Why Cultivating Solitude Helps You Make Friends / by Amy DeRosia

CC Photo by Leeroy

In our society, loneliness is a major problem. We're more connected through technology than we've ever been. But, meaningful relationships in our real lives are harder to find.

This article discusses a study in the American Sociological Review about how individuals are more isolated than ever before.  On average, Americans have only two close friends. We used to have three a few decades ago.  25% of people have no one to confide in at all.

Friendship is something we expect to come easily because is usually has. When you're a child, you sit next to someone at lunch and stay close friends for years. Making connections and staying in touch with classmates is simple when you see each other everyday.

If you're in a phase where you are lacking community, you're not alone.  This study shows that we loose half of our friends every 7 years. Wow! All of us should be much more open to welcoming acquaintances into our lives with that kind of turnover.

Our lives change and shift quite a bit over any period of time. Friendships are affected by normal transitions like: changing jobs, moving to a new city, marriage, divorce, having children, retiring, personal growth, tragedy, success, ect.

If you're out of the habit of meeting new people regularly, there is a good chance you're needing some new friends. That's okay.  This is something a majority of us have to do multiple times.

The suggestions for ways to meet new people are usually pretty straightforward. Two of the most useful ones are simply to 1) Show up- over and over again. Say yes to invitations. Try new things consistently. 2) Be patient - with yourself, other people, and the process.

Being proactive will hopefully make finding new friends happen quicker. But, nothing changes overnight.

Alone Instead of Lonely

In order to thrive where you are, you need friendships and belonging. When you're lonely, the temptation is to try to fit in with the people around you. If you're too guarded or pretending to be someone you're not, your relationships become phony and shallow. This does not make you feel more connected.

You have to choose between fitting in or being yourself. I have gone through multiple phases of caring too much about what people think and trying to fit in (which never works anyway). This leads to being in a room full of people and feeling incredibly lonely.

Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self acceptance.
— Brene Brown

The connection we crave can only be found through belonging. This closeness depends on having relationships where we can be vulnerable with each other. But, our capacity for vulnerability depends on our self compassion.  

We are not only disconnected from each other. We're disconnected from ourselves too. When we're surrounded by constant noise and stimulation, we never decompress. We run away from our thoughts and feelings. We numb out our pain, fear, and discomfort.

Learning how to be present to ourselves and each other is crucial right now. The only way to cultivate this type of compassion is through stillness.

At some level, we are all aware of how alone we are. This reality makes us restless and uncomfortable. But, you don't have to be lonely. You have to learn how to be alone.

This video has some good ideas:

 

In quiet spaces we find strength, heal, detach, and grow in our ability to love. Be a good friend to yourself. You can learn how to accept yourself unconditionally, listen, and be exactly where you are.

Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.
— Bell Hooks

When you show up to a party with energy to give other people, everything is easier. You loosen up quicker, listen better, and even find the courage to show up more often. If you're consistently meeting new people and trying new things, you're naturally able to fill in friendship gaps when they happen.

To find belonging, you begin by accepting yourself and showing others who you are.  When we practice this, we are able to serve our friends and communities in authentic, truly generous ways.

 

What has helped you find new friends or be a better friend to yourself? Please share your advice in the comments.