I've often said that if I could snap my fingers right now and solve ONE problem... it would be loneliness. Loneliness is one of the most painful human conditions. It's designed to cause physical, all-consuming pain.
People who didn't experience loneliness died alone without producing grandchildren. (From an evolutionary perspective, children don't matter. Grandchildren do. If your kids don't have kids, then from an evolutionary perspective, you never existed.)
Loneliness is designed to motivate us to form and maintain bonds...
But, annoyingly, loneliness can also lead to depression, which obliterates our motivation to go out, have fun, or even have sex.
Compounding this is the human instinct for idleness, designed to help us preserve energy when we're not hunting, gathering, and reproducing (another maladaptive byproduct of evolution).
It's like this mutually reinforcing nightmare. The instinct for idleness makes us less likely to go out, which makes us less likely to form and maintain social bonds, which makes us lonely, which makes us less likely to go out because we don't have anything to go out with and going out alone is daunting to a lot of people, which can lead to or exacerbate depression.
The advice I'm sharing today will help you make more friends in adulthood... but it's going to require a small effort on your part. In order for the advice to work, you have to commit to becoming a regular -- somewhere! anywhere! You have to commit to leaving your house and attending real, in-person events.
It doesn't matter if it's Harry Potter Trivia at a local bar. Or karaoke. Or an adult ultimate frisbee league. Or pickup soccer. Or surfing the same beach at the same time every week. Or joining a Wednesday night ride or a Tuesday morning yoga class.
All that matters is that you commit to becoming a regular.
Because there are three prerequisites for forming a new friendship:
1. Proximity. It's actually the number one factor in determining liking, both because without being in the same place, you can't meet, and because proximity enables:
2. Regular, unplanned interactions. Because chances are, you're not going to like someone SO much the first time you meet them that you're going to make plans with them. Usually, it takes a couple of encounters for people to decide, "Hey, I like you enough to do something I wasn't already going to do anyway with you," or even, "Would you like to join me to do something I was already going to do anyway, because I think it would be more fun if you came."
3. An environment that allows for openness, honesty, and vulnerability. You obviously have proximity and regular, unplanned interactions with work friends... But for most people, work friends are not people you can be truly open and vulnerable with, and work is not a conducive environment for discussing your divorce, the death of a parent, or a struggle you're having at... well, work.
Self-disclosure drives feelings of closeness, and if you're in a setting that doesn't really allow for these conversations, the friendship will likely stay surface-level.
Of course, just going out regularly won't magically yield friendships. You still need to do things like smile and be charismatic. (Luckily, charisma is a science, not an art, and literally anyone can learn it. Whether you feel charismatic or extremely socially awkward, I highly recommend reading The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism at the soonest opportunity. It's fascinating, and everyone who reads it will learn something life-changing.)
You still need to be aware of behaviors you may have that drive people away. (If you've got a close friend you can talk to openly, you can even ask them, "Hey, be honest. Is there anything I might be doing when I go out that people find off-putting?" Not only will it help you, but it could improve the relationship.)
It is worth noting that even just a decade or two ago, entertainment was much more likely to take place outside of the home. Food delivery wasn't what it is today. Streaming video didn't exist. Arcades were popular and in-person participation in religious and community organizations was much higher...
And there was significantly less depression then, because people had stronger social bonds as a result of being regulars at places outside of their homes.
So if you are lonely -- or even if you just want more friends in your area -- make a commitment.
Start googling adult sports leagues, karaoke events, book clubs, Bible studies, volunteer opportunities, writers' circles, group rides, yoga classes, Meetups, or whatever else interests you in your area...
Then get up and go.
Who knows? You just might end up with a new live album, a new skill, or a new friend for life!
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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