Technology has allowed us to be able to connect and communicate with more people, yet loneliness continues to be an issue for many people. There are many theories out there as to why this continues to be such a prevalent issue, but this article will focus more on a few small changes we can make towards connecting on a deeper level in order to help combat those times we begin to feel lonely.
Remember, people who are lonely often have other people who are lonely around them without even knowing. We may think that those around us are too busy to make time to connect with us, but some people are wrapping themselves in business to shut the loneliness out. Try to keep an open mind regarding who might be looking for a friend, because friendships are often developed in places we least expect them to develop. Look around you for others that may be feeling left out, or that you may suspect are needing a friend and be intentional in seeking them out. You may just be surprised to find a good friendship in the making.
Be intentional about seeking out relationships. The word “intentional” is often thrown around, but what does it look like in practice? It means we plan to connect; we make space in our days for it - even if that space is only a few minutes here and there. It can be as simple as taking a moment to text or call someone you’ve been meaning to catch up with, to grabbing lunch or coffee with them. Relationships are built upon shared experiences. The more shared time and experiences had together, the deeper the relationship is likely to become. The more small points of connection we make with someone throughout the week, the more likely the relationship is to continue growing deeper. Sometimes we may feel that calling someone for a few minutes is not good enough because we really want to catch up, but if all you have time for is a few minutes - a few minutes is much better than not connecting at all.
Begin making intentional connections sooner, rather than later. The later we go in life, the more potential there is for loneliness because we have fewer natural connecting points (i.e. school, job, etc) for establishing and continuing relationships. This is not to say that deep relationships cannot be developed later in life, it just means we have to become more and more intentional about how we connect with people as we grow older because our circumstances often do not set us up to make those connections. A good place to start making connections with people (which may seem obvious) is to go where people are. Playing board games, book clubs, and groups dedicated to individual hobbies tend to be good growing grounds because they already set the stage for some common connections.Don’t put off connecting with people because loneliness can often sneak up on us over time.
Picture yourself intentionally connecting. What would that look like? What would it be like to ask that person to go get coffee? Simply thinking through what it would look like in actuality to connect with someone can help spark some ideas on how to make that connection a reality. It may be as simple as keeping your cell phone in your pocket when those awkward moments come in social gatherings, or taking your phone out to call someone you've been meaning to call for a while. Remember, it is not always the quantity of time that matters most, but the consistency and quality of time. Friendships are built on shared moments over time, so picture a moment in your day you could choose to connect with someone and challenge yourself to do so. It may feel awkward at first, but the long term reward of a lasting friendship will outweigh the awkwardness in the long run.
This article is based on a conversation with GRC’s licensed counselor, Erik.