I just read an article about some research that both confirmed what I knew and added a twist. First the confirmation: happier people spent 25 percent less time alone and 70 percent more time talking than unhappier people in the study. I have long preached the importance of spending time with the good people in your life. The twist in this research is that the happier people were having more substantive conversations than the unhappier folk, whose conversations were described as “trivial small talk.” That was news to me.
While the research shows a correlation between the two types of conversations and the subjects’ relative well-being, I didn’t see that it proved that meaningful conversations cause happiness, or that small talk causes unhappiness. Perhaps happy people go out and have deep conversations on the meaning of life with their friends while unhappy people can only muster the strength to comment on the weather. Still, it might be worth trying to have some more meaningful conversations to see if that helps your mood.
And don’t forget, unhappier people spent more time alone not having any conversations at all! I suspect that it is better to have shallow conversations with people in your life than to have no conversations at all while sitting on your couch watching reruns of “Friends.”
Why am I mentioning this in a blog about stress? I’m making some assumptions here. First, clinical anxiety and depression often appear together. Second, many of the same things that can help you bring down depression — like exercise, eating right, and socializing — can also help you bring down anxiety. If having meaningful conversations actually helps you feel happier, then it may also help you feel less anxious. And, finally, if you are only stressed, not clinically anxious, then one change (like having deeper conversations) might have a powerful effect on your stress.
That’s a lot of assumptions. Still, different approaches help different people lower their stress. This one may just be the perfect fix for your stress. If not, you can always try another.
Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a get-acquainted session by phone or Skype to talk about what might be holding you back.