5 Ways to Improve Your Social Life as an Adult

Every milestone in your life comes with meeting new people.  As you get older, it can be harder to make and maintain friendships than it was when you were a kid.  As a child, you were probably surrounded by peers at school day after day.  Perhaps you were involved in activities where you could easily connect with friends who had similar interests.  Merely playing together at recess was likely enough for you to foster the roots of a long lasting friendship.

As an adult, there’s no longer a cafeteria table for you to sit at or after school activities for you to attend with the same people everyday.  As you become involved with life’s many obligations like making a living or taking care of children, friendships might fall by the wayside.  Over time, relationships may grow apart for a number of different reasons.  Since close friendships are associated with positive outcomes through life transitions1, promoting self-esteem and wellbeing2, don’t neglect this important area of your life! If you’re feeling like your current friendships are less fulfilling than you might like, try some of these strategies to make and keep new friendships.

  • Surround yourself with likeminded people- Get involved with something in your community where you can find others who have similar interests.  This could be volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about, signing up for a sports league, or taking a class on a topic you’re interested in.  Chances are there will be at least one person to connect and you’ll easily have things in common to talk about!
  • Put yourself out there- It’s not easy to make an initial contact with potential friends.  Get used to making small talk throughout your day.  Put on a smile, and make contact with as many people as you can.  You never know where you’ll find your next close friendship.
  • Use social media-You might have hundreds of friends on Facebook, but struggle to think of one person to call in the midst of a crisis.  Using social media is a great way to reconnect with old friends or acquaintances.  It’s easy to see who’s in your area to get together with.  Online forums are also excellent outlets to find people in your area with similar interests.
  • Take a genuine interest-Once you have made initial contact with a new person, it’s important to take a true interest in who they are and what they’re all about.   Ask questions and truly listen to what others have to say.
  • Be patient-Don’t expect to have a new BFF overnight.  It will likely take many encounters with one person to start feeling like friends.  Give it time.  Once you find someone you’d like to get to know a little better, put in the effort get together over multiple occasions and watch the friendship grow!

Friendships are a unique part of the human experience and with a little time and energy you can build your community to feel more connected and cared for!

 

1. Hartup, W. W. (1996). The company they keep: Friendships and their developmental significance. Child Development, 67, 1-13.
2. Hartup, W. W., & Stevens, N. (1999). Friendships and adaptation across the lifespan. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8, 76-79.

Don’t Let Depression Defeat You!

Feeling a little down from time to time is a normal phenomenon that most of us experience. However, when feelings of sadness, despair, or emptiness linger to the point where they are interfering with your ability to function optimally in your daily life, you may be suffering from depression. According to the Center for Disease Control, an estimated 1 in 10 adults report symptoms of some form of depression—either major depression or one of the other clinical versions of it. (http://www.cdc.gov/features/depression/). Depression can affect every aspect of your life. In addition, it can also make your hopes and dreams seem to be permanently out of reach.

Coping with depression can be especially challenging since when depressed, it’s hard to motivate yourself to do the things you need to do to start feeling better. So in this sense, depression keeps itself going. That’s why battling depression isn’t easy by any means. But with your relentless commitment, you can overcome it.

To cope with depression, it’s best to start with small steps and then gradually build on them. Many depressed people hold the belief that things will never get better. So when this is the case, it’s understandable why you’d avoid fighting it. If this feels familiar, ask yourself, is this dour belief that things won’t change completely true? Can you entertain the possibility that things might get even slightly better? For example, can you recall a time when you have been able to make yourself feel better? If you have, you can probably do it again; and a good place to start is with your daily routine.

Although it can be particularly difficult to gather the energy to do the activities you usually enjoy when experiencing symptoms of depression, doing those things you find pleasurable and upbeat can quickly bring about a change in your mood. So write down a list of activities you really enjoy doing. These items can be as small as making yourself a cup of hot chocolate or listening to your favorite music. Also, add things that are a little more involved, like taking a drive some place where you enjoy spending time. Including some physical activities is also a great idea, because exercise releases the chemicals in your brain and your body associated with a positive mood1.

In addition to this list of things you enjoy, write down some positive diversions you may not think to do when you’re feeling down, but might really help you if you only remembered to do them at those key times. Don’t forget to include on your list such items as talking with people who you consider to be sources of comfort and strength.

Try to do at least one thing on your list on a daily basis and begin to monitor how it’s affecting your spirits. Our moods typically follow our actions. So push yourself to do an enjoyable activity that you would do if you were not depressed.

A good way to measure the effectiveness of these steps you take, is by rating the intensity of your depression before and after your participate in a given activity. Use a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 representing the smallest possible feeling of sadness and 10 representing the most intense anguish. Think about or write down the numerical rating of your mood both before and after the activity you choose, in order to see for yourself how what you do actually affects your mood.

