The key to happiness may not be as complex as it seems — in fact, research shows that people can boost their mood in several small ways, such as striking up a conversation with their barista.
In a 2014 study published in “Social Psychological and Personality Science,” researchers Gillian Sandstrom and Elizabeth Dunn of The University of British Columbia found that the simple act of buying a cup of coffee could be transformed into a highly positive experience.
Sandstrom and Dunn randomly assigned two groups different tasks in a trip to Starbucks. One was instructed to create a genuine connection with the barista via smiling, eye contact, and a brief conversation, and the other was told to be as efficient and impersonal as possible.
Those who took just a few extra seconds to make friendly small talk with the barista left the coffee shop feeling happier than the efficient customers.
“We found that when people were assigned to have a real social interaction with the barista, rather than getting in and out, they left feeling a greater sense of belonging,” Dunn tells Business Insider. “Humans are designed to have social interaction. These interactions are incredibly important for our overall well-being, and even the smallest ones can make a difference.”
Starbucks is not the only place you can go to boost your happiness. As Sandstrom and Dunn write in the abstract of their report, “Every day we have opportunities to transform potentially impersonal, instrumental exchanges into genuine social interactions.”
The next time you’re at your local coffee joint, supermarket, or bookstore, consider taking an extra 30 seconds to strike up a conversation, no matter how reluctant you may feel. The literature suggests that these little changes add up.
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