As a kid you're told not to talk to strangers but as an adult, says wellness guru Deepak Chopra, you should make an effort to strike up more conversations with people you don't know — because it might just lead to a happier life.
"Social and emotional engagement makes you a happier person, restores homeostasis, self-regulation in your body, and actually expands your network of relationships, so you can create a more meaningful, purposeful and successful life," Chopra tells CNBC Make It.
There is plenty of science to back up Chopra's advice, as sociologists and psychologists have released studies showing that having more social connections can help boost happiness and self-esteem. And, there's even scientific evidence, from Stanford University's Center on Longevity, linking people with higher levels of social engagement to higher levels of physical and mental health, as well as longer life spans.
"Social and emotional intelligence are the two things that are most associated with a long and happy life," Chopra claims. He adds that one way to increase your social connections is to engage with strangers, even if it feels awkward to do so.
It's easy to get started, according to Chopra, who says he often talks to strangers in elevators. Chopra "only asks important questions," he says, "like: 'Who are you? What do you want? What's your purpose? What is the meaning of existence?'"
"But you can ask simple questions too," Chopra says. For instance, the next time you're standing next to a stranger in the elevator, you could simply ask them about the weather or ask how their day is going.
And if you're worried about being snubbed, Chopra says you shouldn't be. Scientific studies show that people are likely to pick up on and even copy your actions and comments because of a behavioral theory known as "mirroring."
"Mirroring actually helps you engage socially," Chopra says.
"There are many studies that show that if you're within 10 feet of a person and you smile at them, they'll smile back at you ... If you're within 5 feet of them and you smile at them and say 'Hello,' they'll smile back and say, 'Hello,'" he adds.
Most importantly, though, you shouldn't feel too nervous or awkward to interact with other people at all.
"It's up to you to make the connection, not wait for other people to make connections," Chopra says.
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