How To Be More Social Throughout Your Day

Who says that bars and parties are the only places to meet someone? With a few changes to your everyday routine, you'll soon encounter plenty of fresh new dating prospects before you know it.

By Laura Schaefer

hen you were a kid, you probably had a teacher or two who told you not to talk so much. Now that you're grown, however, it turns out that chatter isn't such a bad idea. Experts who study happiness say it's not the stuff you purchase but the people you know that are keeping a sparkle in your eye.

When it comes to social interactions throughout your day, "it helps if they are short but consistent, such as the neighbor
It's tough to meet that special someone if you don't put yourself out there a bit.
you greet on your daily walk or a Facebook friend," says Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in California. "A research study by Howard Friedman, Ph.D. and colleagues that followed people for eight decades showed that having more social ties, such as being a member of a club or church, is linked to living longer," explains Dr. Greenberg. "Over long periods, there is a sense of trust and comfort." And let's not forget about romance! It's tough to meet that special someone if you don't put yourself out there a bit. With that in mind, here are seven easy tips for being more social every day:

1. Mix up your daily route.
"I make a point of taking different routes back to my office from the elevators, restroom, lobby, mailboxes, etc.," explains Judith Siers-Poisson, a public radio producer in Madison, WI. "I talk with a whole different series of people that way, and even after only seven months on the job, I know people in every department instead of just my own." A lot of times, our routines unfold each day without our even noticing. By changing up the paths you take to work and around your office, you'll naturally run into new people more frequently.

2. Be a tourist in your own city.
Think you know everything there is to know about the place you call home? Think again! Spend a couple of hours treating your town like a sought-after destination. Take a tour, ask questions at the historical society or local art gallery, or buy a Groupon for an activity you've never tried before, like indoor rock-climbing. Try a restaurant you've never considered or go to a reading by a local author and chat up his or her other fans.

3. Turn commerce into conversation.
We all have to shop, so why not turn it into a chance to connect with someone? "Strike up a conversation with the person in the drive-thru window, make eye contact and say hi to people in the grocery store, or go to a pet store with your animal and talk to all of the other people with animals," suggests Susie Christensen, an ice skating coach in West Bend, WI. Who can resist bonding over the cuteness of a new kitten or puppy? People naturally chat with their favorite bartender or hairstylist, but it's perfectly acceptable to chat up the barista or garden store owner, too.

4. Ditch your car and go for a stroll.
"If you're at home, walk outdoors every day," suggests Dr. Greenberg. "Walk around your neighborhood or visit a local park or hiking trail. Walk your kids to school if you can. Go to your local library." We often use our vehicles almost like we do our clothing
There's just something about chasing after a pooch that makes everyone friendlier.
these days — we won't leave home without them. And that's too bad, because it isolate people in a major way. If you don't live in a neighborhood with bars, shops, or cafes within walking distance of your home, spend some time in one the next time you're out. Buy a newspaper and offer to share it with someone. Ask a stranger for a lunch recommendation. If it's snowed recently where you live, grab your shovel and offer to help a few neighbors clear their driveways.

5. Get a canine companion.
Even if you don't have a four-legged friend of your own, offer to pet-sit for a family member or friend and hit a dog park or two together. There's just something about chasing after a pooch that makes everyone friendlier towards one another. Plus, your dog will sniff out plenty of new social opportunities for you while you're there.

6. Use technology to connect with others.
There's nothing that says all your socializing has to be done face-to-face these days. Computers and phones are valuable tools for reaching out to friends... just don't hide behind them all the time. Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with your Best Friend, says: "Technology is a tool, and whether it's a help or hindrance depends on who is using the tool and how. Some people hide behind computer screens because they are trying to avoid real interactions. A recent Pew Research Center study found that 13 percent of cell owners pretend to be using their phone to avoid interacting with the people around them. On the other hand, the Internet has made it possible to find lost friends and to communicate with friends in different time zones thousands of miles away." Technology can also be used to cement new relationships.

7. Learn something new.
"Take a class," says Sarah Van Dyke, a 30-year-old IT project manager in Wisconsin. "It doesn't matter if it's Pilates, pottery, or piano. It's a very non-threatening environment to meet people in, because they're all there primarily to learn." Dr. Levine agrees: "Making friends is somewhat easier when you see the same people and get to know them before anyone makes an overture. If you sign up for a course in charcoal drawing through your school system's continuing education department, you will get to meet people who share your interest, live close by, and who are probably open to meeting new people." Other good options include scuba certification courses, CPR training, or a foreign-language class.

Laura Schaefer is the author of The Secret Ingredient and Planet Explorers New York City: A Travel Guide for Kids.
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