Does your life revolve around work and family commitments, with little or no chance to laugh with friends? Is your closest pal a tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream? If you’ve admitted to yourself “I feel unhappy because I don’t have any friends”, you need to examine why you feel that way – and what you can do about it.
Have you cut yourself off from friends because of your weight?
Those of you with a large amount of weight to lose may feel deeply unhappy about going out and socialising. Shauna Reid writes very movingly and honestly about this on www.dietgirl.org – saying how she worried about friends wanting to go for a walk. It’s incredibly common for people to feel ostracised by their weight; if all your friends are slim, you may hate being the one who stands out in the crowd.
Unfortunately, cutting yourself off from friends can be very damaging to your health. Being bored and alone often leads to unhealthy snacking – I know that I, and many other successful dieters, had to ditch the mindset of solitary binge-eating: there’s something guiltily exciting about crisps and chocolates scoffed in secret, and we may fool ourselves that if nobody sees us, the calories don’t count…
Living as a social recluse is also bad for your mental wellbeing, especially if you’re prone to mild depression, or if you’re naturally shy.
Do you have friends, but lack time to see them?
When you look back to your school or university days, you were probably surrounded by friends. At school, you saw them every day in class or on the playground; at university, they lived in the same house or halls as you. The world of work can come as a shock after this: when I graduated and moved to London, I felt very lonely at first. If your friends have spread themselves around the country, it’s difficult to find time to meet up.
Or perhaps you do have friends nearby, but you’re too tired in the evenings to invite them over, and family commitments seem to eat up your weekends.
Often the biggest challenge is simply getting round to setting a time and place to meet up. When you’re used to the spontaneous socialising of student life, the need for foreplanning as a working adult may pass you by. Grab your diary for April – have you got a free Saturday or Sunday? Why not call or email a friend today to invite them round for lunch, or to suggest going out for a drink?
Finding old friends
If you still feel that you don’t have any friends, it’s time to find some! That could mean getting back in touch with people you’ve lost contact with.
Old friends are easy to re-establish a connection with: just ring or email; don’t feel shy about it, as they’ll likely be delighted to hear from you and they’ll want to get you caught up on all their news. If you don’t have any details for them in your address book, try searching for them on popular social networking sites such as www.myspace.com, www.bebo.com or www.facebook.com – or just type their full name into your favourite search engine and see what comes up!
Once you’ve made contact, stay in touch. I find Facebook very useful for keeping track of all my friends – almost everyone I knew at university uses it, and it’s an easy way to see what everyone’s been up to. Email is also great, since it’s instantaneous and free, but why not write a proper letter once in a while? I know how much it brightens up my day to have a handwritten card or note in the mail, amongst the usual junk and bills.
Where to make new friends
There are lots of reasons why you might want to be brave and forge some new relationships. Perhaps you’ve moved abroad and away from all your friends. Perhaps you’re deliberately seeking to put the past behind you.
One of the easiest ways to meet new people is online. Join a web forum related to one of your interests or hobbies: you may want to “lurk” before joining to get a feel for the community there. I strongly recommend the friendly people at the Steve Pavlina forums — the forums are orientated around the idea of “growth” in your life, but these are subdivided into topics such as Health & Fitness, Business & Career, Technology, and so on. The users of Weight Loss Resources are also a very friendly and supportive bunch (you do have to pay to subscribe, but the site has a lot of valuable tools and information to help you meet your weight loss goals.)
Other ways that have worked for me in finding some great friends online are:
- Starting up my own blog (here!) and emailing fellow bloggers. (If you’ve got a blog, do email me – firstname.lastname@example.org – to let me know about it.)
- Playing online games. As a shy teenager – and then as a university student with too much time on my hands – I used to spend hours playing a textual fantasy roleplaying game online (yes, it was just as geeky as it sounds.) The friendships I formed through that have lasted over the years.
If you want to meet people in your local area, try joining a community group or a church. When I first moved to London, the only people I knew were colleagues and the members of my new church: I’ve always met with a warm welcome at the various churches I’ve been a member of during my life.
Joining a club or hobby-based group is also a brilliant way to get out and meet people who share your interests. I’ve been to some of the mid-week meetings of the East Dulwich Writers’ Group, and it’s been good to meet some fellow creative writers.
Find those friends now
Decide on some concrete actions that you’ll take to get in touch with old schoolmates, to make time to see the pals who do live nearby, or to find some new friends. I tend to be a little introverted by nature, so I know this is one of the areas I need to make an effort in to. My actions for the next couple of weeks are:
- Send a message to my group of friends from university who correspond by email.
- Start the ball rolling to organise a big “meet up” in the summer with friends I’ve not seen for a while.
What are you going to do to ensure that, in a month or two, you can say “I feel happy because I’m surrounded by friends”?
(Image above by decadentyou)