I was inspired to write this after someone who attended one of my workshops expressed how lonely and isolated they felt after having just moved to our area. It seems that they are not alone in these feelings with over 50 per cent of adults admitting that they feel lonely at least once a week. In a 2018 study conducted by Australian Psychological Society, it was found that these feelings are experienced by adults across all age groups with, sadly, one-in-five people reporting that they never feel they have someone to talk to. Humans are social animals. We need these social connections and feelings of belonging to feel fulfilled and well. Loneliness can lead to negative effects on both our mental and physical health and can lead to problematic depression and anxiety.
Why am I feeling lonely?
When we were younger, making new friends seemed easy. Sometimes it was as simple as approaching a school-mate in the playground. At high school and university, we often moved away from these childhood friendships and instead connected with people we had more in common with. Then we made friendships based in the workplace. As an adult without those social environments, making new friends can be an anxiety-inducing activity. This anxiety can mean that we don't make or maintain friendships, leading to isolation and loneliness.
Where can I go?
There are loads of community support organisations that can be a great starting point for meeting like-minded people. Neighbourhood Houses are welcoming, non-judgemental places that you can go to attend interest-based groups. They also offer low-cost courses or you can simply pop in for a cuppa and a chat. In my town, there is a community veggie-patch if you love gardening, a cycling group for fitness, Senior Citizen groups and a wide range of other hobby-based communities that will greet you with open arms. Of course, there is an app for that too! Meetup is a free app that can connect you to local interest groups.
What is the next step?
Being brave enough to put yourself out there and make new friendships as an adult is the biggest hurdle to overcome. Set yourself personal goals and take steps to achieve these. Make a list of things that you love to do, new skills that you want to learn or skills that you have that could enrich others. Volunteering your time can be an enriching and rewarding pastime, knowing that you are connecting with others and making a difference to someone's wellbeing. Be prepared to feel a bit uncomfortable at first, keeping your end goal in mind when moving through the feelings of discomfort. Remember, if you need help overcoming social anxiety and feel that this is holding you back from making new friendships, seek out professional assistance. Free mental health and Art therapy workshops at Ararat Wellness Centre, every Saturday, 10am-11am.