5 Simple Ways To Train Your Brain To Be More Social & Feel Less Lonely

Being social is hard, regardless of age or gender.

two friends out socializing easily NDAB creativity / shutterstock.com 

Do you feel like others are living enchanted lives, engaging with limitless besties and attending exclusive events? it's a common feeling. 

Social media can emphasize the feeling of being unnoticed, lonely, and left out. When we do manage to psych ourselves up to reach out, join in and engage, it can be draining — emotionally, psychologically, and physically. We foresee shunning and that can cycle us back into a web of doubt and angst.


Being “social” can be hard for us regardless of our age, especially after isolation and fears of contagion, shootings, and market uncertainty.  

If this is you, maybe it is nice to know you aren't alone — and that there's likely nothing wrong with you. 

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You can manage your feelings of social vulnerability

How about instead of forcing ourselves to use all our skills and strain our system in order to go out and meet new people in new places, we start off with small, micro-social engagements?

Let's try to harness “the love chemical” in order to help us better read social cues — which in turn helps us notice and filter social stimuli — a key challenge for those of us who can feel bombarded in social settings.


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The "science of connection"

Oxytocin, known as “the love chemical” is essential for social bonding. This critical neuropeptide helps everyone – infants to the elderly – bond with others. It builds trust and connection and raises self-confidence.

When you feel a connection with someone, it is likely that oxytocin is surging in both brains, signaling friendly intentions. This sensation encourages you to reach out – emotionally and possibly physically.

Enjoy your micro-connections 

They are small, everyday acts of kindness. Every time you hold the door open or smile at a passing stranger, you are creating a micro-moment of connection. They are mini “love” moments that can raise oxytocin in our brains and in others too.


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Strive for three micro-connections daily

Dr. Barbara Frederickson’s and Dr. John Gottman’s research demonstrates that three social connections a day not only can help fill our emotional buckets but also helps build resilience.

They found that a 3-to-1 positivity ratio makes us feel like we belonged.

It also provided a positive impact on resilience and mental health. In Dr. Ned Hallowell’s book, he shares real stories that demonstrate the life-changing health benefits associated with the connection.

5 Ways to Join the Three Micro-Connections a Day Challenge

1. Seek Meaningful Interactions 

Actively search for three meaningful interactions each day and reflect on them each night. These micro-moments of connection, according to Frederickson’s findings, may not only make you healthier, but they can also make you live longer.


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2. Set Yourself Up for Success 

What are some things you could do every day for unsuspecting neighbors? Can you carry in groceries, ask about their day or give them a plant? Small micro-connections like these don’t require much time, money, or effort. Look for ways to spread kindness every day.

3. Build Three Micro-Connections on the Path to New Relationships 

If your goal is to not only increase oxytocin but also to make new friendships, take a more active role with these three micro-connections. Consider these steps as building blocks; moving you in the direction of deeper and more meaningful connections.

If you take each step a time – waving, saying “Hello,” making chit-chat, inquiring about their day, etc., – it will make the act of reaching out feel a little less daunting. Is this a full replacement for the hard work we’re all doing socially? No, but these steps help you build confidence.


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4. Create Joy, Not Stress 

You shouldn’t need to spend a lot of time prepping to connect. The goal is to simply experience the joy of interaction.

5. Notice How You Feel 

Keep track of how these connections (and oxytocin hits) make you feel. Frederickson’s work uncovered that when we record these experiences, it triggers positive physiological effects on the body. Are you more positive toward your partner or job? Do you have deeper feelings of well-being and self-worth? Are you calm? Do you feel even better when you add more connections daily?


Making a Conscious Effort to Cultivate Connections

Until you experience the effects yourself, you will have to trust me when I say three micro-connections a day will prime your emotional intelligence pump. So drink in the needed oxytocin while you calm your fears, build confidence, venture out and approach new people and nurture deeper and stronger relationships.

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Caroline Maguire, M.Ed., ACCG, PCC founded and facilitates a comprehensive SEL training methodology for adults, parents, clinicians and academic professionals on how to develop critical social, emotional and behavioral skills, in themselves and in others.