Humans are social animals and we all know how important it is for our health and general wellbeing to maintain good relationships with those around us, but that doesn’t mean it is always easy.
In fact, research from relationship charity Relate, found that as many as one in eight adults in the UK have no close friends at all; unsurprising when you consider it is often much harder to make friends as adults, rather than children.
Martin Burrow, counsellor for Relate, says: “Adults can very quickly get stuck in a routine that revolves around work, sleep and possibly childcare. As life takes over, friends sometimes fall further down the list of priorities.”
So what do you do if you are finding yourself lonelier than you would like, and without your parents to organise you playdates anymore?
1. Do get involved in new hobbies or social clubs.
It sounds like a cliche, and not something that is always easy when we have full work schedules and are exhausted at the end of the day. But without expanding your circles you just end up seeing the same people all the time.
This will require you to be proactive in your search, Burrow says: “Think of something you’d like to do, whether that’s joining a sports club, a language class or a book club. You can find lots of meet-up groups on the internet that don’t cost money and connect people with similar interests.”
2. Don’t dismiss people because they aren’t exactly like you.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for adults is having a really fixed idea of the type of person you want to socialise with, which immediately narrows down the pool of people available in your search.
Part of children’s success is that “they tend to have less prejudices” and are willing to give anyone a chance.
“Be open-minded about who you make friends with rather than dismissing them before you’ve had a chance to really get to know them,” says Burrow.
3. Do put yourself out there.
Okay, okay, we know you are British and the idea of being forward in any type of social situation goes against everything we are taught, but if you spend your life waiting for people to invite you out, you could be waiting forever.
Not to mention, people probably don’t know how lonely you are so won’t think to impose an invite upon you without you suggesting it first.
And when you’re getting to know people, don’t be afraid to make the first move. “Generally speaking [children] aren’t worried about coming across as too keen or wanting to sound interesting and this is why they do well,” says Burrow.
4. Do keep up face-to-face contact.
You might have successfully attended one extra-curricular class and aren’t seeing results immediately, but don’t be defeated and starting hiding away behind your computer screen again. It doesn’t have the same benefits as face-to-face contact.
Burrow says: “Social media and technology can be a great way of keeping in touch with friends who have moved away or who we don’t have time to see as often but it’s important to try and build in time for face-to-face contact too.”
Although make no mistake, social media is better than nothing.
5. Do make more effort to keep in touch.
If nothing else is working, it is always worth reaching out to old friends (perhaps even people from your childhood) to try and reconnect. When people move away, move jobs or move into new relationships, staying in touch shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Burrow says: “Keep in regular contact with your friends and be there for them. You may also want to get in touch with friends you’ve lost contact with over the years and rebuild your connection.”