Mental Health

How To Beat Loneliness And Enjoy Supportive Friendships?

Most people feel like friendships should come easy and naturally.

However, the reality can be very different.

Family obligations and work can leave you little time for yourself, let alone for meeting new people or maintaining your friendships.

Moreover, deciding who you spend your precious free time with can feel complicated.

Friends fall into two categories: those who radiate warmth and love and those who suck you of energy and emotion.

In this article, you’re going to learn how to form and maintain supportive friendships and let go of toxic ones.

Ready? Let’s get started!

Why Have Friendships?

Friendships can be a lifesaver.

Several studies revealed that the more friends we have, the less likely we are to have physical impairments as we aged and the more likely we are to lead a joyful life.

People with good friends are happier and less stressed than those without.

A study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry revealed that increasing your level of social connection can protect your future mental health.

How Do Friendships Form?

Some estimate that we meet more than 10,000 people through our lives, most of these people you don’t end up friends with.

For a friendship to form the following elements need to be present:

1. Shared History

History and time shared with others can end up being the solid foundation of a good friendship, such as the case with our friends from school, university, or work.

2. Shared Interests

A shared interest or passion can be a great way to kick-start a friendship, as they offer a lot to discuss.

These interests might include music, books, movies, politics, religion, etc.

3. Common Values

Shared values and a moral code are the basis for any friendship. It’s what establishes mutual respect.

4. Commitment

Both people need to make a commitment to invest an equal amount of time and energy into the friendship.

There will ebb and flow, but if you only hear from someone when they need something, they are not a true friend.

5. Honesty and Kindness

Your friend should be honest enough to tell you when your new haircut doesn’t suit you, but with kindness.

6. Being a Good Influence

Good friends support your decisions, inspire you and encourage you to fulfill your potential – They are your best cheerleader.

Related: 5 Love Languages Every Single Adult Needs to Learn

‘My definition of a friend is somebody who adores you even though they know the things you’re most ashamed of.’
Jodie Foster

Choosing To Be Alone vs. Feeling Lonely

There’s a huge difference between choosing to be alone and feeling lonely.

You can have a cell phone full of numbers or find yourself in the middle of a party and still feel lonely.

Loneliness can exist in the company of others.

Most of the time we feel lonely because we don’t reach out to people and let them know when we need company or help, and they simply assume that we’re busy.

A report called ‘You’re Not Alone’ released by charities Relate and Relationships Scotland revealed that almost 7 million adults in the UK say they have no close friends.

Professor Stephen Houghton of the University of Western Australia says: ‘Loneliness is a major social, educational, economic and health issue that will reach epidemic proportions by 2030.’

This is why we need to find the courage to admit that we feel lonely and take action.

Modern life and technology have contributed to the loneliness problem we face today.

So what can you do about it if you’re feeling lonely?

1. Learn to enjoy your own company – Do the things you love. Meditate, go for a walk, read a book, listen to a podcast, write, etc.

Related: Get In Touch With Your Deepest Desires: 4 Powerful Ways to Raise your Awareness

2. Reach out to those you know and find new people to share your time with

self care (4)

How To Form And Maintain Supportive Friendships?

#1. Be The Person You’d Like To Be Friends With

When we were younger, making friends seemed easy. As long as the other person is willing to share, we can easily become friends. As we become adults, making new friends can be more complicated, as the requirements for a meaningful connection increase.

Pursue your interest, be the best version of yourself, and you’ll attract the people who share the traits you find the most appealing.

Related: Building Mental Strength: 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

#2. Keep An Open Mind And An Open Heart

Most people stick labels to those they meet.

We can be quick to judge others and make assumptions based on their appearance, accent, gender, race, etc.

But you might be surprised at how much you actually have in common once you get to know the person.

So keep an open mind and an open heart.

Related: How to Become More Empathetic? The 6 Habits of Highly Empathetic People

#3. Meet New People Online

Dating apps aren’t the only platform to meet new people.

Apps and websites such as Bumble BFF, Peanut (for mothers) and Mush (for mothers) allow you to connect with like-minded people in your area.

