By: Natalie Schwan

I once had a friend who would take all of our cellphones and put them in the center of the table anytime we went out. The first person to break the cycle and reach for their phone would have to pick up the tab. Strangely, that rarely happened. It is interesting how long we can actually thrive when we put down our phones. Technology is wonderful in its many capacities, but it can come at a cost. In an attempt to be ultra connected electronically, we can often miss tangible opportunities to engage with one another in the moment.

As a society, this is the norm: we find ourselves reaching for our phone anytime we’re in a line, in a waiting room, or even walking down the street. It is our go-to for boredom or to cure inactivity. But when we consciously engage in heartfelt conversation, social media and texting can lose their allure. Finding real human connection in a post-modern world is actually a lot simpler (and cheaper) than a person may think. Here are five simple ways to unplug more and welcome it back into your life:

  1. Throw a dinner party

Nothing is more inviting for conversation and heartfelt community than sitting down for a meal together. This can be as casual as a potluck in the backyard or, if you have a knack for cooking, can turn into a multi-course spread. Encourage guests to bring something to share or ask them to put a few dollars in a communal bowl if you plan on cooking the entire meal. Not only is this cheaper than going out for dinner or drinks, but it’s a great way to try out new foods in a laid back environment. Take the time to unwind with your friends and share a home cooked meal. It will feel like a family.

  1. Carry something (other than your iPhone) with you

One of my favorite human connection moments was when I made a friend out of a stranger in a coffee shop. I was reading a book on my lunch break when a stranger struck up a conversation because he noticed that it was written by one of his favorite authors. We ended up talking for an hour and each shared what we loved about the writing. You never know what moments you can miss when you have your face habitually glued to your phone.

  1. Outdoor Group Activities

Sweatpants, wine and a good movie are literally three of my favorite things. It can be the most glorious way to unwind and recharge after a long week. Movie nights can be a great way to connect with other people, but it is pretty much impossible to truly engage in a conversation when we are staring at a screen and ignoring the people sitting right next to us. Instead, shake up the routine by doing an outdoor activity with friends. Hiking, going to the beach, and camping are just a few of the easy and relatively free ways to make memories with other people and stay active. It’s a win-win situation. Plus there are tons of health benefits from being outdoors: fresh air, vitamin D, endorphins, etc.

  1. Volunteer/Service Opportunities

With our busy schedules, time off and weekends are precious. Volunteering does not need to be a weekly or monthly occurrence. Brainstorm different ways to give back by doing something you love so it doesn’t feel like a chore. Love the outdoors? Find a local club that cleans up parks. Love kids? Find an after school program you can sub in for. Not only is this a great way to make new like-minded friends, but you will also be adding some major positivity to your own life by consciously giving back to your community. Even if you just do this a few times a year, you will feel valuable benefits.

  1. Introduce yourself to your neighbors

This is a tough one, especially in a big city like Los Angeles. I’ve lived in apartments where I rarely even saw my neighbors, let alone knew their first names. Taking the time to introduce yourself to your neighbors can make your place feel more like a home. It encourages people to look out for each other. I’ll admit I have lived next to people I never took the time to meet, but I have also lived next to some incredible people who have had amazing stories and great things to share. I have lived next to distant members of the French royal family. I once lived next to someone who had their own chickens and would bring farm fresh eggs over once a week. I have lived next to people who let me play with their dogs or take them on a walk when I was deprived of my own. I’ve even had neighbors who help me fix things or carry heavy things when I couldn’t do it on my own, or literally let me borrow that cup of sugar. My point is, that in a highly urban city, it can feel much more connecting to feel a part of your housing community.

We all want stronger connections and relationships in our lives; it is one of the main components of being human. But it can seem really intimidating to pursue them at times. Engaging in our communities and intentionally creating environments that foster human connection add boosts of positivity and a sense of real belonging to our lives. Try a few of these simple ways to welcome ongoing connections and surprising experiences that enrich our lives.


Photo Credit: Laughing Raven / Pixabay