Happiness is in a Shared Meal

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When I first moved to Berlin in January 2018, I didn’t know a single person in the city. While I had moved to new places before that, it was the first time I didn’t have the institution of school to help me in building connections. 

It was a lonely first couple of months, but luckily I stumbled across a community called “Norn” that was based on the idea of salons, where people come together to discuss different ideas. While most of the meetings were done in wine bars, one special edition on the topic of personal values was in the dinner format. 

As a foodie, I jumped at the idea to get out into the city and go for dinner, something I love to do, but wasn’t doing much as I didn’t know many people to share meals with yet. Meeting seven strangers of all ages and backgrounds, for dinner to discuss our personal values might sound a little crazy, but It’s still one of those experiences I constantly think about. 

The experience was truly remarkable. Not only because the food at Frea, Berlin’s first waste-free plant-based restaurant, was exceptional, but becasue the connections and conversations forged during the meal had transformed my outlook and I cultivated a deep connection and empathy for these people who had been strangers mere moments before.

I left Frea that night, stepping out into the cold, grey, and rainy Berlin winter with a smile on my face. I felt lighter than I had in weeks, even though I had scarfed down copious amounts of vegan baked mac and cheese. What I felt, this boost in happiness, was no coincidence. Sharing meals with people you love, or strangers is proven to be extremely beneficial for us.

The Benefits of Sharing a Meal

Not only does sharing a meal help us connect with others, which we already know is one of the keys to a long happy life, but it also has numerous other benefits. Studies have found that eating together can reduce stress levels and increase feelings of happiness and well-being.

It encourages conversation which can improve our communication skills. They’ve also found that eating with others often leads to healthier food choices as we tend to be influenced by those around us. It’s been found that it can even improve digestion as eating in a relaxed, social environment can reduce stress, aiding in better digestion.

Sharing a meal is more important than ever

We’re social beings at our cores. Throughout our history, the act of eating together has served as a beautiful community experience. So while today it has become less common, communal eating remains deeply ingrained in our nature—a fundamental need that resonates more powerfully than ever.

Studies have found that the average adult eats 10 out of every 21 meals alone, which could be why we’re seeing a rise in loneliness across the board.With remote work and increased reliance on digital communication further amplifies the sense of isolation in society.

With fewer opportunities for face-to-face interactions, the importance of shared meals takes on an even greater significance. Breaking bread together fosters a sense of community, strengthens bonds, and ultimately combats the growing epidemic of social isolation.

Creating Space to share a meal

Luckily for us, eating is a fundamental necessity that unites us all. It serves as a universal bond among humans, capable of fostering connections throughout our day. Embracing this opportunity can lead to enriching moments of interaction.

Whether it’s stepping away from your desk to enjoy lunch with a coworker, embodying the French Joie De Vivre, or extending an invitation to a neighbor for a weekly dinner gathering. 

Now before you write this off thinking you’re too busy, sharing meals can be accomplished even amid a busy schedule. It can be as simple as having a sandwich while engaging in a 10-minute conversation before getting back to your to-do’s.

Organized meal sharing

If you want to take it a little further, there are plenty of grassroots movements to bring more connection back to mealtime, including connections with strangers like I had the privilege to experience on that first cold winter in Berlin.

Organizations like Eat With and The Traveling Spoon allow you to join communal dinners at home and around the world, a perfect thing to do for my fellow solo travelers. 

For girls looking to make new friends, &The Table allows women from around the world to host dinner parties with a specific topic to talk about, where people can request a chair at the party.  

Outstanding in the Field offers a unique experience that goes beyond sharing a meal. It allows us to forge connections with local farmers and chefs, reestablishing our bond with the origins of our food. Their communal meals, held throughout the year in various locations across the US and the globe, provide an opportunity to truly connect with the flavors of the land while celebrating the vibrant culinary community.

There are countless options, and more keep popping up. Whether in Orlando or Nigeria, people worldwide have an innate desire to share a meal and connect, it’s human nature. 

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