From Online To Real Life

When meeting a friend online, try to keep your expectations realistic.

Social media is a great way to connect with like-minded people with whom you have plenty in common.

However, just because they’re your type on the screen, doesn’t mean that you’re going to get alone in real life.

Related: How To Make Anyone Like You In 90 Minutes Or Less

#4. Make Friends At Work

Having a close friend at work can support your career and save your sanity, especially when work gets stressful.

But how do you move a work friend into ‘real life’?

Just because you get on well with someone, doesn’t automatically make them a friend.

1. Make sure that you both want to move from professional to personal and not just keep your friendship to office hours only.

2. Explore shared interests beyond your boss and pursue activities related to these shared interests.

3. Leave office issues where they belong. And use your time together after work to decompress.

Related: Wellbeing In The Workplace: 6 Ways to Improve Your Mental Health and Reduce Stress at Work

How To Maintain Your Friendships?

There are many factors that draw people together as friends and keep them close – time and communication being the main factors, but there are more:

1. Proximity

While you may be able to maintain a long-distance friendship, it’s hard to deepen your bond with someone you don’t have regular face-to-face time with.

This is why most of our friends are those we meet at school, work, on the same sports team, and those who live close by.

2. Shared Activities

Pursuing your interests allows you to form friendships with like-minded people, but it also helps you maintain these friendships.

Common interests make you commit to spending that time together.

Letting Go Of Toxic Friendships

It’s important to take an inventory of your own friendships once in a while.

Ups and downs are present in any relationship.

However, conflict shouldn’t be central to any of these relationships.

Toxic friendships are unhealthy and you’re better off with them.

7 Signs Of Toxic Friendships

The following are some signs to help you recognize a toxic relationship:

1. They spend the whole time talking about themselves and show no interest in you.

2. Their personal psychodrama leaves you drained and frustrated.

3. They Show little sympathy for your problems and might even overshadow it by bringing up an issue of their own and make it seem a million times worse.

4. Would only see you when it suits them and on their terms – making you feel like you revolve around them.

5. They embarrass you by making you the punchline of a joke – even when you don’t laugh or explain that you don’t find it funny.

6. They put you down and wear down your self-confidence by undermining your decision-making and choices when it comes to partners, interests, clothes, TV shows, etc.

7. They don’t give as much as you do causing you to suffer from ‘compassion fatigue’.

Related: 13 Traits to Help You Spot a Narcissist Early On — and How You Can Defend Yourself Against One

How to let go of these toxic friendships?

#1. Having A Difficult Conversation

When a friend makes you feel belittled, used, or humiliated, you need to have a serious conversation with them about their toxic behavior and how it makes you feel.

People often aren’t aware of how hurtful their actions and words can be so pointing out that you felt hurt by something they said or did can be to stop the behavior and get your friendship back on track.

The rule is to give them one chance to explain themselves and change their behavior.

If the behavior doesn’t change, make a conscious decision to limit your time with them or stop seeing them altogether.

When expressing your hurt, avoid blaming by saying “you made me feel like…” and instead try “You know the other day when you said/did…? I actually found it hurtful.”

Related: How To Communicate More Effectively

#2. Limit Your Contact

If you still care for these people, limiting your contact can be the best way to limit the toxic effect of the friendship.

You can arrange to see them in a group situation, especially if you have any mutual friends.

#3. Let It Go

If the friend is still upsetting you despite having a conversation and/or tried to limit your time with them, consider walking away.

Don’t bring anyone else into this.

Explain yourself in a letter or message, or have a conversation with them.

Wish them well in the future but tell them that you need to take a break from the friendship for your personal well-being.

#4. Managing The Fallout

When letting go of a friendship affects a friendship group, explain how their behavior hurt you left you with no choice but to walk away.

Don’t ask friends to take sides and get into a bitching session.

How To Beat Loneliness And Enjoy Supportive Friendships?

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How To Beat Loneliness And Enjoy Supportive Friendships?


  • Portions of this article were adapted from the book The Friendship Formula, © 2019 by Caroline Millington. All rights reserved.
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