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I was stumped for about twenty minutes trying to start writing this post. I couldn’t figure out why I was having so much trouble trying to communicate something so simple — then it dawned on me…
I’m having trouble because it is so simple.
I’m going to tell you about research showing that having a quality conversation with a friend just once a day can increase your happiness and lower your stress level by the end of the day.
To me, this seems like a no-brainer.
Of course, talking to people is good for you! But it seems there’s a little more to it than that…
What makes a social network a biome
The ecosystem of unique bacteria that inhabits each of our guts is known as the gut ‘microbiome. When it’s well-balanced, the digestive system functions well and contributes to the wellness of your entire body.
Well, the same could be said for our social network — or what Dr. Jeffrey Hall, director of the Relationships and Technology Lab at the University of Kansas, considers our social biome…
He coined this term as part of his Communicate Bond Belong (CBB) theory. It explains the connection between moments of communication and social interaction and our sense of well-being.
For example, in healthy social biomes, about two-thirds of daily interactions are with close friends and family.
A person with a healthy social biome has a good deal of control over how and when they interact and therefore is also content to be alone when that’s necessary.
Not surprisingly, most of us are probably still suffering some damage to our social biomes, thanks to the restraints we endured during the pandemic.
But what kind of interaction — and how much — do you need to turn that around and help your social biome thrive?
What makes for a conversation with benefits?
“The types of communication we chose to study were ones shown in past research to make people feel more bonded through conversation,” says Dr. Hall.
There are seven of them:
- Catching up
- Meaningful talk
- Joking around
- Showing care
- Valuing others and their opinions
- Offering sincere compliments
Over 900 study participants were asked to engage in one of these seven communication behaviors on a particular day. Then they reported back that night about the quality of their day and feelings such as stress, connection, anxiety, well-being or loneliness.
Can you guess which one stood out? Not a single one…
It didn’t seem to matter which of these seven quality conversations someone had. What mattered was that they intentionally reached out to a friend in one of these ways.
“This study suggests that anyone who makes time for high-quality conversation can improve their well-being. We can change how we feel on any given day through communication. Just once is all it takes,” Hall said.
What feelings seemed to have been most affected? Quality conversations made participants feel connected and that, in turn, helped them feel less stress.
However, the study found two factors that provided a little extra “oomph”:
- Participants who chose to have more quality conversations had better days.
- If at least one of their quality conversations was face-to-face.
Don’t dismiss small talk
On a personal note, I can tell you unequivocally that I feel happier and more centered on the days when I open my window and call “Good morning!” out to my neighbor as she walks her dog, as opposed to when I just stay at my desk as she walks by.
Dr. Hall would call this kind of talk “nutritious.”
His CBB theory says that we each have a limited amount of energy to spend on social interactions, so some of them need to be easy and quick, like my saying good morning to my neighbor and maybe talking about the weather.
“Small talk is disparaged as being awful, but in some sense, checking in with another person and letting them know that you’re glad that you’re sharing a space with them is absolutely critical to a sense of community, and to our sense of social nutrition,” says Dr. Hall.
The bottom line: Whether you consider yourself an extrovert or an introvert … whether you live solo or with a house full of people… making the effort to converse with others at least once a day is important to your well-being.
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Quality Conversation Can Increase Daily Well-Being — SAGE journals
Communicate Bond Belong Theory (CBB) – Research — The University of Kansas