Is there a “fake it ’til you make it” factor to getting happy?
“Faking it” only works when we aren’t pretending or performing. Facial expression alone, without first feeling a corresponding emotion, is often enough to create discernible changes in your nervous system. When you lift the corners of your lips and crinkle your eyes, for example, after a couple of minutes your body will release the feel-good brain chemicals associated with smiling. But pretending to feel something that we aren’t makes us feel worse; research shows that inauthenticity is corrosive to our health, especially our cardiovascular system. One way to “fake happiness” fairly effectively, though, is to put a pencil between your back teeth for a few minutes in order to activate your smile muscles. (A word of warning: I’ve found that this technique works for lightening up my mood, but it does make me drool.)

Can money buy happiness? At least a little bit of it?
The old adage is mostly true: Money doesn’t tend to buy much happiness (after our basic needs are met). In our culture we tend to confuse real happiness—profound joy and authentic contentment—with pleasure and gratification. Money does buy pleasure, but it takes a whole lot of money to increase your your overall happiness level just a little tiny bit. And money really can’t buy meaning, or fulfillment.

5 quick (and free) things you can do to find more happiness today:

1) Smile at the barista and strike up a short conversation. Or with the people sharing your elevator. Or with the crossing guard.

2) Increase your ratio of positive to negative emotions by watching a silly YouTube video, expressing gratitude to someone, or reading something inspiring. (Yes, you get credit for watching funny animal videos!)

3) Take a good old-fashioned recess in the middle of the day. For every 60 to 90 minutes that you focus, take a 10 to 15 minute break. Go outside and play! Or at least sit inside and daydream.

4) Repair a minor crack in an important relationship. Call your mom and invite her to lunch, even though your last conversation with her was tense. Find something nice to say to your spouse, even though he can be frustrating.

5) Establish a tiny happiness habit. Do a daily crossword puzzle if that does it for you. Read a favorite magazine at lunchtime. Throw the ball for your dog every morning. What would make you really happy if you did it every day?

Thursday Thought

Nothing determines who we will become so much as those things we choose to ignore. –Sandor McNab