One of the most wonderfully imaginable ways to visualize an improved world is one in which relationships with others are more supportive and positive. While we might assume there’s nothing much we can do to improve the chemistry or attraction we feel for others, researchers have recently proven this is not the case. Studies show there is a lot we can do to improve how close we feel to others and how positively they feel about us.
Finding True Love in a Telepathy Experiment
When Julie Beischel signed up to participate in a telepathy experiment, the last thing she expected was to fall in love. Beischel was in a room by herself, unable to see her experimental partner, Mark Boccuzzi. Boccuzzi’s instructions were simply to gaze at Julie intently on a closed circuit screen that intermittently showed her (live) image. Intriguingly, the data showed Julie’s physiological responses every time Mark could see her, with noticeable spikes at the exact moments her image was taken away–as if her body was saying, “Oh, where did he go?” Julie said. At the time, Julie didn’t immediately tell Mark about the powerful connections she’d felt to him, since after all, they were strangers. Now married, Julie and Mark credit telepathy for helping them meet and fall in love. “It was like nothing I had ever encountered,” Julie said.
Improve Relationships by Acting Close
University of Hertfordshire psychology professor Richard Wiseman may have begun his working life as a professional magician, but no amount of magic books could explain the amazing results he got when he conducted an experiment with a hundred speed-daters in Edinburgh, Scotland. Wiseman separated the speed-daters into two groups: one which conducted the speed-dating activities as usual, and the other with special instructions for couples to pretend they were already intimately acquainted. These couples were instructed to hold hands, share secrets, and gaze into each others’ eyes.
At the end of the study when all the speed-daters were asked how close they felt to their partners, and how many of them would like to see their partners again, only about 20% of the conventional daters indicated a desire to reconnect, compared with 45% in the pretending-to-be-intimate group. Wiseman explains,
“The assumption was that the emotion leads to the action or behavior but this shows it can happen the other way around, action can lead to emotions. Behaving like you are in love can lead to actually falling in love.”
“Actions are the quickest, easiest, and most powerful way to instantly change how you think and feel.”
University of California at San Diego psychology professor, Dr. Robert Epstein, conducted similar exercises, asking couples of students to participate in what he called “soul gazing” — looking deeply into each other’s eyes. Epstein found a 7% increase in loving, an 11% increase in liking, and a 45% increase in closeness…. with 89% of participants reporting the exercise increased feelings of intimacy.
Epstein’s love-building exercises include embracing each other gently while sensing and synchronizing breathing, placing the palm of your hand as close to your partner’s palm without actually touching for several minutes (in which you might not only feel heat, but surprisingly also some sparks), write down secrets and discuss them, fall backward into the arms of your partner, mirror each others’ movements, and try a mind-reading game.
Taking action to become closer to loved ones is not inauthentic, explains Dr. Epstein. It’s something we can actively do to improve our relationships, rather than passively accepting the status quo.
“The students in my course were doing something new–taking control over their love lives. We grow up on fairy tales and movies in which magical forces help people find their soul mates, with whom they effortlessly live happily ever after.”
The fact that we can increase closeness by acting close in relationships is wonderful news for both old and new relationships. The findings from these studies give credence to the advice of our parents and grandparents who impressed upon us the importance of good social manners. When we make eye contact, shake hands, and inquire how others are doing rather than only talk about ourselves, we’re well on our way to becoming a bit closer to people we might otherwise not care nearly so much about.
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