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It's easier to connect with friends than it is to connect with strangers for most people. However, there could be a benefit to opening yourself up to connecting with a broader circle of people. People we view as part of our inner circle are what scientists call our "in group". When someone is in our "in group", we perceive them differently and generally treat them better than people we think of as outside of our circle. This bias is completely unconscious, but we can learn to widen our circle to extend greater compassion to people we don't know - and in return, strengthen our feeling of connection with others.
In this practice, we work on extending the same level of compassion to strangers as we do our dearest friends in order to help foster connection. Listen to this practice tip from Cortland Dahl.
Guided Practice: Dear Friends
Led by Cortland Dahl
Remember what it feels like to meet a dear friend, a child, or a loved one after not seeing them for a while?
Imagine if every interaction felt like that.
The tip for today is to practice shifting your perspective on other people by imagining everyone you meet is a close friend.
The practice is quite simple. Every time you interact with someone, or find yourself in the presence of other people, imagine they are people you cherish, and that you’re just now seeing them after a long while.
If you’re messaging someone, imagine you’re sending an important note to a dear friend. When you walk by someone on the street, imagine you’re running into a loved one. If you’re in a group, imagine it’s a group of your closest friends.
You can even do this when you’re stuck in traffic, or in a crowd.
You don’t need to change what you say or do. The skill we’re working on here is the skill of changing our attitude….our perspective.
You can do this in an instant. Just notice their presence, and then imagine that you’re seeing a dear friend. Be creative, and conjure up images that support feeling a sense of deep connection.
Awareness. Connection. Insight. Purpose. We consider these to be four ingredients of a healthy mind. You can train yourself to improve these skills, just like you can develop any habit. This audio practice is provided by Healthy Minds Innovations (HMI), an external, affiliated nonprofit dedicated to supporting the mission of the Center for Healthy Minds. Want more practices? Try the Healthy Minds Program App.