I am an expert at moving. Seriously. In 24 years I have lived at 50 odd different addresses in 4 countries. (Somewhere in my blood the wanderer gene is strong, my Grannie was just the same). The challenge however with moving around so much is of course loneliness. Not only are you constantly moving leaving friends and being further away from them, you are also challenged by finding new friends in your new life. Loneliness is on the increase, not just in the world wanderer community but in your workplace, in your apartment building and on your street. World wide we are feeling lonelier in general. In the 70s about 11-20% of America felt lonely in 2010 it was 45%. It’s a modern epidemic.
Now we could go into a conversation about why are people lonelier today however that is not the life lesson I learnt this week. (Well re:learnt). This week my life lesson was about curing loneliness by building community. We need community. Humans essentially need tribes. We need to be accepted and supported and we need to be able to do this for others. However I know, first hand, how challenging it can be to find our tribe, our people when feeling isolated and alone. Yet what my experience has taught me is that we can create the community we need for ourselves no matter where we are in the world if we are brave enough to do it.
Let me give you an example. In August 2016 I moved to Jutland. Once again I was moving away from a network of amazing people, colleagues and friends and heading into the unknown to live with my beloved Mr T. You would think that moving in with a partner would be enough to combat loneliness but it’s not. (And in fact it can often damage a relationship). Knowing this I put a plan into action to help me create a new community and network in my new local area. I reached out to find the kind of people I want in my life. I started by going back to school. That was not the greatest experience when it came to the people. I found a few that I could relate to and started to build relationships with them. But I needed more so I joined a belly dance class with some amazing and wonderful women. Yet that wasn’t enough. I sat down and realised I missed close connections with both women and men that shared similar life values and also were spiritually on a similar level to me. So I hit facebook and made a few groups. I began a women’s circle in the local library, not knowing if anyone would show up. I organised a few nights playing games at our house and invited people I didn’t know very well but I knew liked to game.And slowly over this last year I have began to find the friendships I was looking for. Result I am not lonely and I have a community around me, the beginnings of a new tribe.
Now I am not telling you that it was easy. It was scary. It was daunting. And I wanted to hide under my duvet alot. However by identifying what I needed and then kicking myself up the butt to create it I have in a short time created the cure for my own potential loneliness. Now I know this is potentially easier to do if you move to a new area than in an area you already live in, it depends on who you are as a person. However I have built a strategy for anyone who is feeling lonely and is fed up with it. If you are sick and tired of feeling lonely and want to do something about it I have a recipe for you to follow. It takes a little patience, trial and error and a dollop of bravery. However with these six steps you can create the community you need.
Step 1: What kind of community do you want?
Before you go out and find/ create a community for yourself you need to know what you want. This is a time for introspection. What kind of friends do you want? What kind of things will they like? What kind of personalities will they have? Brainstorm personal qualities, hobbies, lifestyle choices your friends will make. Also brainstorm your interests and the things you like to do. You want friends who want to do similar things to you. Shared experiences create bonds, friendships and make life fun.
Step 2: Who do you have already?
Get out Facebook and scroll through your friends. Who do you have in your network that already embodies these things? Make a list. Do the same with your work colleagues, people you vaguely know but seem interesting to you. Now check your list to see why don’t you have a stronger relationship with these people? Remove anyone from the list who you really don’t want to have a better relationship with. Now brainstorm how you could contact these people and ways you can connect with them.
**Remember** something I always say to clients who feel alone is that you don’t have to wait for people to contact you. If you want people in your life you have to reach out to them.
Step 3: Contact them
Call, sms, facebook, email there are so many ways to connect. Choose one and do it contact one of the people on your list. Ask them how they are suggest an activity you could do together and ask when they could do it. Choose something you and they might find fun. Don’t worry if they say no this time. Very often fear of rejection is what stops us inviting people out or over. If you make up your mind that you won’t ask because the other person will reject you then you haven’t really given them a chance to choose and that is not fair. If they say no remember its NOTHING to do with you. Other people have their own lives and they are equally busy. A rejection doesn’t mean they don’t like you, it just means not now. Keep working on building the relationship with them and contact someone else to do something with.
Step 4: Create the friends you don’t have yet.
When I was living in Copenhagen I realised I had noone in my circle who wanted to work on their personal development or improving the world. As I was becoming a life coach. I wanted friends who were environmentally conscious, lived conscious proactive and spiritual lives and would inspire me to do the same. I actively went looking for places where these kind of people hung out and eventually found Tinkuy a spiritual fitness center in Copenhagen bursting with people wanting to grow themselves and contribute to the world.
So if none of your existing network embodies the qualities you brainstormed then you have to go hunting. I would recommend signing up for a class or a group. I have joined art classes, viking reenactment groups, meditation and dance classes when consciously looking for new friends. Others I know are involved with voluntary organisations, politics or have simply joined a school parent teachers council. What are you interested in? Let your interests guide you to finding new friends. Eventually you will meet someone you think is interesting and then identify the activity you would like to do and ask them to do it with you. (Basically repeat step 3 with the new person).
Step 5: Creating opportunities to meet like minded people
This one is challenging. However if you dare it can be really rewarding. Basically if you can’t find a locale group, club, event that you want to go to then start your own. After 6 months of living in Jutland I found myself seriously in need once again of female friends that made personal development, spirituality or improving the world part of their everyday lives. So I went online and did some googling. NOthing. Then one day I found a video from the Global sisterhood about starting a women’s circle. So I signed up as a local group co-ordinator. Found somewhere free to hold it. Set up a facebook group and shared my event everywhere I could think of. I even put up posters. I had no idea if anyone would show up. I just had to trust the universe that I had made the space and they would come. And they did. Now we have a tight circle of inspirational women supporting each other and beginning to build some wonderful friendships.
Starting a circle or a club is relatively easy. Decide what it’s about, find somewhere to do it and get going. Facebook is great for this. Making or joining an online group and then arranging a meet up is one of the easiest ways to do it. I have joined and created some online communities as well as the physical ones to help with the loneliness and to connect with people who share the same interests and morals as I do. And it is so rewarding if you are brave enough to dare.
Step 6: Be open, look for opportunities and dare
The biggest kit in your toolkit for curing loneliness is being open to new possibilities and daring to take them. Maintain your friendships. Feed your relationships by making them important. Look for opportunities to try new things and dare to do it. Create opportunities to talk to new people. If you struggle to start conversations with strangers then plan some conversation openers. Personally I find complementing something clothes, something they said at a meeting. Dare to try and dare to fail. Don’t let rejection get you down. Not everyone in the world is the friend you are looking for. However with 7.5 billion people in the world there are a lot of options out there so if one attempt doesn’t work try again. The more you do the easier it gets.
This may sound harsh but being lonely is a choice. You can choose to let it take over or you can take conscious steps to not be lonely. I know it’s hard to take the steps, to stop the negative voices and fears ruling your head. However it is your life. No-one gave those voices and fears permission to be the experts. They are not right. You are loveable, fun to be with and someone does want to be your friend. You have 7.5 billion chances in the world to make a friend so go for it. It really is simple. Reach out. Create the community you need and by doing that you will also give someone else the opportunity to be a little less lonely too.
Have a happy weekend <3