Friend of Marmalade Trust, John-Paul shares five tips on overcoming loneliness and establishing, maintaining and deepening friendships.
Connection and making new friends
From Psychotherapist John-Paul Davies
Let the internet help you connect
Although you can’t beat face-to-face support, the internet does offer forums and settings to help you build connections that can form the start of new friendships. There is a ‘disinhibition’ factor when you can’t see someone’s face over an email or phone which can help you step out of your comfort zone and share what is happening for you more easily. Some people also find themselves more able to talk to strangers than to people who are in their lives ‘everyday’.
Find a walking group
Walks are really good ways to connect, as the process of walking side by side and communicating without direct eye contact can help us to feel more comfortable to open up. There are more and more men’s mental health walks springing up, particularly in nice locations. These combine three key factors that generally help our mental health: nature; exercise; and others we trust to share our experience with.
Try to trust other people more. Most people have experienced fear, sadness and loneliness. Everyone has been hurt, we all want to love and be loved and most of us have a story of grief or loss. You can feel like you are the only person who has known this pain, but when you start to trust yourself and other people, you are most likely to realise that you have much more in common with others than your loneliness might lead you to believe. When you experience this, and it feels good, you are more likely to share again in the future.
Feel the fear and do it anyway
From making new friends, to trying a new social group, enrolling as a volunteer or just opening up a conversation with a stranger in the pub, sometimes you just need to take a deep breath, feel the fear and try it. It may not always work out the way you’d have liked, but by going ahead despite the fear, by trusting more, we can bring out the best not only in ourselves, but in the other people we trust too.
Value other people
Think about how you can show other people that you value them. Remember the birthday, the job interview, the big date, show people what they mean to you and it will help to deepen the connections in friendships.
Dial up your connection
In my book Finding a Balanced Connection, I share a technique which involves choosing your values from a list and making a top ten. You can then look at the extent to which you are living your life in accordance with these values.
Take time to look at what’s important to you now
A lot of people will talk about the value of success, but how do you define that? Why are you doing the things that you are doing? If good family relationships and good friendships are amongst your top values, are you behaving in a way that is aligned to them? If you are choosing to work long hours or work away from home all the time, are these relationships really the most important thing to you? Then, you can look at your values list and see what you might do this week to make sure you’re behaving in a way that’s closer to them.
Rate your relationships
You can do the same technique as above with relationships and friendships. Look at where your relationships are now and how important they are – look at romantic partners, friends, family and rate your relationships with different people from one to ten, then ask yourself ‘what can I do to increase this, by just one point?’