The happiness studies are piling up around us while we continue to ask the same questions. “What are the ingredients for a happy life? What makes our lives feel rich and colorful? Where do we find contentment?” Recently, it seems every article I read points to the same, simple thing: happiness grows when we are connected to other people.
I don’t think this is particularly shocking to anyone and yet, our calendars are busier than ever. The time for connection to ourselves, our surroundings, and others fits occassionally into an hour happy with the girls on Friday. (But it's a rush to get there!)
You don’t need to convince me that we, as humans, have a real longing for people and connection. While I love chatting up my UPS worker daily, I live alone and work from home. A hole in my soul begins opening wider and wider the longer I go without talking to someone. Sure, people experience this need at varying levels. But study after study is pretty consistent. There is a deep, undeniable need to know and be known by other humans.
So, human connection, huh? My real world distractions start listing themselves in my head. “I’m in a different time zone than many of my friends, so phone calls are difficult to schedule. My work and side hustle consume so many waking hours, and I feel I don’t have the time. Does sending memes on Instagram count?” Etc. Etc. I’ve rearranged them and alphabetized them over the years. I’m well acquainted with my excuses to pick up a phone.
But, what if 8 minutes of your day was set aside to connect? 480 seconds of relationship building daily? Or weekly? Or you know what, forget the schedule. We’re all scheduled to the breaking point of insanity. Whenever you can set aside 8 minutes, do it.
I often feel anxious that I’ll run out of time, but what if I’m approaching this all wrong? What if these 8 minutes aren’t an energy or time withdrawal. What if these 8 minutes are a deposit into my happiness bank. My relationship account with an incredible interest rate that pays out richly for the rest of my life!
OK, 8 minutes. Let’s go.
I took out my fancy fountain pen that feels so nice to write with. I poured my coffee. And I sat down to write a letter.
Gasp! A what? Yes, a letter. With a stamp and envelope. For 8 minutes, I wrote about my life. The flowers I bought at Trader Joes. I sat in silence and pictured my friend’s day and asked questions about their life. Did they ever buy themselves flowers? What was their favorite flower? (I never said I was Pat Conroy over here. I’m just committing to 8 minutes.)
I covered the envelope in colorful Washi Tape. I slapped that stamp on the front and off it went to make someone’s day. And I’m pretty sure it made their day because
#1 isn’t a handwritten note one of the simple joys in life? And
#2 I received a letter back a week later. (Her favorite flower is an orange Gerber Daisy.)
It’s my hack. It’s my quiet, perhaps meditative 8 minutes of connection that works for my life. While it doesn't replace the cherished but hard to schedule hour long phone calls with friends scattered across the country, it’s a small cash deposit into my happiness bank. And I’m not missing those 8 minutes at all!