The Happiness Connection  

A bond of experience

Have you been watching the World Junior Hockey tournament? The gold medal game hasn’t been played as I write this, but Canada is in it, so the country is buzzing with optimism.

It always amazes me how one event can unite so many people.

Even though I don’t watch hockey on a regular basis, this is a tournament I never miss. My interest in it leads me to have discussions with strangers about why we want the checkout line to move quickly, or why we hope the dentist is on time.

We need to get home before the puck drops.

There are two valuable insights being demonstrated during this hockey-crazed time: 

  • having a common interest, goal, or experience is a great way to bond people together
  • feelings are amplified when other people are having the same experience at the same time.

If you have ever been in a play, or on a team, you know the strong feelings of camaraderie that arise, especially at the end of a competition, the year, or the performance.

Shared experiences make us feel connected.

You may be aware of this bonding effect, but do you take advantage of it to actively strengthen your bonds with family, friends, and colleagues?

Humans are hardwired to seek out social connection, but you know as well as I do that interactions with others aren’t always fun and uplifting.

Being around people can leave you frustrated, annoyed, and exhausted.

The most likely cause of negative feelings between individuals is their differences, not the things they have in common. It can be hard to accept something you don’t understand, or have never felt.

Instead of focusing on what isn’t working, or what is annoying you, create some common ground that brings you closer.

Choose a wellness initiative that everyone can get on board with, create common goals for the year, volunteer in the community together, go bowling or play mini golf. Doing something together, or agreeing to move in the same direction, will help turn a group of individuals into a team.

This is a great strategy if you find yourself at odds with your significant other. From the outside, many marriages may look strong and satisfying, while the people on the inside are struggling to find a way to live together in harmony.

Marriage expert John Gottman says when two people find meaning together, they are willing to support one another’s dreams, even if there is no personal gain for themselves.

Make sure you remember why you chose each other and inject enough shared goals and experiences that you have opportunities to work together rather than against each other.

My husband came home Thursday and remarked how busy it was when he and his co-workers went for a drink after work. It was busy because people wanted to watch the Canadian semi-final hockey game with other people, rather than home alone.

This illustrates the second insight the hockey tournament has provided for us.

Experiences are felt more intensely if you experience them with someone else. This is true even if you don’t know or communicate with anyone.

A Yale University study put individuals in a room with a confederate, a person posing as another participant. They sat side by side at a table without speaking and were instructed to taste two pieces of chocolate. Unbeknown to the participant, both pieces came from the same bar.

The confederate had been told to give the subject a shared experience and an unshared experience. They would eat chocolate at the same time as the participant for one piece and look through a booklet of paintings when they tasted the other piece.

The subjects then answered questions about the chocolate and their experience.

The results showed that the chocolate tasted at the same time as the confederate, the shared experience was consistently rated more flavourful than the piece they ate while the other person was doing something else, the unshared experience.

This has some powerful implications you can apply to your life. In the case of the hockey, you would probably relish the game more by going to a sports bar and sitting by yourself, than if you watched it at home alone.

Agreeing to take your children for ice cream will be appreciated more if you both have ice cream rather than you simply watching them eat. Allowing your staff a Friday afternoon break will be even better if you bring in donuts.

Give them a reason to come together.

Don’t think you need to do something extraordinary, or special every time. Bonding happens when we share mundane experiences too, like being in the same class, having the same parents, and eating dinner together every night.

Remember to live in the moment and ditch the devices if you want to bond and intensify the experience.

Knowledge is a wonderful thing, but it is the action you take when you have new knowledge that transforms your life.

Challenge yourself to make 2018 a year when you bond more and consciously choose to amplify your experiences.

More The Happiness Connection articles

About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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