We are social creatures by nature. When we socialize and are in the presence of others, we help our overall sense of well-being. Social interaction helps to reduce stress, depression and when we are with people that we generally like, we may have a reduction of anxiety. It feels good to connect with others and have great conversation. It is also rewarding when we do activities that help ourselves or others.
However, finding new friends can seem daunting and uncomfortable. Often, we have these long histories and social circles that were effortless for us to maintain and then one day, we look around and realize that this person moved away, this person passed away, a divorce took place, a job was relocated, work demanded too much time and our groups of friends and acquaintances shrank considerably. We didn’t have to go searching for friends during our youth, these relationships just seemed to happen. But now, as we age and our lives have diverted, we may need to make a concerted effort to increase our social and human interactions.
If you have found that your social circle is smaller than you would like, and you want to meet new people, here are some easy, low-stress, enjoyable ways to put yourself out there and meet people.
- Subscribe to Meetup.com. When I had moved to Omaha, Nebraska in 2012, one of the first things I did was join Meetup. I met my friend Darren first who had a Meetup group for those that like to go to movies and listen to music. I joined the vegan meetup group and met many friends through that while eating delicious plant based food at local restaurants. Then, I decided to create my own meetup group to explore the culture of Omaha with a focus on going to museum and art events. It was in this group that I met the mirror of myself- my friend Theresa. I am not making this up… not only did she and I share the same first name, we both had blonde hair with bangs, both had lived in South Florida at one time, our grown children lived in Dallas and we had many other things in common. Needless to say, we hit it off and have been friends since.
- Join a Book Club. There are book clubs on Meetup, Facebook and often, your local library will sponsor book clubs as well. My friend Theresa, who I mentioned above, was a member of two book clubs- one being more highbrow literary and the other was focused more on best sellers. She loved her book clubs and met lots of interesting people and would tell me about the discussions they had, some very passionate and some more mundane. She always lit up when she mentioned her book clubs and she got great pleasure from joining those groups.
- Volunteer for something you are passionate about. I had a friend who had made a big lifestyle change which was to stop drinking. After he stopped drinking, he quickly realized that all of his friends had one thing in common- they were all heavy drinkers. Though their love of partying and staying out all night had bonded them together, when he become sober, he needed to find a new circle of friends. As an animal lover, he joined animal rescue groups and made lots of friends while helping animals in need. He told me that he immediate felt a strong kinship with many of the members because they were all passionate about the same thing. Volunteering for something that speaks to you will help you to connect with the other volunteers and make it easier to develop friendships.
- Find an Exercise Activity that is done with a group of people. I met my friend Lani in 2011 during one of my first yoga classes. She and I had both joined the studio within a week of us meeting and it was an instant connection. We initially bonded by helping each other with our posture and poses but as time went on, we became very close friends and 6 months later, I hosted a birthday party for both of us at my house (our birthdays are 5 days apart from each other.) She and I met our friend Anh and the three of us would encourage each other to practice. (I actually have named 2 of the items I sell at Nature Reflections after them, the Anh Earrings and the Lan Necklace.) There are so many fun exercise classes to take in addition to yoga, such as dance, Tai-Chi, Mall Walking or other Walking Groups, golf, swimming and Zumba, just to name a few. Check out your local gyms, YMCA, Exercise Studios or local recreational centers to find a class you will enjoy.
- Take a class. Did you know most local libraries have free classes? I have taken sewing lessons, HTML, 3D printing, Photoshop and Excel courses at my library. These courses are usually very high level but I met a few people while taking these classes. Though you could pay for college classes, if you want to go the free or cheap route, many community centers and businesses offer classes where you can meet and socialize with others. If you would like to learn how to paint or do mosaics, look up your local art stores and they are sure to have information on classes near you. If you would like to learn about gardening, hydroponics or permaculture, check out your local botanical gardens, arboretums, garden centers, holistic living schools or hydroponic stores.
There are more ways to meet people, but the five suggestions above makes meeting people second nature since an activity is happening at the same time. You automatically have the connection with others- you can talk about the class, group or event and ask questions like… “What did you think about the art at the museum we just went to? Was there a piece that stood out to you?” Or, your conversation may go something like this, “I found I was losing my balance in Tree Pose. What did you use as a focal point to help you create your balance?” It’s a lot easier than going up to a stranger at a coffee shop or somewhere else (not saying you can’t or shouldn’t do those things too, being open to every encounter is a sure-fire way to expand your social circle.)
To recap- be open, find what you like to do and go do it with others. By doing so, you will find others who have similar interest as you and it will make it easier to connect and make new friends.