One of the most important wellness tools for many people is spending time with people you enjoy. They have found that regular contact with family members and friends who are supportive keeps them well. They have even found that telling another person how they feel when they don’t feel well can help them to feel better. This article will discuss the issue of support and describe things you can do to build yourself a strong circle of friends and supporters.
You may feel that you don’t have any supportive people in your life, or that you have so few of these people that you feel lonely much of the time. You may feel that your lack of support and loneliness makes you feel sad or depressed some or most of the time. This problem may be worse if you live by yourself. Most people agree that they would benefit from having at least five close friends and supporters in their life that they really enjoy.
We All Need Friends
Everyone needs and wants to have friends. They enrich your life. They make you feel good about yourself and about being alive. Friends are especially helpful when you need special attention and care. A good friend is someone who:
- you like, respect and trust, and who likes, respect and trust you
- accepts and likes you as you are, even as you grow and change
- listens to you and shares with you, both the good and the bad
- you can tell anything to and know they will not betray your confidence
- lets you express your feelings and emotions, and does not judge, tease or criticize
- gives you good advice when you ask for it, assists you in taking action that will help you feel better, and works with you to figure out what to do next when you are having a hard time.
- lets you help them when they need it
- you want to be with, (but you aren’t obsessed about being with them)
- doesn’t ever take advantage of you
You can probably think of some other attributes you would like from your friends.
You will find that some friends meet some needs and others meet other needs. Don’t expect one friend to meet all of your needs for friendship and support. Appreciate your friends for the things you like about them and don’t try to change them to better meet your needs.
Make a list of the people in your life that you feel closest to – those people who you would turn to in times of need. Is there something you could do to improve your relationships with these people? You could invite them to your home to visit, share a meal, play a game, watch a video, or share some other activity. You could do something nice for them or visit them when they are having a hard time.
Developing New Friendships
How do you reach out to others to establish friendships? This is not an easy task. You may find that you would feel more comfortable staying at home than going to an activity where you can meet other people. Almost everyone feels this way. Try to ignore those feeling and get out to activities in the community where you can meet other people – people with whom you might develop closer connections.
Meet potential friends and supporters by:
- Attending a support group. It could be a group for people who have similar health issues or life challenges, or a group for of people of the same age or sex.
- Going to community events, taking a course, joining a church or civic group.
- Volunteering. Strong connections are often formed when people are working together on projects of mutual interest and concern.
Some friendships develop casually. You may be hardly aware that your relationship with the other person is getting closer and more comfortable. More often it takes some special effort on someone’s part to help the relationship grow. You could do this by:
- asking the person whom you like to join you for coffee or lunch, to go for a walk or to do something together you both enjoy;
- calling the person on the phone to share something you think they might be interested in;
- sending a short, friendly e-mail and see if they respond;
- talking with them when you see them about something of interest to both of you;
- helping the person with a project you are both interested in.
You may be able to think of some other enjoyable activity that the two of you could share. Go slowly. This will give you a chance to decide if this is really a person you want for a friend. And others may be intimidated if you “come on too strong”. As you both enjoy each other more the friendship deepens. Notice how you feel about yourself when you are with the other person. If you feel good about yourself, you may be on the road to a fulfilling friendship.