As part of 2023 Social Inclusion Week, BUSY Health has some advice on finding social connection or helping others to do so.
Find Social Connection Difficult?
For some, it can be tough to make friends or connections in their community. Some may originate from another community, region or country and may be removed from their closest family or friends. Some may lack social opportunities due to confinement, disability, anxiety, social phobias or other reasons. Most people have experienced a time where they have felt socially disconnected where it can be hard to meet new friends.
BUSY Health is here to help those who would like to broaden their social connections, networks and social skills or improve their mental health. It can be a little like ‘the chicken and the egg’ – social connection can improve mental health, and good mental health can make social connection easier. We work with clients to build from the smallest initial steps to create practical pathways to social connection, one step at a time.
Ideas to Boost Social Connection
To get you started, here’s some ideas for finding social connection:
Start with what you CAN do – Begin with where you’re most comfortable and expand out – try increasing connection with people you’re familiar with or reconnecting with those you’ve felt safe with in the past. As you become more confident you might start small, safe conversations with others.
Build it up – Start with low expectations on yourself and others – a quick conversation, phone call, or asking how someone’s day is. People who work in service industries like supermarket checkout operators, café workers (during non-busy times) or friendly shop owners can be great to build your skills and confidence with. We don’t expect to be best friends with them, yet they’re generally not nasty and they won’t care if we’re not perfect. As we grow confident talking to others, we prove to ourselves we’re capable of communicating with people we don’t know!
Involve an interest or passion – It can often be easier to talk to people who share a common interest or passion. What’s something you’re interested in that you could have a conversation about with someone who shares that interest?
Don’t let one bad apple spoil the fruit basket – While we sometimes meet difficult or negative people, these are rare so avoid letting their negativity deter your willingness to meet the mostly positive people that are out there.
How we can include others!
When we include those who are marginalised, disadvantaged, lacking social connections and networks or who need support in social interaction, it pays dividends to everyone involved.
Some easy ways you can foster social inclusion include:
- Reconnect with your values – what sort of person would you like to be remembered as?
- Spend time or start a conversation with someone who lacks social connection.
- Volunteer time to a charity, especially beyond the holiday season.
- Organise or host a neighbourhood social event.
- Write a letter, message or email to someone who would appreciate your words and invite them to catch up.
- Invite someone out for coffee or lunch that you wouldn’t normally.
- Invite refugees, asylum seekers, new Australians, international students or those new to your community to join in a neighbourhood catch up.
- Invite someone with limited social supports to a social event or activity, giving them an opportunity to broaden their social connections.
- Talk with friends or family about being more inclusive or the benefits of inviting someone who might otherwise be excluded.
Article contributed by BUSY Health psychologist, Jamie Anderson.