10 Ways to be More Connected in 2016

If nothing else New Year’s resolutions offer people a moment of pause to consider how they can improve their lives in the coming year. As many of you contemplate what your resolutions will be, I urge you to consider choosing resolutions that focus on prioritizing connecting with others and modeling this for your children. Studies suggest that the most successful children are ones with the ability to show empathy for others and human connection is the foundation of empathy.

Think about how often you take the time to smile at others and ask them how they are. Taking time out to make people feel good helps you in the process. Today we are consumed with technology and statistics indicate that 93% of people own devices or smart phones. Many of us are unmoved when we get interrupted at dinner to answer a text and we don’t think twice when we see someone texting as they make their way down a street. We are so consumed ourselves with what’s happening virtually that we have become immune to how far removed many of us from our present experiences.

Interactions and behaviors that many of took for granted when growing up a generation or two ago are either lost or near lost. Instead of being consumed with every aspect of your friends life on face book, consider how your are actually treating others. Think about the times that you were with family, friends or even strangers in the past week and ask yourselves “Did I treat others like I care about them?” “Am I showing my children how to behave towards others and demonstrating the golden rule?” and “Did I represent myself to others as the person that I know I am?”

All this texting, posting and tweeting has made the current generation more vulnerable to feeling disconnected and alienated from others. It’s not like it was one or two generations ago when people greeted strangers and friends alike when meeting on the street, or offered a hand to a struggling person or held the door for those behind them.

Many of us talk about feeling disconnected without taking specific actions to become more connected. I’m suggesting that now is the time to decide to manage our tech use despite the constant flashing of our smart phones. We can choose to ignore the beeps and instead focus on experiencing life around us, in the moment. We can tell ourselves to find opportunities to connect with others at the next school or athletic event instead of burying our heads in smart phones and devices.

Too often we overlook how we come across because we don’t value and recognize the immediate benefit. We may even think, “Who cares if I smile at the grocer or mailman or the person down the street?” We may justify our lack of social efforts by telling ourselves that “ I was preoccupied or multitasking and I didn’t bother to stop”. The truth is when we make an attempt to connect to others, we are the ones to receive the greatest benefit.

As a society, we’ve become complacent and we’ve forgotten that one of the best feelings is to touch another person’s soul through acts of kindness. When we thoughtlessly rush through life, relying on technology to fill the parts of us that need human connection, we become alienated and isolated from ourselves, and those around us. This negatively impacts our children who will grow up without any knowledge of the way people used to greet and treat each other and practice social courtesies as part of everyday life. Consider, making a few adjustments this year. And if you are introverted or shy, you don’t have to talk to people to be socially connected. A mere smile or a friendly wave communicates to others that you acknowledge them. Think about how different the world would be next year at this time if we each committed to regularly practice even two of the following behaviors as part of our New Year’s resolutions:

1. Acknowledge strangers and acquaintances with a social greeting like a smile, wave or hello.

2. Complement one person every day

3. Call close friends and family to say hello instead of texting

4. Commit to being fully present and device free at meal time

5. Engage fully in conversations without interruption from devices and smart phones. Be present

and look at directly at the person sharing

6. Stay positive despite the struggles in the world at large

7. Focus on the present, be mindful and don’t allow yourself to be distracted

8. Offer assistance to an elderly or handicapped person

9. Engage in at least one community service project

10. Seek to understand others and refrain from judgment

Dr. Kate Roberts is a psychologist and parent coach on the North Shore. Questions can be directed to www.drkateroberts.com www.twitter.com/DrKateParenting, www.facebook.com/Dr.KateRoberts.

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