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#FuelHappiness Week 5: Nourish Your Connections

It's Week 5 of our #FuelHappiness Challenge with lululemon athletica, and this week's practice is: NOURISH YOUR CONNECTIONS.

According to our friends at lululemon, the biggest predictor of happiness is the number of people that we feel like we can count on.

But it isn't just about our feelings. Research suggests that feeling isolated from others can: disrupt sleep, elevate blood pressure, increase morning rises in the stress hormone cortisol, alter gene expression in immune cells, increase depression, and lower overall subjective well-being.

In a society that values hard work, success and wealth, many of us don't spend enough time building our “social capital.” We connect on social media but don't cultivate real relationships. When we're busy and stressed out (like around the holidays!), we can have an even greater urge to retreat. But we really need to do the opposite. And when we do, we become happier, healthier and more fun to be around. 

If you want to build high-quality connections with other people, make time for them; be present, compassionate, and supportive; share gratitude; be trustworthy; celebrate the good news; and make time to have fun. And follow these tips to #FuelHappiness: 

The next time you're in a conversation with someone you want to be more connected with, ask to hear what's on his or her mind. This is your chance to truly listen and make him or her feel understood, increasing the opportunity for a real connection to occur.

Paraphrase: “I hear you saying _______.”

Ask poignant questions: “When you say ____, do you mean _____?”

Express empathy: “I understand _____.” Or “I've experienced _____ too.” Try not to solve the problem or give advice.

Avoid judgment: try to accept what they're saying, even if you disagree.

Use engaged body language: face them, nod, make eye contact, relax.

Collaboration is one of the foundations of connection—this one's obviously an investment but we can guarantee it's worth the reward.

You probably already intuitively know this but shared experiences make you happier and are a key ingredient in social connection.[5-5] Plan a group sweat, have a party, cook a meal, volunteer together or go on a road trip. What can you do this week with someone that will bring you together?

Think of someone who is very, very different from you—even someone you may not like. Got 'em in your head? Great. Now take five to ten minutes to write a list of things you have in common (When you think about it, you almost have the exact same DNA). Write how this experience has made you see them in a new light. This exercise has shown to make you more generous, and being more generous makes you happy.