Happiness Workout #4: Creating Community
Note: this series of short essays was an experiment to see if I could help my friends and family become happier. In its original form, it was an email sequence that was sent on a weekly basis. Due to other commitments, I ended the email sequence, but wanted to publish the content in case you, dear reader, find it helpful.
Here's something you already know: spending time with people you like is good for happiness.
Here's something you may not know: spending more time with people you like could give you as much happiness as a $100,000 raise at work.
Specifically, the research paper "Putting a Price Tag on Friends, Relatives, and Neighbors" suggests that increasing social involvement is worth up to an extra £85,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction. Yes, that seems insane to me as well. Yes, there's probably something funny going on in the study's methodology. But even if it is over-exaggerating the benefits by 300%, it's still a damn significant benefit!
Imagine being able to give yourself a raise at work. Imagine how happy that'd make you. Now recognise that you already can get that happiness just by becoming more socially engaged. As Harvard's happiness researcher Dan Gilbert says:
We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.
In that spirit, this week's workouts are going to be centered around creating community and getting more happiness out of our friends and family.
Stay strong, stay happy,
Week #4 Basic Workout: Create a New Digital Group
To begin connecting more with our friends and family, it's useful to have an excuse to talk regularly. I find this is particularly true of men (please don't #cancel me), or at least the men in my life. But everyone can benefit when they have more groups in their lives that keep them socially engaged.
This week's workout: start a new WhatsApp/iMessage group, ideally with people who you think would like each other but don't yet know each other.
To make this less awkward, I'd suggest you find a topic that you're interested in and build the group around that. For example, in the past I've created WhatsApp groups around the NBA, specific musical genres, and cryptocurrency trading (this one has gotten awfully quiet lately...).
Getting this group off the ground will require some persistent effort on your part. Adding a reminder to your phone/project management tool is a great way to force you to regularly check in and stir the conversation.
The benefit of creating community is twofold: not only will you deepen your existing social engagement, but you'll also help others to do the same (tying in neatly to last week's theme of being generous to those we care about).
Week #4 Advanced Workout: Create a New Physical Group
For the advanced workout, you have to create a group that meets in person. Some options include a:
- Monthly Book club
- Monthly Movie night
- Weekly game night
- Regular pot-luck dinners
- Poker game (if you're a degenerate gambler like me)
Essentially, this has to be something recurring. That way, the happiness will increase not just in the moment, but in the anticipation of the group getting back together again.
As one example, my brother Brij started a bi-weekly phone call with his friends where they'd discuss a specific topic, like ___ or ____. The format was relatively informal, but the fact that there was a conversation coming up kept them in touch through the week and ensured that they stayed in touch.
Whatever the content, the important thing is to have something on your calendar every week/month that keeps you socially engaged. I bet you have other people in your life you want to be happier. Send them to happinessworkoutplan.com and help them become a bit happier - they'll thank you for it.
"We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men." – Herman Melville
This is the fifth in a series of short articles. Click here for part six.
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