Open the Door to Happiness (literally)

I rarely get mail that I'm genuinely excited about. That has to be true for so many of us. Unless you regularly order and send yourself delightful trinkets and treasures, I'll wager a guess that you're not racing to the door every time you hear the mailman's tell-tale ding-dong (in my house, we have a mailman's tell-tale ding dong). Okay, okay I'll stop before this post loses it's PG rating. Ahem. Anywayyy. Gone are the days of happy mail delivery, for the most part ... and heck, gone are the days of happy ding dongs of any sort. Nowadays when we hear the doorbell ring, I literally yell out, "Don't move! Don't make a sound! Shhhhh. Pretend like we're not here and whoever it is will eventually go away." We sit in stillness until the coast is clear ... and by coast I mean porch. It ain't 1950 anymore and we're not pulling out the coffee cake and sweet tea to merrily greet the people who come a calling, be they mailman, salesman, or wonder wo-man. I blame the internet for this drawing in we've done. 

I saw a comedian recently who does this bit on answering the door in 2018 versus doing so in, let's say, the 1950s. The difference is REAL and it's somehow both hilarious and sad all at once.

It's hilarious because the extremes are pretty dramatic, almost comically so, and sad because it makes you wonder where it all went ... all of the courtesies and the pleasantries and the taking time to just be with someone, just because. The shooting of the breezes, the asking about the weather, the much ado about nothing much at alls. Where did we lose them? Are they lost in the sands of time somewhere, trapped beneath piles of digital chatter and screen-based drivel? Did they shape-shift into different forms (emojis, hashtags, and abbreviations?), or transform into something else entirely? Where did the love of the unexpected go? Of spontaneity? The just dropping by's, the come-in-and-stay-for-a-while's and the "can I offer you a slice of cake's?"

I think they're still there; we haven't lost them yet, as a society ... as a busyness-obsessed, patience-drained, Go! Go! Go! More! More! More! culture in crisis. No, I really don't think we've lost them. They're still there somewhere, left to rot in the proverbial lost and found. But lost and founds always have a silver lining of hope, don't they? What you're looking for is right there, waiting. You just have to remember that you lost it ... and then go back and get it.


All of this to say, maybe it's our job as a society to pull ourselves up by the selfie sticks and re-ignite those precious social graces that we've lost somewhere along the way. We've been so busy technologically evolving that we've gotten sidetracked in the growth and care of our personal relationships - in the caring about our social relationships. You have to care ABOUT them to care FOR them, after all. Yes, those have all taken a bit of a hit over the past couple of decades, and as a person who makes some of her living via social media and relationships that I build through digital means, I'm as guilty as the next gal.

But I am trying. I really am; I am trying to do better at this and it's truly incredible the difference you begin to notice in your life every day when you make a point to deepen and expand your personal connections - both with people you already know and with people you don't. Your happiness levels improve - this has been scientifically proven. And do you know what also happens when your happiness levels improve? Your health improves. It's a fact, folks. But don't take it from me:

Social connection improves physical health and psychological well-being. One telling study showed that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. On the the flip side, strong social connection leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity. Social connection strengthens our immune system (research by Steve Cole shows that genes impacted by social connection also code for immune function and inflammation), helps us recover from disease faster, and may even lengthen our life. People who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, are more empathic to others, more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them. Social connectedness therefore generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.

Okay, back to my mail malaise. As I was saying, I rarely get mail that I'm excited about, but recently I treated myself to a copy of Alison Roman's raging success-of-a-cookbook, Dining In. I was so excited about this book, let me tell you. When it arrived, I happened to catch a glimpse of the mailman hopping out of his big white truck and, rather than do the ole duck and cover, as per usual, I beat him to his ding dong. To THE ding dong. I answered the door before it rang - you know what I mean. 

He looked surprised (sign o' the times, you see). "Oh! Hello young lady!" He said, warmly. I loved that he called me young lady. LOVED IT. He was kind and charming and he shook the package containing my precious new book, feigning curiosity. He said, " Hmmm ... I'm guessing book. Am I right or am I right?"

"Bingo!" I said, telling him it was, in fact, only the greatest cookbook that I'd never read, and I was fixin to change that fact. The kids started galloping around behind me, yelling "Bingo! Bingo!" and we all laughed. Our days were and are still better for the fact that I answered the damn door, believe it or not. Because now I do it every time I get the chance and now he's my friend, that mailman. His name is Freddie, his favorite color is Indianapolis Colts Blue, and he has a new grandbaby, of which he is so proud. He just loves that little girl. 

I'm not trying to make waves or rock your world with this simple, almost silly notion of answering doors. But there really has been a shift - a sea change in the way we interact with one another and I think it's so important that we try not to forget the genuine benefits of good old-fashioned human connection. So, whether it's your mailman, the person who rings you up at the grocery store, or the dude sitting across from you on the subway - maybe try saying hello, or asking them how their day is going. You might be surprised at how it impacts you, moving forward, in ways both big and small. 

With that, I'd love to hear your stories and comments and thoughts on human connection. Leave me a comment and say hello! You know, for connection's sake.