Do You Need Your Friends?
This week I’ve been reflecting on how important it’s been to have people around me who relate to my situation. These past 12 months have been a rollercoaster ride, ending one 14-year relationship to discovering a new way of living. Meeting up and speaking to people who are also going through separation and divorce has been a real lifeline. It has helped me to realise some of my thoughts and feelings are totally natural and part of the process. It’s helped to give me the confidence and perspective I have sometimes needed to tread a path less well-known. The amount of support I have received has been really wonderful and certainly helped me to feel less alone in this situation.
It’s crazy to think how different life was last year and how different it will evolve to be next year. A big level of change really shakes things up which can be exciting but at times it has been unsettling and overwhelming, I know from experience to listen and know my emotions rather than push them down and to find balance with stability and routines in my life where I can.
Along with connecting with people who are going through a separation, it’s also been really helpful this year to meet friends who have been through a pregnancy, the next chapter in my life as I prepare to become a mum. Whilst I haven’t had as much time and energy to focus on the baby as I would have liked, having friends share with me what to expect and what I might need has been really helpful, and to know they will be there to speak to after the birth is really comforting.
Thinking back to my childhood, I have a parent who had a chronic health condition, which when I was a child often left them housebound. It wasn’t something that I really spoke about very often and it did feel lonely and difficult - I am sure speaking to others in the same situation would have been really beneficial, I can see that really clearly now after these past 12 months!
It can be really easy to not see friends and think I am too busy, but when I meet with the right friends it can feel so nourishing and comforting rather than draining and tiring. I need that in my life, I believe that we all do!
Reasons Why We Might Be Less Sociable
This reflection got me thinking about all of the activities that I used to do with friends that no longer seem to happen and I imagine that you can relate to some of these too! Did you used to go to the cinema with friends to watch films but now find yourself at home watching movies? Did you used to go to exercise classes with others but instead find yourself doing them in isolation online at home? I’m going to an in-person pregnancy yoga class this week and I am really looking forward to meeting other mums - we already all have something in common!
Did you used to go out for more meals with friends? I have a group of friends where we get together every 2-3 months and have a good catch-up over some food at a local pub and I would love to do this more often. Going out and being sociable does feel more challenging however when the price of so many things seems to have increased, including going out for a meal and I am certainly watching my food shop spending more consciously too!
Even shopping trips for clothes have significantly moved online, it’s easy and more convenient I get it, I do it, I’m not a big shopper anyway. But it does mean a lost opportunity for a mooch around the shops with a friend or two.
Speaking to some friends I know they used to go out for sociable walks during the lockdown and this was seen as such an important factor for our mental and physical health they feel that this has become much less promoted and they struggle to find the time with back to back work meetings and little chance to get up and move.
Whilst I still go out for my weekly food shop, I’m finding it more challenging to fit it in and am considering the very popular online shopping. Again something else that can be done online instead of in person, where in person I might have a short conversation with the checkout operator or bump into someone I know for a quick chat or even just be around other people rather than in my 4 walls at home!
Whilst I personally prefer seeing people in person, technology has made things easier and more convenient to keep in touch! I remember going abroad for 8 weeks in 2008 and using phone shops to make calls from Thailand and computer cafes in Australia to help keep in touch, as mobile phones were much more basic and the price of international calls was higher - today we can do all of this over wifi, which is also very readily available in a lot of places. Having a phone call or video call can be so wonderful, hearing someone's voice and seeing someone's face from afar can mean so much when you are away for months at a time, like when I was living in Japan - however, trying to speak to people regularly with a big time difference also presents its challenges!
Why we may drift apart
There are numerous reasons why we might drift apart from people, it could be moving away for work, working extra hours or having to work a side-gig, stress and anxiety holding you back, lack of disposable income, childcare or bereavement and also the knock of effects of not being able to see people freely during covid - is there anything else you are aware of?
In addition, in todays society we often function as individuals or individual homes, the ability for community support has shrunk and some of us can feel isolated and alone. There are people who have had more life experience than us out there, who can share their insights and wisdom, that could lighten the load if society were set up in such a way.
Whilst we may have practiced saying “no” and not feeling so guilty about it during covid, because we were so conscious of our health, notice if perhaps this has gone too far. Yes, have boundaries but are there something you would enjoy that you could say “yes” to?
Work and Connection
Being self-employed can also be a lonely journey, only those who are self-employed tend to really understand the dynamics of working this way. I always enjoy speaking with other entrepreneurs in the wellness space - again people who are in the same boat, to gain inspiration, understanding, and connection. In contrast, when we work in an organisation and feel we have to show up as someone we aren’t this can also feel very lonely, as true authentic connections may not be formed. When we all worked in the office, it was easier to bump into someone at the photocopier and have a chat and get to know colleagues, with many hybrid and online working options these in-person connections are reduced.
I was lucky when I moved to Derby in 2008 for a graduate job, there were 12 of us that all started on the same day. Many had moved to the area and some lived together. It gave us the opportunity to come together and bond and spend our leisure time together, including a few drinks some weekends. Some of these people I am still good friends with today. If the role had been online I think the experience would have been very different!
Ayurveda and Relationships
Ayurveda pays attention to relationships with family and friends, and there have been many studies to show that nurturing relationships improve longevity and mental health. When we come back to nature, elephants operate in herds and as humans, we were designed to work together to feed and look after the family. Whilst we don’t live in caves or tribal communities here in England and many other parts of the West, it’s important to have a network of people around us. Friendships can bring a wealth of different opportunities, from widening our perspectives with different points of view, an empathetic ear, advice, and enjoying activities together - feeling a part of something, safe in our tribe.
Ayurveda reminds us that we do not exist in isolation, everything around us is interdependent, and it exists in relationship with one another. This is why living a life with hyper independence, often promoted by individual capital gains, can leave us feeling disconnected and imbalance and disease can be experienced. There is a natural law of connection we can try and work with not against, to experience more ease and joy. It’s important to make conscious efforts to surround ourselves with loved ones, positive social groups, a loving family, and a supportive community. And the more you live like this, the more you become an energetic match to loving and uplifting social connections and relationships! Who would you like to spend more time with? Can you reach out to them and arrange to catch up or do something fun together soon?
I had a friend I hadn’t spoken to for a month and when I recently reached out I got a friendly reply, another friend I hadn’t seen since last year we caught up one evening and it felt so good to re-connect, so even if you haven’t spoken to some of your old friends for a while, why not be the first to drop them a message and see what response you get.
You might feel anxious about reaching out or seeing people again, or you might feel like you need to create a whole new circle of friends. There are Facebook groups such as Wild Wanderers here in the UK that offer connections for people who want to enjoy outdoor activities together, a couple of years ago I arranged an outdoor walk and swim with 5 people I’d never met and we had a great time! What and with whom would be an easy starting point for you? Friendships and connections don’t always operate perfectly, you don’t need to be perfect but human, I invite you to show up as you are. Next year, I hope to start a local baby massage class in Derby, this will naturally bring me closer to people who are new mums, whilst also developing a beautiful connection with our babies. As life evolves, sometimes so do our friendship groups and that’s ok.
To conclude, here is a reminder that..
Social connection and nourishing relationships are important for our health
We are designed to interact and enjoy life with others and not in complete isolation
Finding people who ‘get you’ and what’s going on in your life can really help in challenging times
Notice if there is something you are doing online that could happen in person
Reach out to old friends you’d like to re-establish a connection with - take small steps to start rebuilding
Make new friends in groups with similar interests to you
If you need to, find free or cheap ways to connect with others in today's economic climate