If you are feeling down and lonely, talk to a friend or relative. Only one conversation with a buddy each day, whether in person or on the telephone, will boost your well-being.
New studies show that chatting with a friend or relative can cut down on loneliness and lower your stress level by the end of the day.Read More »
Person-to-person is better
The conversations help most if they are conducted person-to-person rather than through social media or electronic contact, such as by texting or email, studies have found.
The reason: Talking live to a friend or relative helps to create a feeling of belonging in ways that are lost when we do not use our voices. We pick up cues through the rhythm of the person’s voice that help to build trust, make us feel safe, and create cosy and warm feelings that can support the nervous system.
You will be a less lonely, more connected, and more joyful person, says Jeffrey Hall, who co-wrote a new study at the University of Kansas where he is professor of communication studies as well as a “friendship expert.”
Quality conversation matters most when it comes to alleviating stress and being connected, Hall says. It supports the concept that we communicate to satisfy our need to feel that we belong. In that way, it helps us to manage our stress levels.
When you talk to friends or relatives, according to the study, you will get the most benefit from the conversation if you:
• Listen to what they say;
• Take time to value their opinions;
• Show that you care
The more you take those steps, the better you will feel at the end of the day, Hall explains.
Anyone can have a good conversation
It is not only those people who have fulfilled lives who can conduct conversations of a higher quality, Hall adds. The study suggests that those people who take time to have a high-quality conversation can boost their well-being, no matter who they are.
We can change how we feel on any day through communication. All it takes is just once, Hall says.
Which kind of conversations are best?
Researchers who conducted the study at the University of Kansas wanted to find out what kind of conversations are most helpful. They looked at the type of conversations that make people feel more bonded, Hall says.
They studied seven types of communication:
• Meaningful talk
• Joking around
• Catching up
• Showing care
• Offering sincere compliments
• Valuing others and their opinions
In the study, more than 900 students from five university campuses were directed to take part on one day in one of the type of communications before, during, and after the pandemic lockdowns. They were asked to report back that evening after the conversations on their feedings of anxiety, connection, stress, loneliness, well-being, and the quality of their day.
None was better
The results were that none of the types of conversation was better than any other. The act of reaching out intentionally to a friend in any one of those ways was what mattered the most.
How many conversations should you have?
The researchers also looked at the number of conversations that a person might have on one day. They found that one conversation is sufficient, but more are better.
A take-home message of the study is that many paths can be taken toward the same goal, Hall says. The study also supports the belief that we use communications to satisfy our need to feel that we belong. In that way, it helps us to manage stress.
The University of Kansas study is published in Sage Journals.
Ways to get started
Here are ways to help you get started in making telephone calls to your friends and relatives. They from Andrea Wigfield, a professor who is director of Applied Social and Policy Research at the Centre for Loneliness Study at Sheffield Hallam University in England:
• Will it be a voice call or a video call?
A video call will help you feel more socially linked. You can see facial expressions and enjoy laughter more easily.
• Should it be a planned or a surprise call?
A surprise call is good, but remember that it might be the wrong time to call because the person might be busy with shopping, family, or eating dinner.
• What should you talk about?
You might have spontaneous ideas on the call, but you might also like to write down some topics you want to discuss so you do not forget them.
• Taking the focus from the talk.
If you want to take the attention away from just the call itself, you could try playing a video game while communicating with someone.
• Begin with simple items
If you feel a little daunted, start with simple things to talk about. You might want to limit your first call to one question or subject to get started.
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