Let’s Get Social! Health Central’s Depression Community Challenge
Retreating, isolating, and keeping to oneself can be part of depression. For us introverts depression only deepens these tendencies. I do want to say from the start that there is nothing wrong with being an introvert. There is nothing wrong with needing your alone time and privacy. Not everyone is a party animal and it is no character flaw if you are not. However, there are times when connecting with others is a good idea. Support, care, and friendship can help you rebound from depression. The reciprocity involved in a friendship is also good for you. Depression pulls us inward and can make us egocentric. Developing relationships makes us get outside of ourselves and think of others. Supportive connections can give us a new perspective and hope that we can survive our challenges. Sharing our joys and sorrows can lighten our load. So why aren’t we doing this?
Here are some of my excuses for not being social: I don’t have time, it is hard to trust people, I don’t have the energy, my depression will drive others away, and so forth. Recognize any of these excuses?
Keeping with the theme of making positive changes for the New Year I challenge each and every one of us to make some new connections this year. In this post I am going to describe how to do this.
Please note: If you are an introvert, the goal is not to become an extravert. If you don’t like big parties or huge group events you don’t need to make connections or friends in this way. My message is simple. Give yourself an opportunity to make new relationships on your terms. We are talking about making connections which bring you joy.
• Call, email, or even snail mail a friend you haven’t talked to in awhile but would like to keep in touch with. Sometimes friendships are lost because you simply lose touch. Don’t fear some huge commitment in time. Just say hello and let things unfold from there.
• Join an on-line support group. If you don’t have the time to meet people in person, an on-line venue can give you both convenience and connection. Be selective. I have always appreciated groups where there is a moderator and there are rules for how people interact. Choose a group where you feel safe. The health groups here on Health Central are a great place to start.
Looking for an Internet support group? The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance offers a comprehensive list of virtual on-line chapter meetings.
If you are looking for a live support group meeting the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) lists chapters in your geographic area.
• Say “Hi” to someone new today. Greetings are the most basic way to connect with others. It doesn’t have to go any further than a friendly hello and a wave. But these small pleasantries can make your day a little more joyful. You begin to feel like you are part of a community.
• Volunteer doing something you enjoy. If you like pets volunteer at an animal shelter. If you like hands on work maybe volunteer for habitat for humanity. The world is your oyster. Here is a site called VolunteerMatch where you can find volunteer opportunities in your local geographic area. While volunteering you are bound to meet other people who share the same interests.
• Join a MeetUp group. This is a wonderful site to find other people with similar interests. You plug in your hobbies or interests and geographic area and a list appears of groups which match these criteria. This is how I found a support group for people who suffer from social anxiety. They have practically every type group imaginable. They have groups for people who love movies, hiking, drinking coffee, reading books, bluegrass music, ride motorcycles and everything in between. You can also create your own meetup group and advertise for members on their site.
• Accept an invitation. Maybe you usually decline most social invitations due to your depression or introversion. But maybe just this once, you might want to accept one small invitation. The invitations which are most do-able are those which are time limited like seeing a movie or attending a community event.
• Take a class. In most local libraries there are newsletters or brochures about local community events and classes. I have learned about tai chi, how to belly dance, and how to make jewelry this way. Your local parks and recreation will also have classes and events to attend such as ropes courses, nature walks, and how to fish. Taking a class will ensure that you will meet others who share similar interests.
One last bit of advice is to schedule some social time each week. Sometimes if you don’t schedule it in, you will find ways to make excuses. It is too easy to neglect your social life if you don’t plan ahead. Writing a letter counts. Commenting on someone’s post on a support site (such as this one) counts. Going out for coffee with a friend for a half an hour counts. Getting out of the house and responding to a “good morning” from a clerk or neighbor counts. Start small and work your way up with regard to your social activities. This is a chance for you to explore what types of connections sustain you and which ones drain you. Be selective. Be choosy. But do “get out there” and have some human contact. It might make you feel better and decrease your depression.
We are doing this! Choose one of the ideas from above and let us know how it goes. We want to hear from you. I will be joining you in this challenge. I will be reporting back and asking you how things are going in a couple of weeks.
In the meantime here are some other Health Central articles to help you on your social quest: