In my pervious post – An Epidemic of Loneliness, we explored the prevalence of loneliness and its negative health effects. But how do we effectively combat loneliness? The simple and yet simultaneously not so simple answer: relationships.
Relationships give us connection. When we feel lonely, it is an indication that there is a gap between the level of connectedness we desire and the actual level of connectedness we have in our lives. Regardless of romantic relationship status, there are two types of relationships everyone needs and should have to foster connection:
We need healthy friendships and community in our lives to experience healthy connections. Let’s dive into each of these categories to help explain their importance.
When we speak of friendships, we are not referring to acquaintances, we are referring to our most intimate friendships, our best friends. These are the people who know us best. They know our likes. Our dislikes. Our birthday. We trust them with our secrets. Our dreams.
Now if at this point you are thinking, I don’t have the friendships I want, you are not alone. Sixty-one percent of us don’t have the relationships we want, but the good news is relationships are built based upon patterns and we can change our patterns to change our relationships.* We will dive deeper into being a good friend and what healthy friendships look like in the weeks to come to help us change those patterns.
For now however, I want to share two statistics to help us have realistic friend expectations:
- It requires an investment of at least 200 hours to reach best friend status.* I don’t say this to overwhelm or discourage us, I say this, so we understand friendships don’t happen overnight. We may experience instant chemistry with a potential friend, but achieving best friend status takes intentionality, consistency (because we can’t fast track friendship and knock out 200 straight hours together), and an investment of time.
- Most people only have the bandwidth to accommodate at most 2-3 friendships. Again, these are best friend status friendships. We don’t have to have 2-3, we could just have one and that’s amazing. However, we need to understand realistically it is very rare to be able to maintain 3+ best friends with the intentionality, consistency, and time required.
Community gives a sense of belonging. Community can overlap and include our friends, but this is not a requirement. We can find community any number of places including:
- Community or Small Group
- Mom’s Group
- The Dog Park
- And more
There is an ancient African phrase:
“It takes a village to raise a child.”
Our community is that village. Regardless of where we find community the goal is that we create a village with which to do life. People with which we may not have best friend level knowledge of each other’s’ lives, but we know each other well enough to know what is going on in each other’s worlds and when to offer help or support. In the weeks to come we will discuss how to foster community in our lives.
Today, may we have the freedom to honestly assess the relationships in our lives. If we have been feeling lonely, may we be reminded and comforted by the fact loneliness is simply an emotion. Emotions are indicators, not dictators. Loneliness is indicating we need to intentionally pursue healthy connections and relationships.
If our assessment of the relationships in our lives leaves us lacking in our desired level of connection, we will remind ourselves that our relationships are built based upon patterns and we can change those patterns. Assessing our relationships is meant to be a source of motivation and encouragement to pursue healthy relationships and change our patterns, rather than a source of discouragement. We will confidently combat loneliness as we change our patterns, invest time, consistency, and intentionality in our relationships.
*Why Tho Podcast. “Surviving Summer: Frientimacy.” July 14, 2022