Would you be happier if most of your everyday conversations were based around deep topics relating to the meaning of life, the nature of the universe, and the significance of world events? Most people immediately assume that the answer to this question is no. After all, when we spend too much time dwelling on the big questions about existence, we tend to become a little morbid, and this obviously isn’t good for our mental health.
But according to a recent study published in the journal of Psychological Science, this is a misconception. Yes, it can negatively affect the mood when we dwell on things like death and disaster, but there are plenty of other deep and meaningful topics to talk about—and we apparently should be talking about them. The old Socratic adage that “the unexamined life is not worth living” may be truer than we knew.
The study, which followed the conversation patterns of 79 individuals, found that those who engaged in the most small talk were the least happy, while those who had more deep conversations were happier. In fact, the results were not even close. The deep-talkers were much better off in multiple categories of mental well-being.
How should we interpret these findings? There are several ways to look at it:
1. Deep conversations strengthen bonds: When you have a deep conversation with someone, it indicates that you and that individual are comfortable enough with each other to delve into difficult issues as a deep. This implies a level of closeness that comes with strong social bonds. Moreover, these deep conversations can make these bonds even stronger.
2. Deep conversations make us feel less lonely: Small talk can express a sort of dull affinity between individuals, but this affinity is nowhere near as strong as that created by deep conversations. When you can get on the same page with someone on a profound level, it means that you are not alone. You know that there are others who feel the way that you do, which is a great gift.
3. Deep conversations help us sort through our thoughts: When it comes to figuring out the world, there’s only so far we can go on our own. The best breakthroughs tend to be collaborative. As a result, the more deep conversations you have, the more comfortable you’re liable to be with your place in the universe. These conversation give us direction and purpose, and this makes us more comfortable in the world.
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