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Health Benefits of Meaningful Friendships

Updated: Mar 10


One of the first things I explore with my new clients is their support network. When assessing needs, resources, and risk, this is a fundamental part of the puzzle.


The truth is, so many of us neglect friendship building and nurturing as a priority. Perhaps people consider the social support base to be covered as long as they have a partner or close family. For others, the concept of seeking more of a support network may feel totally alien and outside of your control. No one really talks about the difficulties and challenges in making friends as an adult.


It can be helpful to think about life in seasons. A friendship group we have had since primary school may have really sustained us when we were younger, perhaps all the way into university years, but now, it may be that you notice you feel disconnected, stressed or under-stimulated. In an example such as this, people often find themselves socialising less because socialising is less rewarding. However, as time goes on, the pool of social options may not have been intentionally replenished, leading to feeling more alone.


The pandemic has had a big impact on friendships as we were forced to prioritise who we wanted to see and who we had time and capacity to talk to via tech, during periods of zoom fatigue. For many, this has led to a natural culling of friends. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. It depends on the net effect on you.


Some questions to consider:

  • Are you satisfied with your friendships?

  • What makes you satisfied or unsatisfied?

  • What could you cultivate more of?

  • What are the barriers to doing so? Is there space to problem-solve these?


The Exhaustion of Socialising

Another outcome of the pandemic I hear a lot (and have personally experienced) is an increase in "social fatigue". That is feeling fatigued from socialising quicker or more acutely afterwards. People may have less capacity for socialising into the evening or feel more tired the day after social events. This can breed frustration. It can also lead many to conclude that they "just can't socialise like I used to".


I like to think about the concept of pacing yourself while socialising. The considerations that are important to make including your mood, energy, who you are socialising with and duration. My approach is to encourage people to gradually and flexibly build up capacity until they find their "new normal", which may be much closer (or the same) as the old normal than they think. We have a terrible habit of experiencing recovery in whatever form and rushing hard into resuming activity as usual, but it really can cause us difficulties.


Things to try to Help Build Connections

In this Women's Health article, both I and Dr Kimberly Wilson, make suggestions for building friendships and social connection. I've collated some here too:

  • Attend events that you're likely to meet like-minded people (e.g. book readings, gigs, Cacao ceremonies, mindfulness groups).

  • Start a new hobby or learn a new skills (e.g. five-aside football, pottery classes, knitting groups, language classes, improv workshops).

  • Sign up to group activities in your local area. Air B&B do experiences you can book onto. They are often for people visiting the area but equally, locals often sign up and attend too. Examples include walking tours of local landmarks, animal farm experiences, cooking classes, and painting with prosecco evenings.

  • Find Meet Up groups on meetup.com. There are so many different meetup groups arranged across the UK and beyond, you are likely to find an active group somewhere.

  • Find organisations that organise group hikes, runs or cycles.

  • Use an app! Bumble now has a friendship mode, for meeting friends in your area.


It is almost easier to think about the practicalities of cultivating opportunities to find friendship than it is to address the psychological ways to approach it. People often feel very vulnerable when putting themselves out there to other people. If you aren't warmly received and unequivocally welcomed, it can feel the extreme opposite, that you are being rejected.


It is important to remember that other people are just as likely to be having a similar experience to you. Their reactions or ways of interacting with you are often more informed by their own stuff than they are informed by you.

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