In this modern world of 24/7 connectivity and cities jam packed with people, its ironic that we can find ourselves feeling lonely and deeply craving real connection.
For many of us, as we get older, the number of friends we can truly count on dwindles further and further. Why is this? Here's a few of the common ones;
• Life gets busy and we don't have as much time to invest in nurturing friendships as we once did.
• We change; our needs, our aspirations, our beliefs, our priorities and lifestyles all change leading us to want different things from our life and friendships.
• Whilst we're changing, so too are our friends, often leading us to have less and less in common.
• We move frequently within and between cities as well as between countries and continents and find it harder to maintain connection without physical contact.
• And of course, we spend so much time online we have often forgotten the art of connecting offline.
There's often a deep sadness when we lose connection with friends that once meant so much. Friends who we have shared so much with. And yet, when we remember that people often come into our lives for "a reason, a season or a lifetime", our perspective can shift as we remember what gifts we gained from the friendship, however long or short it was. So if you feel yourself craving new friendships know it's ok to move on, to say no to what is no longer serving you to create space to find the true connections your life desires right now.
As humans we have a deep need to belong, a need to feel close to others and a need to understand and embrace our place in the world. In fact, every cell of our body is hard-wired for connection and unless we nurture our need to connect, our health and happiness suffers on every level. So if you're feeling that need for connection, know it's so very normal.
So how do you make friends once you're out of the school playground? This can feel like a daunting journey and one that we feel so out of practice from as the years go on. Here's some ideas on making that step and finding true connection within your life.
Your number one friend
We often forget ourselves as the most powerful form of connection in our lives. We each possess a need for solitude and a requirement for time spent inwardly, where we connect into our internal world and let our intuition, our heart and our body speak authentically to us. It is only through this touchstone of self-connection that we become equipped to extend our energy outwardly and form connections with others.
Get clear on what you want
Whatever you crave in the way of connection, know that the first step is being very clear about what you want. This will ensure that your connections are positive and meaningful. So ask yourself what your ideal connections look like? Is it deep connection you are seeking or are your desires for connection fuelled instead by a need for fun and enjoyment? How much time do you have to nurture your connections based on the way you live your life? How does the phase of life you are in impact your capacity to connect, for example, if you have very small children?
Consider what you already have
If you're craving a closer connection with existing friends and family, it’s essential to carve out time in your calendar to spend quality time with them. Often it’s these connections we take for granted as we know that they’ll always be there as our foundation. However, for these connections to truly flourish, we need to water them with our love so it’s important to make time for them.
Follow what lights you up
As Rebecca Campbell says in her book, 'Light is the New Black', follow what lights you up. If you love reading consider joining or forming a book club (like a JOM club). Or if you have an interest in helping people, consider volunteering or working for a charity where your skills and talents might be able to be put to use in a meaningful way with likeminded people.
We're all in this together
Sometimes life sends challenges our way and forming connections with others on the same journey as us can be deeply rewarding. Whether this is illness, addiction, infertility or something else, connecting with others on this journey can help us to feel understood and supported in a way that others just can't provide.
It takes courage
Perhaps there's someone you would like to get to know more of. It might be a mentor or colleague you are drawn to in your professional arena, it could be someone whom you’ve met through friends or colleagues or someone in a sports group you attend. Think about how you might reach out to this person so that you can form a stronger connection with them by having the courage to take that first step and let them know what you want.
It takes time
Try and maintain regular connection as much as possible as it’s important to nurture relationships that you want to deepen and flourish. If this is a struggle for you due to time constraints, look for ways to combine connecting with others and existing aspects of your life. If you like to walk or cook, then ask someone to join you for these activities and use this as an opportunity to catch up. Know it doesn't happen over night but over time you will feel the connection growing.
Say yes and no
At first we don't know how rewarding a friendship will be as it takes time for the connection to build. Know that at times it will be important to grab opportunities to connect with an enthusiastic yes! If, along the way, you get clear that the connection isn't forming for you, be brave to say no and focus your time and energy on nurturing other connections that might be more rewarding.
Remember to be as authentic as possible dropping the need to impress and be liked which we all feel at times. The more people get to see the real you, the more deeply they can connect with you. This can often be a challenge at first but the connections formed as a consequence are so much more rewarding.
Give and receive
Giving and receiving is a deeply important part of any friendship. We all have periods where we struggle in our life and giving and receiving requires trust and understanding. Be prepared to be vulnerable and allow others to support you but also be willing to prioritise time for those in your life when they are going through challenging times.
Connection looks different for us all, for some it's a small group of friends for others it's just one whilst for others its a big group. There's no wrong or right and only you can choose when you feel that beautiful sense of connection. Savour it, nurture it and enjoy the deeply rewarding benefits