A common concern I hear from patients is how to manage feelings of loneliness. These feelings result from seasonal changes and a desire to do activities again. People want to have fun things to look forward to! People want to have good friends to enjoy life with!
Paul MacLean said, “A sense of separation is a condition that makes being a mammal so painful” to reflect our need for social connection. If you are someone who is in need of friends, is interested in making or deepening social ties, keep reading! This post will explore barriers to finding and making friends and review professional advice on how to make forward progress and connect with others.
Friendships and social interactions can help increase a sense of belonging and purpose, boost happiness and reduce stress, support coping with life challenges, and motivate healthy lifestyle behaviors. According to the Mayo Clinic, the benefits of friendships also include greater longevity among older adults.
What About The Pandemic?
There is little data so far on how the pandemic has impacted our health and wellness due to changes in social behaviors. Some increased their time spent online while others intentionally decreased their time spent online. How did these choices influence emotional functioning and socialization?
Several online news platforms comment on a "thinning out" of casual friendships and friendships that are based on convenience (e.g. socializing at bars, gyms, supermarkets). Increased use of internet services such as Zoom conferencing and activities, video streaming watch parties, and online interactive games helped people to adapt to social distancing and quarantines. However this only benefited individuals who used the internet.
In a recent Australian study, single adults, those with social anxiety, those with physical and mental disabilities, and those with pre-existing isolation and interpersonal difficulties were more likely to lose friends during the pandemic. Researchers also believe that people experiencing major life transitions at the time of the pandemic- such as those graduating, starting college, or starting a family- were more likely to have longer-term difficulties with social disconnection and loneliness. How do we use this information?
In a recent interview, Dr. Marisa Franco offers the following advice on developing friendships during adulthood.
- For those who don’t have any friends, perhaps you recently moved- be proactive and seek out friendship. She also recommends to think positively and not allow fears of rejection to scare or discourage you. I would add to her comments and ask you to identify specific hope-filled thoughts you could put in place of your fears and doubts. Assume you find yourself in a potential friend making situation, what would you say to keep the connection after the interaction ends? To give you some inspiration, what would you want an acquaintance to say if they were interested to talk to you again in the future? Practice rehearsing if needed!
- For those who are trying to reconnect, maintain, or deepen friendships (but find it is difficult due to life demands, schedules, etc.), Dr. Franco recommends having a standing monthly meeting on your calendars so that you don’t have ongoing challenges finding time to meet up. If you have doubts about whether others would want to hang out with you, remind yourself to think positively (just as you would in the previous point). If you feel insecure, try thinking to yourself, “They’re probably wanting to hear from me and they’re probably wondering about me too”?
- Plan time with friend(s) around personal mutual goals. This can be a helpful and motivating way to spend time together. Healthy and positive activities my patients have enjoyed include going for walks, painting, practicing photography, gardening, attending educational activities, and rock climbing with others.
Identifying and Focusing on High Potential Friendships
Promising circumstances to develop friendships include:
I think that Dr. Franco’s interview is worth a listen (or transcript read) if you are trying to make friends and could use advice. If you want to work on personal issues that get in the way of making friends, I can help!
Until next time, <3 be well!
All blog posts from Dr. Soo Hoo are provided for educational and informational purposes only. As Dr. Soo Hoo is a licensed clinical and health psychologist, we must make it clear that nothing on the blog is intended to constitute medical or psychological advice, consultation, recommendation, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are concerned about your health, please seek appropriate care in your area.