Open your eyes and look around you
Re-entering the world of people after time spent alone can be enlightening. We have found it at times quite curious because when you have been alone and then come back into contact with people you start noticing things that you otherwise might have missed, and that in itself can be startling. And the noticing doesn’t have to be huge, it’s the small things that often strike you the most.
For example have you ever been struck by the expressions on people’s faces as you pass them in the street? That is of course if you actually see anything more than the tops of their heads? Never noticed? Go on look up, open your eyes. We dare you to really open your eyes and take a good look around you next time you are out and about.
Now whilst we can accept that this is the age of instant communication, we are concerned that people seem to have become so deeply entrenched in the moment by moment drama of the latest text message, hash tag Twitter trend, Instagram or Facebook selfies and videos that they are missing out on much of the enjoyment of simply being present in the company of others. We have found ourselves wondering if as a species we have become so addicted to technology that we have forgotten how to simply communicate without it.
Is it only us that feel that the rise of digital comms has resulted in a reduction in eye contact with others? We’ve certainly noticed less smiles, less ‘good mornings’ and ‘good afternoons’ about. What we have encountered instead is increased numbers of sighing, frowning, ‘tutting’ people, an upsurge in four letter expletives and a general level of attitude and aggression that seems to be coming off people in waves.
Yes granted,many of us are facing personal challenges in our lives. Yes, currently one in four in the UK is likely to experience anxiety, stress, depression and mental health problems in their lifetime. Yes the size of the problem is often hidden or played down because as a nation of ‘stiff upper lips’ it’s not considered ‘cool’ to show feelings, particularly ones associated with sadness, anxiety and depression in public and yes we also know that personal challenge is experienced across the social divide as we have seen recently with the deaths of a number of high profile celebrities who from the outside ‘had it all’. But if it is only one in four that is affected at any one time can the other ‘unaffected three’ not provide greater support be simply being present, maybe through a simple word or two or a random act of kindness.
Being present doesn’t have to cost anything other than time. Being present helps build social bonds that enable us to pull together and deal with adversity. We cannot make others feel anything, happy or sad, but we can show compassion, empathy and share of ourselves. Through being present and performing even simple random acts of kindness, maybe a smile or an acknowledgement of their presence, we can help create connectedness, optimism and wellness. And it’s not just us who think like this, for research shows that where people are helped to seek and accept social support they possess greater resilience, greater intellectual and emotional flexibility and achieve more success in their lives. (Read Southwick & Charney’s, Resilience: ‘The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges’ to learn more.
So if you want to live a happier and more fulfilling life start by learning how to be fully present. Then take time to perform your first random act of kindness, maybe by leaving your digital phone at home and just talking to those you meet along the road.