Long before I wrote the book, I suggested this simple one-day experiment to a chronically depressed friend: As you go through your day, whenever you encounter someone, at least smile at him or her. If you can muster the courage, say hello and share a few words. I suggested to her that it might be easiest with people she often encountered–her neighbor, the Fed Ex guy, assorted gym-goers at the Y. Amazingly, she tried it. Even more amazing, it worked. She felt less alone in the world.
Now I know why it worked. She was paying attention to her most distant consequential strangers. Everyone you connect with, however insignificant the relationship may seem, is part of your “social convoy”–the assorted characters in your life. Your loved ones anchor you at home, but these peripheral people, give you a sense of belonging in the world. Each, in some small way, contributes to the overall quality of your life.
You don’t have to be depressed to try this. Let me know what happens.