Perhaps you’ve heard or read the latest research that married couples live longer than singles because of the strong bond of connection with spouses.
Having fewer social ties and connections is associated with a weaker immune system. A weakened immune system is less able to ward off various diseases and illnesses like colds and flu. However, if the single or divorced person has strong bonds with others, he or she will fare just as well as the married couples.
This year a few of my clients have commented that their friendships of many years seem to be waning because busy-ness with work and family take up the time for getting together to socialize.
Pam (not her real name), one of my clients who is in her fifties, has had many friends over the years: friends from high school and college years and throughout her adult married life. Pam divorced this year. Her children are married, and she is trying to reconnect with various friends.
Pam lamented to me how frustrating and lonely it is being divorced. She said, “I never thought I would feel all alone like this because I thought I had good friends who would be there for me after my divorce. People are busy, or for whatever reason it’s hard to get together.” Pam continued, “Times have changed for me from when I had kids in school. It seems now friends have either moved away, died, or just are not available to socialize.”
Pam brought up this research study and wanted to revitalize her network of friendships and her immune system at the same time. She realized that loneliness can actually kill you. It can be easy to put aside fear of dying early from a lack of strong ties with loved ones if one has a lot of family and friends.
The good news of Pam is that it was easier than she thought to make acquaintances and re-build her network of friends.
Reaching out to others with similar interests can help provide a deeper and stronger social network that can also help provide the benefits of boosting the body’s immune system against disease and illness.
It was back in the 1990’s that I volunteered for hospice and worked as a counselor for those with terminal illness. One morning or afternoon per week I would meet with two or three clients who were dealing with their end of life situations.
One morning, I met with Joe (not his real name) and asked how he was doing. He told me with upbeat energy that last night his neighbor in the next room had died. Joe said, “The staff was short-handed, and Mike (not his real name) did not want to be alone when he died. I crawled in his bed and held him for a few hours until he died in my arms.” Joe simply said, “Mike did not want to die alone.”
Joe’s kindness to Mike was due to Mike’s reaching out for assistance not to die alone. I remember how Joe seemed so alive in telling me, “Mike gave me the gift of knowing that dying can be peaceful”.
When we reach out to another person, we don’t always know how we might be changed.
There are solutions to finding more satisfying and meaningful connections with people. Meaningful connections can lead to a wider circle of acquaintances and to developing good friendships.
Pam met her need to socialize and find new friends by beginning to volunteer in her local community.
4 Practical Ways For Making New Acquaintances
1. Make a list of your top five hobbies and/or interests. By knowing your top interests, such as gardening, golfing, playing cards, painting, writing, or building bird houses, you can take the next step.
2. Once you have a list of your interests, find a local organization that needs volunteers. Finding people with your interest can make it easier for conversation and may led to a meaningful friendship. You can find volunteer opportunities in your local newspaper or make a Google search in your community or nearby town or city. Examples of places that need volunteers are: state and county fairs, schools and colleges, hospitals, performing arts centers, the Humane Society, local garden centers, senior centers, churches, the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Museums, and hospice.
3. After you find an organinzation whose needs match your skills and interests, then take action. Make a phone call to find out more information.
When you reach out to others, give of yourself and be open to receiving back. A give and take relationship is the healthiest.
People, who have lost spouses and friends due to death, divorce, or slowly over time from the daily-ness of working and raising a family, can suffer emotionally and physically from the loss of those relationships.
Reach out to others through your interests and start to rebuild a network of acquaintances that can lead to meaningful friendships.
Where did you meet your last friend? I would love to hear from you.