In the “Consulting Therapist” series, I will answer all your questions about mental health and psychology. Whether you are struggling with a mental health condition, coping with anxiety about living conditions, or just seeking the insights of a therapist, you can submit a question. Every other Friday, please pay attention to my answers to your questions in the Healthy Mind newsletter.
Our readers ask
Since I started working remotely, I have been lonely. My colleagues are the only people I actually talk to, but now I only see them in occasional Zoom meetings. How do adults make friends?
– Irene, 29
Although it sounds strange, know that you are not alone. Many people feel lonely these days. However, it is important to address this feeling, because loneliness can have a serious impact on your health and well-being. Fortunately, there are things you can do to ease your loneliness, and making new friends is a good strategy.
Work hard to make friends
When you are in school, it is easier to make friends. After all, you are surrounded by peers all day long and have many opportunities for interaction.
It is not difficult to ask a third-grade classmate if they want to play with you between classes. You have time, tools and opportunities to play together-this is an easy way to build natural friendships.
However, as an adult, you have to work harder to find someone to spend time with. And you may not have much in common with the people you meet. Or, they may be at different stages of life, which may make friendship more difficult.
Today, you may need to be more strategic in making friends.
Enter your existing network
When it comes to making friends, you may not necessarily need to start from scratch. There may be some people in your existing network who can easily change from acquaintances to friends.
Do you want to talk to some of your colleagues outside of the regular Zoom meeting? If someone can imagine being a friend, then you can contact them. Let them know that now you are working remotely, feel a little alienated from the world, and you would like to communicate with them face to face. Maybe you can invite them for coffee.
You may find that your coworkers also feel lonely. They may appreciate some interpersonal interactions.
Press Play for advice on coping with loneliness
This episode of The VigorTip Mind Podcast, hosted by LCSW’s editor-in-chief and therapist Amy Morin, provides tips for managing loneliness.
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Of course, meeting with colleagues outside the office does involve some risks. Depending on your scope of work, friendships with colleagues can also lead to some tricky situations. What if you have to evaluate your friend’s performance? Or what if your colleagues tell you they drink at work?
Becoming friends with colleagues can lead to some tricky situations. But this does not mean that this is a bad idea. After all, only your colleagues really understand what you experience every day.
Sometimes, it is difficult to transition from a “colleague” to a “true friend”. You may find that your colleagues just want to insist on only talking about work-this is their choice. However, this clearly shows that they only want to build professional relationships, not true friendships.
In addition to being friends with colleagues, you can also use your existing network by contacting one or two old friends. Maybe you lost contact with your college roommate, or you are estranged from a neighbor you used to talk to.
Send a text message or contact them on social media to say hello. You may be able to initiate a conversation to motivate you to start talking more frequently again. Sometimes it is easier to rekindle an old friendship than to start a new one.
Go out and get involved
Get out of the house and take part in some activities that will allow you to meet people in the community.
You may join an organization, volunteer, participate in religious activities or attend classes. You might be looking for sites that create gathering opportunities for people with similar interests. Whether you like to play board games or want to join a book club, there are usually many groups there.
You can even do some interesting things yourself. Go hiking, visit a museum or explore different parts of the city. You may find that going out makes you feel better, and you never know who you might meet along the way.
Sometimes people who want to make friends can become a little aggressive in social situations. Therefore, their attempts to attract friends will eventually be offensive.
Therefore, make sure that you do not feel hopeless. Telling someone how lonely and isolated you feel within two minutes after you say hello may cause them to run in the other direction.
Beware of the tendency to try to establish a direct connection with someone. Don’t force it.
Don’t act like someone you are not. If you don’t like sushi, just say it. If you don’t like the beach, don’t go to the beach just to make others happy. The goal is to build lasting friendships.
Although it can feel a bit complicated to make new friends as an adult, the simple advice you might have heard as a child still applies. The best way to make friends is to be friends. So, smile at people, treat them kindly, and be generous.