Need New Friends? 5 Tips to Grow Your Social Network
Often when we think of social interaction we automatically think of our family members or our work colleagues. And yet having diverse social networks that are independent of work and family is essential for emotional, physical and relationship wellbeing. Here's why:
On an emotional level, healthy friendships promote positive mood and can help to reduce symptoms of depression. Being around others who share your interests promotes a sense of belonging. Even an activity as simple as having a cup of coffee regularly in the same cafe can enhance your sense of engagement and improve your mood. Healthy friendships can enhance your resilience to stress by assisting your brain to essentially turn off the protective mechanisms in your body that respond to stress, reducing harmful exposure to prolonged glocorticoids, or stress hormones.
Physically, social relationships are said to increase longevity, promote cognitive functioning, and enhance your immune system functioning, again probably because enjoying the company of others assists you to down-regulates your stress system. Regular chats, especially the friendly debate that sometimes errupts in conversation, actually helps your neural networks (the bulk of your brain) to grow!
In terms of relationship health, having an extended network of friends means that you are less likely to rely on your partner to meet all of your needs. You will also be a far more interesting person to be around if you are out and about, getting involved in enjoyable activities that you can then share with your partner when you reconnect.
So here is my list of places to go to meet new people and extend your friendship group:
- www.meetup.com is a website that was started in New York around 2001 as a response to the collapse of community in America. Since that time the group has taken off worldwide and we now have our own version here in Australia. Meetup provides you with an online index to every possible interest group in your local region, from people who love to beach walk, to scuba divers, to people who are carrying out their bucket list! If you don't find a group that tickles your fancy it's a simple process to begin your own Meetup.
- Your local Citizens Advice Bureau. Often a wealth of information, both in terms of legal advice and in relation to services available in your local community. In the Southern region of Queensland we are fortunate to have a wide array of local community groups, if you know where to look. The Citizens Advice Bureau prints a Gold Coast Community Guide that provides the contact details for every type of community group you could imagine, from bird lovers through to dance groups. This booklet is available on line www.advicebureau.org.au or at your local library.
- Your local council. Also in the Southern Queensland region we are fortunate to have a climate that allows us to be outdoors most of the day. Check out the council's Active and Healthy Program, a guide detailing over 170 free or low-cost activities from yoga and pilates through to mindfulness and cooking programs. You can collect this booklet from any local library or council office or download a version from the council website www.goldcoast.qld.gov.au.
- Community Centres. Most local community centres will have a notice board outlining regular activities and groups that take place weekly within that centre.
- Adult Community Education. If you've always wanted to learn how to cook Moroccan food, speak Portugeuse, or keep your own honey bees you can find short courses at community adult learning centres. In the Southern Queensland region we are have access to Adult Community Education colleges, you can find out more here www.acecolleges.edu.au, or the Byron Community College at www.byroncollege.org.au.
- Try volunteering. One organisation linking people who want to volunteer with organisations who need volunteers on the Gold Coast is volunteeringgc.org.au. Often organisations like this one are looking for volunteers to get involved in a range of activities from short term events through to ongoing regular positions.
OK, I know that I've given you six options not five, however there are so many different ways for you to meet new people and get involved in your local community that it's difficult for me to stop listing them: check out your local community garden where you can grow your own vegies, join a local buddhist group or church group...
Make it a goal to at least investigate one of these strategies for meeting new, like-minded people in your local community today, and improve your wellbeing at the same time.
Posted: Sat 13 Sep 2014