As society becomes more fragmented, increasingly more people are finding themselves without any close friends. People in this situation can best cope by trying to make new friends, and understanding how their thoughts and behaviors may be keeping them among the lonely crowd.
Consistency Is Key
It is easiest to make new friends when you consistently see the same people day after day. Think back over the times in your life when you had friends -- most likely you were spending lots of time with the same people. It also helps if these individuals share your values, beliefs and interests. Use this information to nurture new friendships, by signing up for a course or class that interests you and that will have you meeting with the same people regularly over an extended period of time, recommends psychologist Daniel J. Tomasulo, in the Psych Central article "Friendless and Alone." For example, you might join a book club, take an acting class or participate in a co-ed volleyball league. Activities that are fun or that require you to get to know each other will make it easiest to make new friends.
If you find that you have lots of acquaintances, but they never become good friends, consider sharing more about yourself as a way to develop friendships, as suggested in the American Psychological Association article "Friends Wanted." Expand the depth of the questions you ask others, as you gradually get to know them. For example, as you get to know someone better, you might gradually move from "What are your favorite hobbies?" to "What is the one thing in life that scares you the most, but you wish that you could do?" In addition, be sure to gradually share more personal information about yourself, so that the other person doesn't feel like it is an interrogation.
Loneliness is a subjective experience that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, asserts the American Psychological Association. Individuals without friends who succumb to loneliness can gradually become cold, awkward and unfriendly in the eyes of others -- simply because they are acting out of self-preservation. While it is natural to become bitter or to shut others out when you feel alone, try doing the opposite to shift your mental state and reduce negative thoughts. Share something positive about your day with another person, to move the focus away from your own feelings of loneliness and toward thinking and caring about others.
Identify the Root Cause
If a lack of friendships has been a pattern in your life, it may be worthwhile to talk to a therapist to identify possible causes of your inability to make or keep friends, notes psychologist and psychiatry professor Irene S. Levine, in the "Psychology Today" online article "Why Would Someone Have NO Friends?" Possible causes of being friendless include insecurity or lack of trust, shyness or introversion, fears of intimacy, lack of social skills, situational obstacles such as moving frequently, mental or physical disabilities, and personality issues such as being overly needy, pushy, controlling or independent. Even one or two sessions with a therapist might be enough to pinpoint potential obstacles standing in the way of you making and keeping friends.
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Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.
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