A healthy social life reflects (and affects) our well-being. Somehow, this seems especially important at Christmas because everyone else seems to be having such a good time. It’s never too late to create a charmed life with friends.
Connections with family and friends can work wonders. They improve our health, happiness and quality of life. As well, research now puts social isolation up there with other health risk factors such as obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking and too much alcohol.
Some of the benefits of a healthy social life
- People with friends have a sense of belonging and purpose
- Friends support each other through the tough times that we all experience
- They boost each other’s feelings of self-worth
- Stress levels are less when you have people who care about you and who laugh and cry with you
- Friendships sharpen our minds, boost the immune system and can even extend our lives.
Suggestions for making new friends
1. Go where people share your interests
This could mean joining a book club at your local library or a craft group near you. It might mean enrolling in a class or special interest group such as a choir or a blogging mastermind group. I like the idea of Meet-ups organised in most cities where like-minded people gather to talk about sometimes obscure interests.
You can find other people using Google searches that include the interest and your city, town or suburb.
2. Take up a new interest or hobby
Enrol in a community education course, a course at a seniors’ centre or a local recreation centre.
3. Join a group
Join a group for which you are eligible. Probus Clubs and other similar organisations offer a range of interesting events, speakers and involvement for retirees, and so do Universities of the Third Age. I wrote about a Probus Club here.
Men’s Sheds, Red Hat Groups, writing centres, garden clubs, community gardens, a choir, a walking group – there’s probably a group of others interested in anything you’ would ever like to join. Chosen well, they can be fun and add to your social well being. Groups create an environment where friendships flourish.
4. Volunteer and make a difference
Use your talents, skills, expertise and experience to make the world a better place.
The scope for volunteering is almost endless. Schools, hospitals, museums, zoos, charities like St Vincent de Paul, migrant centres, churches, refuges, animal shelters (for a start) can always use extra hands (and heads and hearts). Working with others who share your passion leads to strong connections that last outside the workplace.
In Perth, you can contact Volunteering WA to find out which organisations are looking for volunteers with your talents.
5. Exercise for social well-being and health
Join a gym, a fitness class, a bowling club, a Masters Swimming Club. Go to the local swimming pool and exercise or walk in the designated pool. I guarantee before long, you’ll have people happy to walk the length of the pool with you and share a coffee afterwards.
Walk in the local park and on the streets, preferably at the same time so you meet the same people every day. Say ‘hello’ to them. Stop to admire babies in prams and talk to parents with toddlers. Make friends with dogs, because their owners will appreciate it.
If you don’t have a dog, offer to walk someone else’s. Become a dog-walker. Some shops have noticeboards with advertisements for someone to walk dogs.
Exercise of any sort improves our moods and health. It also increases creativity and can help grow a healthy social life.
6. Use the phone
Pick up your phone and call someone. Keep in touch with family members and friends you don’t see as often as you’d like. Call to ask how they are, to thank th
7. Use technology
If you don’t already use it, learn how to. Stay in touch with family and friends in distance places through Skype, Facechat, Smartchat, etc. Ask at your local library about courses.
Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms help provide contact with people. I’m amazed and delighted that some of my Facebook friends have become real-life friends.
Technology does not provide the same level of companionship as real contact, but it is better than nothing
8. Accept (and extend) invitations
This can be scary, but if we want friends, we have to be friends. We must overcome our shyness and diffidence and become involved. A simple invitation to someone to share a coffee in a cafe is a good way to start. You have nothing to lose and nothing to prepare, it will last an hour or less, and most of us can do anything for an hour!
Accept invitations and return the invitations. Don’t forget to say thank you afterwards. A simple text message, email or phone call is always appreciated.
‘Thank you for this morning. I enjoyed talking to you.
Saying thanks always helps to grow a friendship, too
9. Consider moving house
Options include moving to a retirement village or to an apartment complex where the residents have a sense of community. Both of these have advantages and disadvantages to be weighed up.
I wrote a blog about why John and I chose to move to an apartment. They both have potential to nurture a healthy social life though active community living and participation.
Moving may mean relocating closer to family members or friends, or to a more densely populated area with more facilities and things to do.
While this may also seem a difficult decision, there are many options for people of all ages and abilities to travel on their own and meet other people in a similar position to themselves . Try the internet for more information, or travel agents can help.
Finding friends and creating a healthy social life may seem like a major undertaking, but the effort put into the task can be rewarding. This an investment we should be happy to make because the rewards are great.
I feel as if I’ve skimmed the surface of this topic. As always, I’d appreciate your feedback. If you have other tips for making friends, please share them in a comment.