By this point, you’re probably tired of self-help books and hippie gurus telling you happiness is one fad diet, weird workout, or meditation session away.
Anyone worth their salt knows you can’t find happiness in a void; it takes people to be happy.
Having a conversation doesn’t happen as much as it used to, what with how technology has practically taken over our lives.
Let me tell you the magic word to use in your next conversation that will not only change your life, but it will also make you happier than you were before you started talking.
You’re probably wondering why I’m so confident that I can show you how to be happier just by directing you through a conversation.
But what the talking heads on television and self-proclaimed experts don’t realize is that happiness is much simpler than we think.
Happiness in its basic form is a neurochemical reaction.
The side effects of happiness—a smile, a laugh, increased self-esteem, optimism, socialization, and health—are all caused by this reaction.
But it all starts with a teeny chemical in your brain knocking on the door of one of your neurons (a brain cell).
That chemical is usually serotonin or dopamine, the two happiness experts in your brain.
They’re responsible for that good feeling you get when you accomplish a task, see a loved one, or eat your favorite food.
They create little pathways in your brain when they head up to those neurons, and just like treading a path in tall grass, the more they go up there, the easier it is to get back.
That’s why you get the urge to do things that make you happy over and over again.
Your brain wants that serotonin or dopamine release, and the more you indulge, the easier it is to do it again in the future.
So, the key to happiness is finding ways to trigger that journey for your brain travelers.
What is it you can do that will send them on their way every single time?
The answer might not be what you think.
Over time, the things that trigger these neurochemical releases may change. When you were a little kid, a favorite toy may have been serotonin’s muse.
But I doubt if I were to present to you that toddler’s toy today you’d burst out in giggles as you did before.
To trick your brain into being happy when it feels like you aren’t anymore, you have to find new things to trigger that reaction.
One method that experts have found works almost every single time is, surprisingly enough, starting up a conversation.
Now I know what you’re thinking; you talk to people every day. What are you supposed to say differently?
The secret isn’t what you say, it’s who you say it to.
Scientists have discovered that speaking to a stranger can cause things we never expected.
I know that we usually think talking to strangers isn’t fun, and something you’re actually discouraged from growing up.
But psychologists have uncovered startling statistics about people who chat up those they’ve never met before.
Let me tell you why drumming up a conversation with your elbow buddy on the subway or grocery store cashier could potentially make you happy every time.
Once you say that magic word, “Hello,” you’ve identified yourself as friendly and interested.
One of the potential happiness triggers strangers offer is the chance of learning something new, or exciting, or funny.
We tend to shut out the possibility of speaking to new people because we create a misleading sense of familiarity around our social circle.
While you may feel most comfortable talking to your family and friends, they can cease to offer your brain the happiness triggers it so desperately craves.
So have a little faith, and next time you go out, say that magic word: “Hello.”
You might be surprised by how good you feel after you’ve taken that first step, and how happy you’ll be after you made a connection with someone you hadn’t before.