If depression persists beyond a few weeks, I urge you to seek professional help. Depression is not always psychological in nature; and determining what is psychological versus what is medical requires consulting a mental health professional. With your determination, overcoming depression is possible. These steps will help you to move away from the darkness of depression and toward the light within you. That light is always there, just as the sun can always be found under the clouds! For many more actions steps you can take, download my complimentary audio program, Overcoming Your Depression.

 

 

 1. Mayo Clinic Staff (2011, October) Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms.  Retreived October 10, 2012 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression-and-exercise/MH00043.

Discover the Benefits of Mindfulness

Do you sometimes find yourself thinking more about past and/or future things than what you’re doing in the present? If so, you might be missing much of the beauty the life has to offer. Perhaps, you’re not performing daily tasks to the best of your ability or it might be that you’re very efficient and productive, but find that once everything is complete on your “to-do” list, your day felt like a total whirlwind. While working on “auto pilot” can sometimes help you to be very successful; achieving greater peace, fulfillment, happiness and self-awareness can come from intentionally stopping to fully take in what’s going on around you. Mindfulness, or the practice of being aware of your mind and body at a given moment, can help increase your awareness in the here and now. Studies show that incorporating this into your daily life can reduce stress and help you to function more at your peak level of performance[1].

With its roots in Buddhism, mindfulness (which is the secular arm of Buddhism) has been around for thousands of years, because it works! Here’s a simple technique to try if you’re a beginner or even if you’ve already experienced the benefits that similar techniques have to offer: Choose a mindfulness “cue”. This can be anything in your environment, from eating a meal to stopping at a red light. Every time you notice your cue, it’s time for you to step back and focus your attention on the present. The cue of eating a meal is a great one, especially if you find yourself tossing food in your mouth when you’re hungry (or not) without even noticing what you’re eating. If mealtime is your cue of choice, every time you’re about to eat something, focus in on the present moment and on the true purpose of the action your taking: to nourish your body and maybe even to consume something delicious that induces feelings of happiness. As you chew, notice how the texture and taste of the food feels on every part of your tongue. Notice the movement of your jaw as you chew. After each bite, focus on the sensation of the sustenance filling your body with nutritious vitamins and minerals. Each bite should be taken with as much intention and purpose as the last, to turn what once was a mundane lunch break into a moment in your day that you look forward to because it fills you with positive feelings of calm and peace.

A driving cue might be a good one for you if you find yourself mindlessly driving to the same place (such as work and home) over and over again. As you approach each red light, focus on your breath in the present moment with no criticism or judgment. Do this until the light changes, then do it again at the next red light. Without stopping to notice the scenery around you, you might be missing out, especially if you’re someone who spends many hours a day commuting or in the car. Life can be much more enjoyable when you notice the small things in your path, instead sleepwalking through your days.

You can personalize your cue to be anything that works for you. Lots of hustle and bustle can make staying present a challenge, especially when you’re juggling many roles in your life. With practice, noticing what’s going on within you and around you in the moment gets easier and easier. At that point, you can add more things in your daily life to serve as reminders to focus on the present and to be more self-aware, accepting of the things that throw you off balance and conscious of the small things in life that can bring you happiness and joy. With this in mind, you’ll no longer miss out on the many things in the world you may never have noticed before. I also offer some more suggestions to deal with juggling the roles you hold in your life in my book.

Is Giving to Charity Always a Stage Seven Endeavor?

Since your view of charity (giving/receiving of time, money, or other tangibles to/from others) is a very personal matter, the short answer is no. Contributions of time or money to charity or a cause you support is a situation where your unique values prevail. Your true motive is what tells the story. For example, at Stage Seven, your contribution may be a result of your inspiration to benefit the world or a certain deserving subset of it for a cause in which you believe. At times, this could even make your own life more complicated or difficult than it would be otherwise. At Stage Six, it could be the opportunity to do some type of work that you enjoy doing for a charity, which you don’t have the opportunity to perform as a part of your career or regular life. At Stage Five, it could possibly be to fulfill the expected role of giving back (and besides, giving tangibles to charity is tax-deductible). At Stage Four, it could be to receive the praise and recognition that often comes from others as a result of giving (many charities even publish the names of their donors, partially for that purpose). Another way to put it is that Fours (as well as Twos) can act like Sevens when the “cameras are rolling.” At Stage Three, you may be giving merely to stay out of hell; Stage Two, to convince others that you have pure intentions, so that they fall prey to a scam of yours; and/or Stage One in order, somehow, to actually receive that charity’s help.

Sevens need no recognition for their acts of charity and kindness. When you are operating at this highest stage, the ability to move the world or a segment of it  (perhaps just one person) in the right direction with respect to something you feel strongly about—where nothing extrinsic for yourself is expected in return— is all the motivation you need. Only you know your true motivations. However, no matter what stage you are starting from, take a moment to visualize the impact your contribution it will have. When that vision can trigger a feeling of true satisfaction, you are definitely in the Stage Seven zone.