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I admit, I talk to strangers all the time, probably daily. I know that can seem strange for many people, especially for the more reserved among British people.

Maya Angelou Quote

Having encounters with strangers has been shown to boost a sense of belonging and improve mood and happiness. A 
study in London and Chicago found that people who were instructed to talk to fellow passengers on public transport felt more positive about their commute than those who didn't. Apparently, these seemingly little interchanges we have in life can contribute to our wellbeing.

I won't lie, it will seem strange if this is not how you usually go about your day. I've been doing this for so long that it's now a fixed habit. 

The rare times I use public transport (I have a car and a Vespa), I notice how people do not talk to each other. Everyone is looking or playing with their phones and if not, they are in their own world. Yet, what I found by talking to strangers is that it takes me away from my own little self-talk in my head and therefore diminishes my worries and anxieties. 

I also find that it cheers people up. A simple 'hello' can brighten someone's day, make them feel seen, make for connection and simple humanity. Something I find is lacking right now.

It works both ways. While parked in my car the other day, this boy of maybe 10 or 11 came up to my window and simply said: "I really like your car". I smiled and thanked him as he rushed to catch up with some boys ahead of him. It can make my day too. For a moment I pictured him of driving age saving money to buy his first car. 

So how you can start talking to a stranger? For one, please accept that we are all people, we are all basically the same with the same issues and worries. We may look different and speak different languages, and yes, there are cultural differences too - but consider this: we have all something to say about the weather. We all know what it's like to work in one way or another, be lost in a city, need advise with technology (our phones), stand in the queue in a bank or post office. There is a lot to talk about. If you're stuck, maybe some of our maps can help.

I sometimes start a conversation with a stranger because I'm curious. I learn so much from just listening and asking questions, but you can start with a simple 'hello' and see how it makes you feel. Say hello to a doorman, a street sweeper, a homeless person. I don't carry cash often these days so I acknowledge the homeless person and tell them this. It makes such a difference. I notice how shoulders drop or people smile. It's a tiny little human thing that can have such a ripple effect.

But here's maybe the more surprising fact: It's a two-way encounter that benefits both parties. It makes me feel good. I like knowing I might have made someone's day or someone's made my day. It costs nothing. It takes a minute, it's another tool in your well-being box.

Why not try it?