Posts Tagged ‘friendship’

In a poll conducted by Forbes Health in 2022, 59% of respondents felt that since the pandemic it has become harder for them to form new adult relationships. Pandemic aside, there are many other life events, such as moving or changing employment, which can leave your social circle slim. If you are feeling the same, there are a few ways that you can work on meeting new people and reestablish existing relationships.

Why can’t we just stay home forever? We are social creatures, and socializing does not just improve our mood, but also our health. The Mayo Clinic shares that having positive friendships can:

  • Help combat feelings of loneliness and depression, which can cause isolation
  • Increase happy feelings and decrease stress
  • Good relationships can be a support system for negative times
  • Can encourage you to make better lifestyle choices
  • Give you a sense of belonging or purpose
  • Can help to lower blood pressure and body mass index.

University of Maryland professor, Marisa Franco, gave an interview in 2022 on why as adults we struggle making new friends.  She states that the organic nature in which we gained friends as a child changes with age. With busier schedules and more strict boundaries, making new friends must be intentional. She reports that we tend to be too hard on ourselves as we age, and it is easier for us to feel unliked by new people despite evidence of the contrary. This is when loneliness can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You might be wondering where or how to start meeting all these awesome potential friends? Psychiatrist Roxanna Namavar shares some tips to keep in mind:

  • Approach new people and activities with positivity, focusing on what feels good.
  • Create your circle of friends around the parts of your life you enjoy.
  • Take some time to research groups that may interest you. This might require you to update your social media skills to groups and community activities you may not have been aware of.
  • Ask questions about your new friend. This will help build a relationship better than just talking about yourself.
  • Is there a casual acquaintance you can get to know better?
  • Do not be afraid to say ‘yes,’ initiate activities, or be vulnerable.

Additionally, older adults may have added anxiety about returning to social gatherings. AARP shares that some people may feel more confident about spending time with others who may be vaccinated. But having those conversations with friends and family may lead to more stress. It is okay to tell other’s that you are not ready to join large gatherings yet. Coming up with alternative activities that would make you more comfortable will help others to know that you still value time with them. Likewise, be patient with others who are not comfortable with your own invitations to gather.

As stated earlier, positive friendships are the key. When working on friendships aim for quality over quantity. Keeping friendships takes time and effort, but they are worth it.

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Lately I have been feeling even more isolated and alone than I did at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I have found myself retreating and not reaching out to others in the same ways that I did a year ago. But a couple weeks ago, some friends called and asked me to join them for a small girls’ night out dinner. We safely socially distanced from others, and the four of us enjoyed an evening at a hotel together. THAT event has changed my train of thought. I was feeling bad for myself and feeling very lonely, which is not easy as an extroverted person. But what I realized was that even if I cannot spend time with people physically, I do not have to wait for them to contact me. Connection is a two-way street. I can reach out even while staying “safe”.

Connection looks different in every relationship. Sometimes you have a connection because of chemistry with another. Sometimes it is a “forced” interaction because you are colleagues, in class together, or share a common interest. We communicate through verbal and non-verbal signals that can drive connection or cause disconnection. Social media is also a major form of connection for many of us.

YOU WERE MADE FOR CONNECTION. Even if you are an introverted person, I am sure you still have a small circle of people you trust and who are important to you. Interactions drive our daily lives. Connecting with others helps us remember that we matter. Our brains thrive from connection. 

We were also made to show connection through safe, physical touch. Hugging releases oxytocin* and dopamine* and directly impacts cortisol* levels. It is recommended that we should receive 10 second hugs– 8 a day for maintenance, 12 a day for growth, and upwards of 18 for optimal mental health.

  • Oxytocin promotes feeling of contentment, reduces stress, and promotes bonding.
  • Dopamine is linked to Parkinson’s disease (low levels) and Schizophrenia (high levels). Dopamine is the pleasure hormone. Lack of dopamine can lead to procrastination, self doubt, and lack of enthusiasm.
  • Cortisol is our fight or flight hormone. It’s your body’s main stress hormone. It works with certain parts of your brain to control your mood and motivation.

In high stress states it feels like our body cannot contain emotion without someone to hold us. Touch is not a single sense. Having your back rubbed stimulates neurons that release oxytocin, dopamine, and cortisol. Vicarious touch can help us to soothe ourselves. A hunger for touch means a need is not met.

We are also our own biggest barrier to connection. We tell ourselves we are okay. We tell ourselves that we can handle it. We tell ourselves we don’t want to bother anyone. I encourage you to please stop doing that to yourself. Think about how you feel when someone reaches out to you and wants to spend time with you. It makes you feel wanted and needed and important. 

Take control of your own well-being. Pick up the phone. Write a letter. Send a text. Make a list of who you miss and start putting “Connect with _____________________” on your to-do list every day. It will make a difference. I know it has for me.

Written by: Jami Dellifield, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Hardin County

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Perry County


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