Cultivate a collection of people to help fuel your passions in life
What does community mean to you? Is it offering to water your neighbour’s plants while they’re away? Or is it finding people with mutual interests and forming long-lasting connections? Expanding our social circle, in whatever form, is one of the most rewarding things we can do – and it’s great for our health. According to a study done at the University of Utah in the US, the effect of social ties on life span is twice as strong as that of exercising, and equivalent to that of quitting smoking. Our friendships can form many of our fondest memories, be a cushioning of support when we need it, and lay the foundations of our own character. At a time when we’re lonelier than ever, thanks to the effects of lockdown and COVID-19, celebrating and encouraging them is important. Here, we divulge how you can attract the right friends into your life and enrich your interactions with the people around you.
To be open to creating new friendships, you have to consciously make space in your life. If you’re filling up your weekends with commitments that don’t leave room for meeting new people, then it may be difficult for you to cultivate new relationships. “Prioritising making and keeping friends is really a choice you have to make,” says Kate Lever, author of the bestselling book The Friendship Cure. “You have to be proactive about making space and time for them in your busy life. It’s so easy to become preoccupied with our careers, partners and our families, and unintentionally let our friendships slide. Strengthening our friendships, and making space for new ones, is a matter of investing time, energy and vulnerability in them.” Think about the reasons why you want to be part of a community. Is it because you’re feeling lonely or you want to be part of something bigger? Don’t be influenced into thinking that you need to ‘find your tribe’ if you’re struggling to make time for the ones you’ve already got. If you feel like you have the energy and the space for new people, then you can start making the steps to attract them into your life.
As we grow older, we tend to realise that our friends are important for our happiness and our personal growth. Having a group of supportive individuals around you can help you nourish your mind, body and spirit. But, to attract the right people into your life you need to be clear about what you value, and your interests.
“If you want to attract like-minded individuals, it helps to be self-aware about what you want from life and the type of people you want in it,” says Kate. “You can try making new connections by joining a class or sport, such as a book club or yoga class. That way you’ll have something in common straight away.” Other things you can do could be:
The important thing here is not to get disheartened if you don’t make friends straight away, or you feel like an activity or new interest just isn’t for you. In Radha Agrawal’s book, Belong: Find Your People, Create Community & Live a More Connected Life, the author highlights the importance of not giving up at the first hurdle: “Stay patient and keep going back to your values and interests – don’t just do what everyone else is doing, but stay open to opportunities that feel like a stretch for you. Go in with a positive attitude – since you’re just exploring, you don’t have anything to lose and don’t have to be gung ho about something before you know if it’s for you.”
When you find someone, or a group of people, that you click with, be sure to bring positive energy to your interactions. “Notice how you’re showing up this week,” says Radha. “Are you leaning in and saying an enthusiastic ‘yes’? Or are you putting on a mask of ‘cool’ or ‘I don’t care’? Showing up is key to making real connections.” Having an inviting smile and making eye contact can go a long way, as life coach Natalie Trice (thegoodenoughcoach.co.uk) says. “If you have an open mind, and are curious about them, you will be surprised at how easy forming relationships as an adult can be.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that we need to have a big group of people in our life in order for us to thrive – but that’s simply not true. When you have time-constraints placed on your life, such as parenting or a busy job, finding ‘your tribe’ can be easier said than done. If this resonates with you, then here are some simple ways you can curb that feeling of being left out.
1. Find acceptance
Not everyone has or needs to have a big group of people in their lives. However, if you are feeling lonely, then it’s good to acknowledge that there is a gap in your life that you need to fill. That way you’ll start to subconsciously act in a more proactive way when it comes to building connections.
2. Be ready to feel uncomfortable
It is challenging to be in a place where you’re wanting to be part of a community, but aren’t sure how to go about making the first steps. It can feel like no one around you is looking for friends, but it’s important to step outside your comfort zone and push into the awkwardness. Those first coffee dates will probably feel a little uncomfortable and volunteering can sometimes feel more of a slog than rewarding, but perservere, and you’ll eventually find that sweet spot.
3. Strengthen your existing relationships
Perhaps you have a friend that you only catch up with once a year or you want to try and reconnect with someone that you’ve lost touch with. All of these are valid and proactive ways of bolstering your social interactions. Perhaps these outside circle of friends can even put you in touch with new individuals who you might get on with.
4. Remember: this won’t be forever
If you’ve just moved somewhere, it can take time to feel connected to something. Perhaps you’ve had a very time-intensive and energysapping job and you’re finally finding yourself with more free time on your hands. Try to get involved in one thing that is outside of your normal routine for four weeks. Have the courage to participate in whatever piques your curiosity.
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