Answers In Love

Winning at Life God's Way

10 Simple Ways To Improve Your Health and Connect With People Around You


My husband  and I recently completed an exhausting road trip, but one break from the road became an oasis.

Just after the lunch rush, we parked outside a Skyline Chili near Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati’s famous chili parlors offer drive-through service, but we wanted to get out of the car and stretch our legs. We entered the restaurant, chose a booth and sat down.

Soon a cheerful server appeared to take our order. My husband asked about her Roll Tide pin and we were off! Our ensuing conversation covered favorite teams, geographic origins, locations of extended families, current places of residence, marriage, family and children.

We discovered we had common experiences with the server. That led to personal commentary and affirmation of shared values. Our server took our order. We ate our lunch, paid our bill and left feeling re-energized by our experience.

Our encounter with the friendly server made us feel good. It also bore out recent research suggesting that talking to strangers is good for others and for you.

Research On Connecting With Strangers:

Most people don’t believe talking to strangers will make anyone feel happier. Do you?

Drs. Nicolas Epley (University of Chicago) and Elizabeth Dunn (University of British Columbia) designed separate scientific experiments to find out. Dr. Epley worked with commuters on Chicago trains. Dr. Dunn studied patrons of a Vancouver Starbucks.

The professors worked independently but achieved matching results. Chicago commuters experienced a boost in mood after conversing with other commuters. Starbucks patrons felt happier and more connected after chatting with baristas.

Follow-up studies showed talking to strangers:

  • benefits introverts and extroverts
  • helps those who initiate conversations and their targets
  • makes wait times seem shorter

Related Research

Other studies show that overuse of technology contributes to loneliness. One Australian study found 42 percent of adult participants using an average of four methods of technology to communicate (email, SMS, Facebook, Twitter) felt lonely. Only 11 percent of participants using just one method felt lonely.

An additional study reported in the New York Times describes the current epidemic of loneliness as a serious public health problem leading to physical illness, cognitive decline, and early death. Other research links loneliness to:

  • High levels of perceived stress
  • Negative emotions
  • High levels of stress hormones
  • High blood pressure and circulatory problems
  • Diminished quality and efficiency of sleep
  • Inability to “stay on track” mentally

The facts are in! Connection makes us happy. Overuse of technology makes us lonely, and loneliness depletes health. God’s Word tells us to reach out and greet people outside our own circles:

    … if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?

   Do not even pagans do that?

  (Matthew 5:47)

Trends Working Against Connection

As we continued on our journey after lunch that day, I pondered our pleasant exchange with the server. I also thought about the modern conveniences that deplete our opportunities for such exchanges, including:

  • Smart phones
  • ATM’s
  • Social media
  • Drive through windows
  • Restaurant order-ahead apps
  • Self check-out scanners
  • Online shopping
  • Online banking
  • Online education
  • Drive through car washes

Conveniences bring positives into our lives but also increase isolation. No doubt you’ve observed:

  • people sitting and standing near each other in public in silence as they stare into smart phones
  • crowds of isolated people sitting in cars lined up at drive-thru windows

These scenes reflect our times and diminished experience of community. Technology discourages us from even trying to enjoy each other.

Easy Ways To Connect

I plan to intentionally look for more opportunities to connect face-to-face with the people around me. God wants us to connect. Research shows it helps everyone.

Most of us could use a little more face-to-face time in our lives. We can increase our experience of personal interfacing  by taking just some of the following steps some of the time:

  1. Choose to meet in person.
  2. Share routines with a friend (eating, exercising, shopping)
  3. Speak to strangers in public (stores, gyms, lines, outdoors)
  4. Eat inside restaurants
  5. Use staffed check-out lines
  6. Attend in-person seminars (vs. webinars).
  7. Shop brick and mortar stores.
  8. Use get-out-of-your vehicle car washes.
  9. Go to church (versus finding sermons on media).
  10. Use public transportation.

We can improve our quality of life by connecting more with people around us – including strangers. It’s a simple way to love God, others and our selves. But be prepared …God just might send some pretty surprising blessings through a door you open by talking to some random stranger!

Your Turn

What about you? Do you reach out to the strangers you meet as you go about your daily business? Do you feel a bit isolated because of your reliance on technology? If so, what steps can you take to increase your experience of connection? Let me know!



About Cheryl Savageau

Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor

6 Replies

  1. Tricia

    I talk to strangers and I try to say something encouraging most of the time. If I don’t speak I try to make sure I have a smile on my face. There is so much negativity in the world that sometimes a smile, a thank you, or a “hang in there” can make all the difference.

  2. Thank you for posting this! I’m going o check out this research and incorporate it into my communication training classes. It makes sense, but it’s amazing how easily we accept the tech trends that “make life easier.” Obviously, they really don’t.

  3. Another idea: Lose the earbuds when going for a walk in your neighborhood! It is intimidating to talk to a neighbor when they must first be interrupted from their programmed listening.

    1. Cheryl Savageau

      Great idea, Beth. Thanks!

    2. Cynthia Owens

      And much safer, too!

  4. Catherine

    I agree with your findings. I’m and introvert and it’s many times difficult to speak to people I don’t know. However God want us to reach out and connect with others. I have tried smiling more which is a beginning. People tend to reach out more to someone else with a smile. Sometimes it just makes someone’s day or starts a conversation. Thanks for your encouraging words.

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