Sunday, June 7, 2009

8 ways to Kick an Online Habit & Start Socializing

I don't know about you, but to me, June equates to being outside. Weddings, graduations, picnics and parties; its as if we are all coming out of our winter hibernation, basking in the sunlight, and feeling eager for some old fashioned socializing. Yet, is a little blinking screen or buzzing hand held device getting in the way of truly being present and available?

Do you have a rich social relationship with your iPod, or spend vast amounts of time typing witty quips on Twitter? Do you have carpel tunnel wrists, and texting thumbs? Do you email your neighbor a question, instead of walking outside to ask, or Facebook your kids when they are in the next room? It's an Online Rut! I know I am ready to ditch my keyboard for awhile, and put my fingers in the sand instead.

Ironic that our modern times require scheduling to engage in the simple joys of life, yet it is critical to focus on neglected friendships, reconnect with significant others, and create quality time with the family, to balance our modern cerebral lifestyles. Two weeks ago,I offered up the top ten positive emotions as a way to start lightening up the Inner life. Last week, I discussed the concept of Curiosity and how it can be used as a tool to propel us forward in life.

This week, the focus is to put positive emotions and curiosity to work in expanding or developing a tangible community around us. Ask any researcher in the social sciences, and they will agree, those with strong personal friendships are the happiest and healthiest.

Dr. Henrie Weisinger contacted me after last week's column to share interesting work he has conducted using the power of curiosity, and other basic instincts to enhance our relationships. His new book, The Genius of Instinct is an excellent compliment to the running dialogue. Dr. Weisinger writes:

To Act Curiously is another way of saying "explore and investigate." These behaviors bring your curiosity instincts to life. One way is to engage in novel and fun activities. Novelty arouses, and fun makes changes pleasurable. Together, these factors make it easier for you to get out of your comfort zone, explore and create.

I love this idea, and believe one of the best examples of balancing healthy social relationships is with President and Michelle Obama. The level of "social normalcy" they are determined to bring to the White House is beyond impressive. They are literally creating a new paradigm for what it means to be in power, coupled with unprecendented access, and setting examples of how to relate to one another in daily life.

If the leader of the free world can show up in jeans and sneakers to cheer on his daughter at a soccer game, deliver a landmark speech to the Muslim nation, and take his wife on a date within a week's time, I think the rest of us can conquer our "to do" lists, and find time to enjoy the ones we love in special ways too. No excuses!

Here are eight ideas to tempt you away from your desk, or hand held devices this June, and into an environment sure to brighten your day, awaken your curiosity, inspire positivity, and bring you closer to those most important in your life:

1. Have a Date Night. - It's Hip! Follow the Obama trend and have a date with your partner regularly. Make a pact not to talk about work or the kids, and instead tell funny stories, read poetry, reminisce about when you met, and pay each other at least five compliments before the night is over.

2."Thorns & Roses" at Dinner - Another White House Tradition! At your evening meal, have each person share one "thorn" or tough part of their day, and one "rose" or great part. It's a fantastic tool for couples or families to frame a lively conversation.

3. Get out the Board Games - Make one evening per week a "No Screen" evening, or maybe just a "No Screen HOUR!" Dust off the old Scrabble game, chess board or deck of cards. I guarantee an evening of easy laughter and comfort down to your toes.

4. Take a Walk Each Day - Even if you have to get up early, like Michelle does for the morning dog walk, or late in the evening as President Obama does, taking a 15-20 minute walk is a medicine like no other. Dog or no, it is precious time to be alone, talk out loud, breathe fresh air and notice the simplicities of Nature.

5. Start a Regular Neighborhood Pot Luck - Rebuild a community in your own backyard. Call your neighbors and invite them to meet to a weekly or bi-weekly BBQ. Meet at a local park, or take turns hosting. Some ground rules: no excessive cleaning or cooking! Setting a regular date makes things easier, and allows a chance to include folks you may not know very well. It is always a great time - rain or shine!

6. Plan a Meaningful Event for Someone Who is Struggling - Invite a small group together to help support a friend who has been diagnosed with cancer, lost a loved one, or is just feeling blue. Create a special gift everyone can contribute to, as a keepsake and reminder of your collective love and support.

7. Take a Class -
Check out the local community center and enroll in a short class that is new to you: yoga, painting, sailing or photography. Its a short commitment, and a great opportunity to meet new people, engage your curiosity and push everyday stress aside.

8. Volunteer - Anyone can spend an afternoon helping stock cans at a food bank, sorting clothes at Good Will or reading to children at a city elementary school. What you receive is always more than you give.

So, how 'bout it readers? Ready to ditch the keyboard and come out to play? Drop me a comment or two before you go, and have a great time! To receive weekly updates of my Sunday column, click on the "Become a Fan" button.

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