At this group we acknowledged that feeling lonely and isolated is at times part of the human condition, a human experience that is universal. We may literally be on our own or we may feel a dark sense of loneliness in our hearts even if we do have people in our lives.
We talked about some of the different places that people had reached out to, and had found helpful in times of isolation, these included; Barony Contact Point, Breathing Space, community centres and volunteering. Others might be groups about specific things e.g. walking groups or a learning class. We discussed that social media can sometimes contribute to a sense of feeling disconnected and at others times alleviate loneliness.
However, while there might be a list of places to go and meet with others, what do you do if you feel so anxious or down on yourself that you feel unable to talk to anyone?
A set of social tools is something that can be learned, so although some people seem more naturally gifted, anyone can learn a few tips enough to meet people and hopefully form a connection. One strategy mentioned was looking at the most recent headlines which could be a good conversation topic, others tips include:
- Have some questions or topics ready
- Smile and make eye contact
- Focus on the other person, reflect back or ask a question e.g. so you got the bus here, was traffic bad? Don’t worry about having small talk, its a way into a conversation, and with the right connection can lead to big talk!
We also discussed having healthy boundaries and healthy relationships. Some people can find that they seem to attract people who drain their energy and can feel quite negative. We talked about actively choosing the relationships we want rather than feeling obliged and drawn in. This may mean saying no to an invite, or not giving out your phone number. In the past in the group people have talked about having a social detox and losing the people who put them down, are critical, draining, abusive or lead them astray.A good friendship should challenge you but not crush you, make you feel bigger not smaller, make you feel like you’re really funny even when your jokes are terrible, make you feel likeable. And they should be equal; there are times when we need to provide support, and times when we need to feel supported, and in amongst all this there should be fun, kindness and understanding. It’s also good to recognise when a bit of space is needed to breath individually.
Again, we looked at how do we set these boundaries when we don’t feel great? One thing that we looked at was simply how we use body language.
We looked at how to overcome some fears connected to social anxiety by disputing some of our beliefs e.g ‘People will think I’m weird’ or ‘If they really knew about me they wouldn’t like me’.
Finally we looked at ‘What could you be brave enough to step out and try?’ This could be going somewhere new, or trying out chatting to someone new, for example a shopkeeper.