It’s come to this: there is now a Campaign to End Loneliness. Yes, people have realized that there is a connection between having friends and being healthy. The thing is, there are more people and more of them living in cities than ever before, but they just aren’t getting to know each other in a meaningful way.
In 2010, AARP did a study that found 40 to 45% of Americans felt lonely regularly or frequently. Perhaps more important than percentages are the facts about how feelings of loneliness lead to physical health problems and increased the likelihood of dying earlier. While it is natural to feel lonely at times, chronic loneliness has been associated with functional and cognitive decline.
To ward off the detrimental effects of loneliness, consider reconnecting with an old friend or making a new one.
Mythbusters: Stop the Excuses
No doubt about it: making new friends can be intimidating as well as fun. As you go about expanding the meaningful connections in your life, consider these tips:
- Yes, people can connect online but getting out of the house to meet new people—aka potential friends—is one of the best ways to decrease feelings of loneliness. Sign up for a class, join a group, attend an event.
- Chances are that you are not the only one feeling shy or afraid of rejection.
- Let a new relationship evolve naturally into friendship without putting pressure on someone to be friends immediately. It’s OK to be acquaintances first.
- Not all friends have to be the same age or gender as you. You might meet someone decades younger or older who shares your love of a certain author, activity or other interest.
- Keep up your existing friendships by making them a priority and not taking them for granted.
So, you’ve met some nice new folks who seem to enjoy your company. Does this mean you are friends? There is literally more than one way to define friend:
- A person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
- A person who gives assistance; patron; supporter.
- A person who is on good terms with another.
Intimate friends will share experiences, might have similar backgrounds and viewpoints, and be there for one another during life’s changes—good or bad.
Take it one step at a time to build mutual trust and affection. It takes time to develop friendships and can’t be artificial. Your new friendship could be vital to your well-being.