The pandemic changed something in me.

I used to be rather shy and wouldn’t say hello to folks… at least not often, or not on first encounter. I usually looked down when walking or looked away when someone was about to pass by. I had been very shy as a child and this was a residual of that.

But, the pandemic and the time we had to stay at home made me realize the true importance of human connection. I really missed being around other people.

I remember the first time I went to a grocery store after I felt safe enough to go out. Just seeing and talking to other people made me feel giddy. I talked to everyone I saw there, even if it was just a “hello.”

I loved having this connection with other humans.

A few months ago, I started hiking pretty consistently on a local trail. I go 3-4 times a week. I noticed that a lot of the time, people I pass tune out instead of tuning in.

  • They walking looking down (I’m formerly guilty of this one!)
  • They look away when they pass (I used to do this, too!)
  • They have their headphones on and are off in their own world

I don’t think any of this is bad, because we all have days when we want to be on our own. But, I thought to myself, I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to connect with others when I am out. So, I started saying hello to almost everyone that I passed by as I was hiking. I don’t interrupt conversations people are having, just a friendly hello to others.

The results have been pretty amazing.

  • I get to hear voices from other people, sometimes accompanied by unexpected accents.
  • I get to see smiles from formerly very serious looking faces. Exchanging a smile feels quite nice!
  • I even noticed that I see many of the same people consistently on my hikes. When I see them now, it feels familiar and we seem genuinely happy to see each other. It feels nice to be seen.
  • I get to make human connections. It’s really lovely.

Research supports what I’ve been feeling on my hikes.

Stanford.edu states that social connection improves physical health and mental and emotional well-being in the following ways:

  • leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity
  • strengthens your immune system
  • lowers levels of anxiety and depression
  • promotes higher self-esteem and greater empathy

So, next time you are out and about, maybe wave and say hello to someone you pass by. It may brighten your day!

May you have peace within,

Julia anjali mudra hands

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