Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Making friends in a digital world

Meeting up is important for keeping friends
The school holidays have come to an end and many kids will have gone back to a class of new faces. Making friends is not always easy and in adulthood it can be trickier still. A recent study in the Metro found that adults have fewer friends today than in the 1980s. Social media could be a major player in this, as even those people who claim they have lots of friends say they do not feel they’re close enough with any of them to discuss important things in their lives.

We’ve developed some top tips for helping you build adult friendships that will last. Forget your Facebook friends – we’re talking about people who’ll be there for you when you need them and offer support and companionship beyond your digital devices.

Find people who like the same things you do

Most friendships are borne out of a common interest, belief or pastime. It helps to spark conversations and from there you can decide if you like each other enough for a true friendship to form. If you really want to make new friends, start by being in a place where likeminded people will congregate – join a club, pick up a new hobby or sign up to night classes.

You get out what you put in

In the early stages of a new friendship you have to make the time to nurture your new relationship. Once you've found someone you think has friend potential, set yourself the challenge to develop the connection. People can be shy, so if you get rebuffed the first time, make yourself a promise to try again. People will appreciate your early efforts. Of course, if after the second or third attempt there is still no connection made, accept that this friendship might not be going anywhere and turn your attentions elsewhere.

Digital friends can develop into more

Yes, this goes against what we’ve already said about Facebook and Twitter being two of the main reasons we have fewer ‘real’ friends these days, but when it comes to face-to-face friendships, social sites are excellent places to connect with likeminded people. Groups are cropping up all the time, filled with people who are also looking for new friends– just make sure you convert these virtual acquaintances into face-to-face meetings as this has been shown to be an important factor for retaining friends! If you do decide to meet up with an online friend, remember to tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back and always meet in a public place during the daytime until you get to know them better.

Revive faded friendships

There are many reasons why old friendships come to an end – we may move jobs, relocate or see our family situation change. However, if you find yourself in a friend famine, consider contacting some of your old friends to see if there is anything to rekindle there.

If you’re still unsure about how to create new friendships now you’re an adult, take a look at a technique called The Golden Rule of Friendship. This works on the theory that people will like you if you make them feel good about themselves. This Psychology Today blog explains all about it. It boasts a 100% success rate, so what have you got to lose? Those new friendships are closer than you think! 

Friday, 11 August 2017

Smiling - why is it good for us?

Have you ever heard the saying that smiling is infectious? It’s true. When we see someone smile, it takes a lot of effort not to replicate the behaviour and when we do smile, it makes us feel so good that we want to do it more!

This article suggests that when we smile, our brain actually creates a log of when we smile and what makes us smile. This activity log helps overrides the brain’s natural tendency to think negatively and if you smile often enough, it can actually rewire your brain into more positive thought patterns.

So what is it about smiling that makes us feel so good?

Each time we smile it releases tiny ‘feel good’ molecules – endorphins and serotonin - that help fight off stress. Endorphins relax the body, lower our heart rate and blood pressure. They also act as a natural pain reliever. Serotonin acts as a natural anti-depressant and mood lifter. And when we feel good, our productivity increases and our confidence grows.

The three studies below looked at the way smiling can benefit us and our minds/bodies:

A 2012 study in Kansas saw participants move their mouths into forced smiles with chopsticks! Sounds crazy, but the experiment found that the people with the biggest forced smiles experienced a substantial reduction in heart rate and quicker stress recovery after completing a stressful task, compared to those who kept a neutral facial expression.

In 2004, a study at Penn State University found that happiness spreads, smiley employees working within the service industry left a more positive impression on customers than those who did not smile. Customers were left feeling happier and more inclined to smile at others too. These smiles cannot be forced however, they must be authentic!

A Pittsburgh University study discovered that a smiling person is regarded as more trustworthy than someone who frowns or holds a neutral expression. Their study asked people to rank photos of models based on their perceived trustworthiness. The bigger the smile, the more trustworthy they were perceived as being.

To find out why smiling is perceived as infectious we really have to look back to Darwin’s 'Science of Smiling'. He theorised that smiling was a universal behaviour. Other nonverbal body language traits are more likely learnt, as they are different depending on which culture you are observing. Darwin also found that we are ‘prewired’ to connect with others via smiling, which means that people who are physically unable to smile find it more difficult to develop social relationships.

So there you have it. Smiling is scientifically proven to help us connect with people. What could you do today that would make you smile? The people around you will thank you for it!