Loneliness is a common problem within the UK and not one limited to older people. The Campaign to End Loneliness reports that at least half of adults aged 52 or over who have been widowed, divorced or are in ill health report feeling lonely. Other factors throughout our lifespan can contribute to loneliness such as children starting school or leaving home, relocating or being on a break from work due to parental leave or illness. For other people, work or household chores can be the reason for social isolation and loneliness (Enright, 2018). Friendships and social interactions are important and loneliness can have a significant impact upon emotional wellbeing.
How to make new friends
‘How to make new friends’ may seem childish to some people as many feel as though building friendships is a skill that should have been achieved by adulthood. Some people feel ashamed if they feel unable to make or keep friends. However, it is not uncommon to reach adulthood and feel confused as to how to go about meeting new people. The following points may guide new social experiences:
- Seek out new people. This may involve joining a sports club, getting involved in local activities such as parkrun, community clean ups or charity coffee mornings. You could also volunteer your time or take a new class to learn something new as well as meet new people.
- Be open minded. Perhaps old friendships have dwindled and died because you didn’t feel you had much in common anymore, or perhaps you feel unfulfilled by friendships with a certain type of person. The key to changing this is to be open minded to friendships with different types of people. Perhaps your new acquaintance is from a different age group, culture or gender to yourself. Try to stay open minded to the possibility of a great friendship developing.
- Make it a priority. Many people report that daily life interferes with making friends, however, if loneliness is making you unhappy it is important to priortise. This may mean that small household chores are delayed or you have to put firmer boundaries in place at work or with your family.
- Avoid self-criticism. Many people criticise themselves for not having ‘enough’ friends or a ‘best friend’ or for perceiving themselves as socially inept. Try to quiet this critical voice and avoid criticising yourself.
- Improve your social skills. When interacting with new people try to focus on projecting the qualities that you want them to notice in you. Active listening and eye contact can also help your acquaintance feel listened to and value your friendship.
If loneliness is affecting your mood and you would like support in developing your social skills, being less critical of yourself and building friendships then the professional therapists at Morency can help. Dr Julie Hannan at Morency can be contacted on 07530 854530 if you would like to discuss your needs. Dr Julie Hannan also specialises in Midlife issues and further midlife information can be found at www.drjuliehannan.com.
Campaign to end loneliness. Retrieved from: https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/loneliness-research/
Enright, L. (2018). Retrieved from: https://www.the-pool.com/life/life-honestly/2018/19/Lynn-Enright-on-making-new-friends-as-an-adult