Sometimes we’re so focused on getting from point A to point B in our day that we take for granted the moments that fall in between. We’re talking about times like our commute, walking down the street to grab lunch, or standing in line for coffee. It’s tempting to whip out our phone and get lost in a mindless scroll before returning to our regularly scheduled lives, but by making just a little bit of effort, we can use these moments to boost our happiness every single day — and do the same for the people around us.

How? By making small connections with others.

In a video for CNBC, Deepak Chopra, M.D. discusses the importance of thoughtfully acknowledging and engaging with other people throughout your day. “Social and emotional engagement makes you a happier person, restores homeostasis — self-regulation in your body —  and actually expands your network of relationships so you can create a more meaningful, purposeful, and successful life,” he explains.

Not only are social and emotional intelligence associated with a longer and happier life, according to Chopra, but related skills like compassion are crucial to the future of the workplace. Given all that, we’d all be smart to keep these muscles strong. Here are three easy ways:

Smile at someone

Something as simple as smiling at someone on the street can improve your day — and theirs, Chopra says, noting that there is research suggesting that if you’re within 10 feet of a person and you smile, they’ll smile back. “This is called mirroring,” he explains. “Mirroring actually helps you engage socially. It’s up to you to make the connection, not wait for other people to make connections.” A 2019 study published in Psychological Bulletin backs this up, finding that smiling does make people at least a little happier.

Ask a question

As children, we’re taught not to talk to strangers, but once we’re adults out functioning in the world, Chopra encourages us to interact more with other people. One way to do this is by asking them a question. He suggests starting with simpler questions like “How is your day going?”

Make eye contact

One of the simplest ways to connect to another person is through eye contact. Harvard psychiatrist Helen Reiss, M.D., makes the case that eye contact is a key component of being an empathetic person in a 2014 article published in Academic Medicine. Even though there are cultural differences and norms when it comes to making eye contact, Riess stresses that it is crucial for building connections with other people. She also notes that when you’re talking to someone, making eye contact with them can help you pick up on nonverbal nuances that their voice doesn’t convey, making you a more effective communicator.

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  • Elizabeth Yuko, Ph.D.

    Bioethicist and writer

    Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is a bioethicist and writer specializing in health and the intersection of bioethics and popular culture. Previously she was the health and sex editor at SheKnows. She is an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham University and has written for print and online publications including The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe AtlanticRolling StoneSalon and Playboy, and has given a TEDX talk on The Golden Girls and bioethics.