Building Your Social Support Network
Numerous studies have shown the benefits of a strong social support network. Having good friends that you can count on can help improve depression and increase feelings of happiness, self-worth, belonging, and security.
Build your social support network by maintaining current friendships, getting involved in your community, and meeting new people.
Cultivating and maintaining current relationships
- Make a list of friends and family members that you are close to and make an effort to connect with them regularly.
- Aim for one emotional connection (e.g. call, text, email) a day but be gentle with yourself if you don’t do that.
- Remember to keep in touch with friends when things are going well and not only when you are struggling.
- Look for opportunities to practice listening to, supporting, and encouraging your friends.
- Rotate sharing your problems with different friends instead of having only one person you always go to.
- Be aware of friends that are overly negative or leave you feeling drained.
Connecting with people in your community
- Brainstorm activities and hobbies you enjoy and look for opportunities to do them in your community (e.g. sports teams, coaching, outdoor activities, cooking).
- Find something you are passionate about and volunteer for that cause.
- Join a gym or take exercise classes.
- Take courses at a community college or continuing education program.
- Get a pet and connect with fellow pet lovers. Pets are beneficial for your health!
Meeting new people and building friendships
- Go to social places such as coffee shops, parks, etc. where you have a higher probability of meeting people.
- Make a list of potential friends including people you know peripherally or just met and invite them to do an activity.
- Look for opportunities to meet friends of current friends.
- Make a point of accepting every invitation you can. Although this can sometimes be awkward or uncomfortable, especially if you are shy, you will find yourself in many new situations and will meet more people this way.
The tips provided in this method came from a variety of sources, including the National Mental Health Association and the Mayo Clinic’s online resources.
As always, practice good judgment when meeting new people, and if they make you feel unsafe or uncomfortable in any way, make sure to take care of yourself and safety.
Tips to remember when trying to make new friends:
- Try not to take it personally if not everyone responds to your invitations or efforts.
- Remember to be patient and that making friends takes time.
- Try not to be too picky about who you hang out with initially. You can evaluate later on if you want to pursue or continue the friendship once it is formed.
Article on the benefits of friendships