Forgive the graininess of these cows. Contrary to my belief that they need my hugs, they clearly a) have their significant attachments covered and b) prefer to keep some distance from yours truly as I stroll by and profess my love for them.
They say cows make a best friend for life and experience stress when separated. I need a little science to back this up, because as precious as this sounds, well…. I need science to back it up. According to research by Krista McLennan of Northampton University, when cows are penned for 30 minutes with a “preferred partner” versus being penned with a stranger cow, they exhibit lower heart rates and lower overall stress. Where am I going with this, you ask? It’s further evidence of our innate, mammalian need for social connection and the stress involved when those connections are missing or lost through the variety of life changes presented by our mobile society.
We seek new challenges and opportunities, fresh starts, or changes of scenery, and many of us are privileged to be able to go just about anywhere to do just about anything we desire. While being exciting and stimulating in so many ways, there are costs involved, as I hear from many of my clients who have relocated. The primary challenge I hear and have personally experienced in a relocation begs the question: Where do grown-ups go to make friends? We are thrown together from childhood through higher education, and most folks are fortunate to have navigated the school years without a great deal of social anxiety and have secured a few solid, quality friendships along the way. When those friends (and mostly ideal environments for friendship development) are left behind, it can be quite difficult to settle into a new job and/or city without those crucial supports. As many jobs even eliminate the possibility of workplace friendships due to a greater number of telecommuting positions, finding one’s tribe can be even more daunting. It gets creepier when considering the ease with which we can meet all our needs through online services, from groceries and take out, to mattress shopping (since when is it a good idea not to test a mattress first?!?). Recognizing all the physical and psychological benefits of social connections, such as decreased risk of depression, increased trust in others, improved positive affect and emotions, and diminished blood pressure reactivity and better recovery following blood pressure fluctuations, it is a bit skeevy to consider how we could realistically live out our days without another single human interaction.
This brief list of recommendations comes both from personal experience and from self-reports of clients who have found themselves new to town or who desired a greater network of quality social connections in the community.
- Join a Club. Yes, a club. Websites like meetup.com have made it possible for anyone, anywhere to find like-minded folks in the realms of everything from running clubs to music clubs to book clubs and so on. This is terrific, it’s technology actually helping us move away from technology and back into human connection!
- Take a Walk. Whether taking a lunch time stroll (hey, maybe even invite a co-worker you’ve been meaning to get to know) or an early morning spin around your neighborhood, your chances of meeting someone new improve greatly.
- Volunteer. Volunteering is great way to get out of the house without the huge commitments of paid labor. You can often set your own schedule of availability and fill positions that speak to your passions, skills, and talents. Think about what you truly enjoy. Music, nature, animals, knitting, social justice efforts, the environment? Chances are there is a non-profit dying for your time. Check out volunteermatch.org for local opportunities to contribute. Not only will you reap all the feel-goods of helping your community, but you’ll meet other folks who share your interests.
So, get MOO-ving toward those connections!
If social anxiety or another difficulty make it hard to venture outside your comfort zone of what you just might find a best friend for life!you know or where things feels safe and these suggestions just aren’t for you, please reach out to Fresh Air Counseling and we can collaborate on other ways to help you cultivate more meaningful relationships in your life.