It is a known fact that humans are social creatures. We are pack animals who crave connection. Even the most introverted of us find ourselves longing for some company from time to time. With this experience being so universal, it’s hard to believe how widespread the feeling of loneliness is. Because if we all want the same thing, shouldn’t it be incredibly easy to get it? Well — apparently not.
There are many annoying obstacles that get in the way of overcoming loneliness, especially as an adult. As a child, making a friend is often as simple as having the same favourite colour. Unfortunately, adults are required to have a bit more in common to form a meaningful bond. That is if they even manage to meet someone in the first place without the inherently social environment of school to push them together.
On top of the fact that making new friends as an adult is extremely difficult, as we grow older, many of us find ourselves falling out of contact with our old friends. The most common reasons for this are relocation and other priorities that take up more of our time, such as work or family.
Taking the first step
So it should come as no surprise that you’re not alone in feeling lonely. While this in itself won’t help alleviate your loneliness, it does mean that there is an array of tried and tested methods that you can use to help you to feel less lonely. In order to stave off loneliness in a long-term fashion, it is vital to find your community. Your community, or tribe, is a group of people in which you feel that you belong. These people will share common traits with you, such as hobbies, interests, and values.
But the first step to finding your community is getting to know yourself; this is the only way you’re going to find a place where you truly feel that you belong. Start with some self-assessment. What interests do you have that you would like your community to share? What qualities do you value that you would like to be prominent in your community? By asking yourself these types of questions, you can narrow down what you want out of finding your community and give yourself a starting point.
Putting yourself out there
Once you know what to look for, the next step is to go out and look for it. All this means is to be proactive; do some research, reach out to people — don’t just sit and hope they come to you. They probably won’t.
This step can be daunting for a lot of us, but especially for the introverts among us. A good way to combat this is to start by reaching out online. Social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook can be great ways to meet new people through groups or tags that pertain to your interests. However, while starting relationships online is a great way to ease yourself into it, there is really no replacement for real, face-to-face contact when it comes to combating loneliness. Meeting people online can be a launchpad, but make sure to follow it through with plans to meet in person.
If meeting people online really isn’t your thing, find an activity you can do that will put you in continued contact with other people. Do you like sports? Join a local sports club. Or, are crafts more your speed? If so, attend a weekly pottery class. Or a book club. Or learn a martial art. Literally, anything that will give you an excuse to hang out with some people who share at least one interest with you. You’ll most likely find that these people are looking for the same thing that you are. Of course, at the moment, this can be difficult to navigate within the parameters of COVID restrictions, to be sure to check the rules.
Playing the long game
However, don’t go in expecting to find your soul-mate on the first day. Any meaningful relationships take time to build, so, as you start your journey, remember that it will be a long one. On the other hand, don’t stick something out if it isn’t working for you. Don’t keep going to that spin class if you find yourself hating it — move on, find a new activity to try and see how you fit into that community. You don’t have to box yourself into a single idea. You can even be part of multiple communities if you want; there are really no rules.
Similarly, don’t expect to become best friends with every person in your chosen group activity. That’s just not realistic. What you’re looking for is quality, not quantity. Even just making one friend is a vital step in finding your community and will do wonders for helping you feel less lonely.
Your main take-away from this article should be that while loneliness is common and very easily felt, there are also a ton of feasible steps you can take to curb it. It’s not necessarily easy, but the benefits of finding your community are definitely worth it.
Written by Adena Dewar
Adena is a Modern Languages graduate with a background in literature and creative writing. Through her writing she aims to promote healthy conversations about mental health and wellbeing and give readers the tools with which to improve their own quality of life.