Why can’t we be friends?

Quite often, I have clients that are having a hard time finding friends. This is often the reason why they have moved from trying to find informal emotional help (talking with friends and family) to formal help (me! a counselor). A good side effect of this is that my clients have started the journey of taking care of their mental health. But, a part of overall wellness is social wellness, and I want to help my clients achieve this too.

Especially as we enter our adult lives, it seems our chances to meet new people become limited. In this social-media driven world, many of us are becoming more accustomed to speaking with people online, which makes us more nervous to talk to people in person. It starts to feel weird because we’re out of practice. When you’re in a public place, you might feel the need to be looking at your phone so you don’t feel awkward. And if you can get yourself to put it down, you might notice that everyone around you had the same urge.

But how do we expect to meet new people if we never put ourselves out there? If we never start our first conversation with someone new, we can never develop it into a real friendship. But how can we do this if we don’t trust other people? Many of us (especially young women) have been warned not to trust the people who seem to be offering help, because they could have bad intentions (example: someone offers you a ride when you’re walking in the rain). But if we see everyone through this protective/paranoid lens, how will we give anyone a real chance? I don’t mean to say let your guard completely down. It is important to stay safe. But I would ask you to consider the trust you give to your Uber/Lyft drivers, think of what keeps you comfortable in those situations, and see how you can translate that into your outside life.

Many of us feel more comfortable starting with people we see more often. For example, coworkers at the office, other teammates on a sports-team/intramural, other members of a club. If we see them more often, we begin to trust them (same thinking that goes into advertising all over the place-the more you see it the more you trust it!). So think of the places you go often, or places you would like to go often (read HERE for what I think is an important first step to making friends), and how you could challenge yourself to reach out to others with similar interests.

For those of you who also are struggling with a mental illness, another safe bet is support groups. These are places where you have people struggling with many of the same things as you, and it’s a safe place to express your feelings without the fear that others will judge you or feel like you’re talking about something uncomfortable. In sharing these intimate parts of yourself, you might find yourself forming deep relationships with the other members.

Here are some examples of mental health support groups:

  • re:MIND (Formerly DBSA): Depression/Bipolar Support
  • NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness): a larger organization with more broad groups
  • Psychology Today: Where you can find groups put on by private therapists, usually at a cost compared to the former two usually being free, but are usually more specific groups and don’t always require a diagnosis. (Click “Find a therapist” and change the “therapist” field to “support groups”)
  • And of course there area always the addiction groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Al-Anon (for family/friends of alcoholics). There are groups for almost every type of addiction, but they might not be in your area. They have pretty similar discussions, if you just switch “alcohol” with whatever your addiction might be.

Meeting new friends is all about getting out of your comfort zone and putting yourself out there. There are more challenging ways and some more comforting. Try what you can, but before you do, read about the importance of dating yourself before making new friendly or romantic relationships.

Your listening ear,

Monique

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A New Way to DIY-Date Yourself!

DIY is all-the-trend now-a-days, but I challenge you to take it to an entirely different level. Although our society can be very independent compared to more eastern cultures, we have become very dependent on others to make ourselves happy. There is an ideal of being in a loving romantic relationship and also having a great friend group. These things are wonderful, but people without either one or both of these ideals feel incomplete. But what if you could learn to find happiness on your own? This self-sufficiency can help you feel more confident, and ready to take on the world!

I’ve mentioned it before, but imagine the urge you feel to look at your phone when you’re out in public. I think part of this is us thinking that we have to look like we’re not alone. Like we have a world of people to talk with on our phone, and we’re not the lonely people sitting in the restaurant by ourselves, or in the waiting room alone. But what if we felt comfortable with our own company? Would we look crazy or happy?

What are the things you’ve been waiting on others to be interested in to give yourself permission to do? What kinds of things have you been wanting to try but it is out of your comfort zone and you’ve been waiting for some support? Going to the museum? Riding horses for the first time? Exploring your city? Sitting in nature? Volunteering at the local animal shelter? Trying out yoga or a new exercise? Starting a new project?

All these things you might love but never allow yourself to do! But all this time it has been in your control, if you would just push yourself out of your comfort zone. And how funny it is that we aren’t comfortable with just being with ourselves. But when you can get there, when you love being with yourself, the pressure to find someone else to make you happy decreases. It becomes more natural and less forced to form relationships, and you will find that the quality of your relationships will improve.

What do you want to DIY?!

Your listening ear,

Monique

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