When I moved to New York three years ago I knew about six people.
One from my hometown, a few from school, and a few more from when I was living abroad.
So, as a contemplative weirdo tends to do, I became a regular at my friendly neighbourhood meditation center — Shambhala in Chelsea.
Among other amazing humans, I met Gustavo, an artist from Brazil, and Sarah, a yoga teacher from upstate New York.
We would run into each other at the same meditation classes. Still do.
They have become two of my best friends, the kind of people you turn to when going through a breakup or trying to sort out a career decision. When Gustavo had his son Theo, Sarah and I both joyously freaked out.
But I never would have met them through the social networks I came to New York with. I had to become a regular.
It turns out that my experience is backed up by the research.
For decades, sociologists have known that friendships develop when people have the right mixture of proximity, privacy, and unplanned interactions.
Becoming a regular somewhere helps alleviate those grown-up problems. By returning to the same yoga studio, gym, cafe, or restaurant, you’re close to the same people, have unplanned interactions with them, and have the privacy to exchange confidences.
Most of all, you just keep seeing the same people.
According to a 2011 study led by University of Rochester psychologist Harry Reis, simply interacting with people repeatedly is enough for you to increase your opinion of them.
He and his colleagues asked strangers to talk to each other in real life and online — and in each case, people rated each other more highly after having several conversations.
That’s the power of becoming a regular: In returning to a place, you become familiar with the space. And the people in it.
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