Many of you will have read the report in the media this week following a survey by relationship counsellors Relate which revealed that one in ten of us do not have a single close friend which amounts to a staggering 4.7 million people in the UK. 42% of those who work reported they did not have a single friend in the workplace either – all of which says that loneliness is a silent epidemic where millions are isolated and suffering alone.
If you are feeling alone and the lack of a meaningful friendship or soul connection, what can you do? First, this survey tells you that you are by no means alone so the important thing is to understand that there is nothing wrong with you and that this is by no means a judgement on what you have to offer as a friend. You are a beautiful and unique soul and as valid and fabulous as anyone else. Practically everyone has experienced a period of loneliness and social withdrawal at some point in their lives – no matter how popular they may appear to be to us right now! I certainly have!
Loneliness does not discriminate and cuts across all age groups, social classes, income brackets and even fame and success. There can be many reasons why we end up feeling we don’t have a single friend we can turn to and also times in our lives when we can be particularly vulnerable to this happening. Examples of this include graduating from or moving school or university, relocation, becoming a parent and being at home with a young child, job loss and unemployment, grief, illness, changing jobs and even relationship breakdown – it’s a fact that in divorce who gets the house/kids/dog/80’s CD collection can usually be sorted out – but not who gets custody of the couple’s friends!
So, you can easily see how feeling friendless can happen or even creep up on us unawares due to changes in our lives and circumstances and how it can affect anyone. Once we understand that then moving out of this and making new connections becomes a lot easier.
First of all, understand that the majority of people out there with very minor exceptions are just like you. They are looking for a friendly face and a nice smile and that’s where you start if making friends all suddenly seems daunting. Chances are no matter where you live or what your circumstances are you see the same people every day. Practice small steps by smiling and saying ‘Good morning’ or ‘Hello’. I can assure you that most times you will get the same response back and even a comment about the weather/your commute or whatever. If you are working and feeling you have no friends at work then make a practice when you stop at someone’s work station to discuss something to add a little personal detail on to this. Now I’m not saying stand around gossiping but it can be anything from a comment about your commute, your favourite TV show or asking whether they have been to the coffee shop around the corner. With the latter if they say no or yes, and it’s good, then why not suggest next time you grab a coffee together?
The goal here is just practice. It doesn’t matter whether you end up best buddies with the people you are interacting with or not – it’s like any skill, you are getting back in training and the more you do, the easier it becomes!
If you are in a position where you are unemployed or have limited money to spend socialising then there are many groups and resources available for making connections which either cost nothing or very little. If your loneliness is causing you to feel depressed whether you are working or not, then your best resource is your doctor as most will be able to put you in touch with free self-help groups that will not only help but will connect you with like-minded people. Your library and local paper and also wonderful resources for what’s going on and don’t forget – whatever you are interested in – there are others out there who share similar interests. If you can’t find a group in your area then why not start one? Anything from a book club, a writer’s or psychic development group, a walking group – the choice is yours and you can always post a notice on the internet or in a local shop.
Making friends takes some effort but what you need to know is that your people are out there and waiting to connect to you – you just have to make the first move! Above all, friendships like the best love affairs, need time to blossom and evolve so take your time in getting to know someone and don’t be needy. Allow friendships to develop in their own time and they will prove to be lasting. Take a stocktake of all you have to offer and give as a friend. See how much it is and know that you deserve love and companionship just by being you! Imagine yourself getting to know new people and them getting to know you in turn. With this in mind and you’ll soon be able to start approaching people with a confident smile. Remember – all relationships begin with ‘Hello’.
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