How to cope with loneliness
Our new survey of the nation’s relationships The Way We Are Now 2015 reveals that one in ten of us has no close friends – the same finding from our report last year.
Being lonely affects you in lots of ways. It can reduce your confidence, make you feel less optimistic, even make it harder to identify with others. Loneliness can feel like a self-fulfilling prophecy – the longer you go without friends, the harder it can be to make new ones.
And if you’re in a relationship, it can put that relationship under a lot of pressure – as it effectively puts your partner in the position of fulfilling all your social needs.
So what should you do if you don’t have any close friends but want to make some? It can be a daunting prospect. If you’re finding it difficult, you might find the following tips useful.
■Get to know yourself first. Have a good think about what it is you find difficult about making friends and how you might go about addressing it. It may be that you don’t feel confident enough to approach new people. You may worry that you aren’t likeable enough. Or it may have been so long since you made a friend that you simply can’t remember how to do it. Knowing what you need to work on gives you a focus – and can help you to understand your current situation better. If you’re finding things tricky, Relationship Counselling works for single people too. Your counsellor can help you identify any emotional patterns or habits and help you think about how to change them.
■Put yourself in new situations. If you don’t have many friends at work and spend most of your free time at home, it can feel like you never have a chance to meet anyone new. But sometimes you have to create your own opportunities. Although it’s a cliché, clubs or social groups are great places to meet others with similar interests to your own. Sites like Meetup, Badoo and even Facebook all list events where people can socialize. Volunteering, too, can be a great way of meeting new people while doing something fulfilling.
■Practice. Although it may sound a little clinical, making friends requires a set of skills that you can develop over time. It may take a few attempts before you’re able to get over the awkwardness of striking up a conversation with someone you haven’t met before or holding small talk in an unfamiliar situation. But be patient with yourself and give it time. Before you know it, your confidence will begin to grow.
■Reconnect with old friends. It’s not just about making new friends! Think about whether there’s anyone you used to see more regularly that it would be nice to reconnect with. We sometimes assume that, because they haven’t been in contact, old friends won’t be interested to hear from us – but they may be assuming the same thing about you! If there’s someone you’d like to catch up with, why not drop them a line?
■Be persistent. Making new friends can be tricky and you can’t necessarily expect results really fast. If you need a break, take one. But don’t let setbacks put you off. Instead of focusing on having immediate success, try to enjoy the process. See building up your confidence and getting involved in new things as an end in itself. Our social circles tend to evolve organically when we provide the right environment.
Want to talk to someone? Relate provides a safe space where you can talk about things openly.
- Book an appointment by calling 01908 310010