Loneliness may be the most dangerous epidemic women face, according to this guest post by Shasta Nelson, founder of GirlFriendCircles.com, a web-based service that matches its members with potential girlfriends offline, in real life. Lucky for us, she has some concrete ideas on how to beat loneliness and make new friends in this new year. Shasta also puts her money where her mouth is: She’s giving away a six-month GirlFriendCircles membership to one lucky GirlfriendCelebrations reader! In addition, she is offering YOU discounts on membership and other GirlFriendCircles events. See below for all the details.
By Shasta Nelson
While many of us have stood in line for the flu shot, bought abundant amounts of antibacterial hand soap and increased our daily intake of immune boosting vitamins, research published last month suggests there’s something besides Swine Flu and the common cold that we need to protect ourselves from – loneliness. And it’s apparently equally, if not more, contagious as run-of-the-mill germs.
The Impact of Loneliness
With the holidays over and social calendars cleared, January becomes one of the loneliest months of the year. A study published in December’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that loneliness not only affects our personal health and well-being and the way we treat others, but it also increases the sense of loneliness in our friends, family and neighbors. It can spread from person to person, up to three degrees of separation.
Here are three ways to help build your relational immune system this New Year:
Get a Check-Up: Determine your current relational health by evaluating your circle of friends. What friends do you have and what friends are you still hoping to find? Do you have enough local friends? Do you have the women surrounding you that help you feel rooted and supported right where you are?
Is your circle broad enough to accommodate different areas of your life? What interests or types of friends would enhance your life? Are you someone who connects with everyone but needs to pull a few people closer to you in more meaningful ways? Or do you tend to only have a few in your life so that when one of them moves or life changes that you find yourself not knowing who else to call?
Identify Long-Term Health: Write out what it looks and feels like to have a close circle of friends in your life. This step is crucial, but often skipped. While we all know you can’t go to the gym once and all of a sudden reach your health goals, the same is true for our relationships. Hold that truth with a willingness to not give up after a few scheduled events or attempts to reach out. This is one of the most significant health goals of your life and it very well may take three to six months before you can create a sense of belonging and connectedness.
Schedule your Steps: Based upon the awareness from your check-up in step one, you should be able to identify action steps that will foster more meaningful friendships in your life. For example, if you already know plenty of people but need to transition a few of them into something more meaningful, there are two primary ways of deepening friendships: more consistency (most of us will need to connect with someone at least twice a month over three months before we feel close) or more topics of sharing, which means broadening the conversations beyond the area that we currently have in common whether it’s work, our kids or a specific project. What can you commit to trying? Or, if you need to meet new potential friends, be open to trying lots of things such as joining sites like GirlFriendCircles.com, participating in a local choir, inviting your neighbors over for drinks or attending more events where your current network can help introduce you to more people.
This January, drag yourself to the gym and try to eat better, but for all the New Year’s Resolutions you may set, few of them will impact your health, physically, emotionally and relationally, more than surrounding yourself with good friends.
Shasta Nelson is a relationship and transition life coach and CEO of GirlfriendCircles.com, an online community that matches women with offline friends.
GirlfriendCelebrations readers, use this special discount code: “GFCELEB” to save 20% on any of GirlFriendCircles.com upcoming events:
21 Days of Friendship Journey, starts this Sunday, Jan 10 (workbook and coaching calls— participants can be from anywhere) http://newyearjourney.eventbrite.com/
Portland Speed Friending, Tuesday, Jan 12 (http://portlandspeedfriending.eventbrite.com/)
Seattle Speed Friending, Wednesday, Jan 13 (http://seattlespeedfriending.eventbrite.com/)
Or, receive 20% off membership in GirlFriendCircles.com, the only online community to match new friends offline by connecting circles of women in local areas, to expand your circle of friends!
And Now For the Giveaway
GirlFriendCircles has generously offered to give one of our our readers a 6-month membership free! GirlFriend Circles matches members up with a small “Connecting Circle” of local women first, then after that initial meeting, you are free to use its resources to find other friends in your area as well. Please note the cities in which memberships are currently available: San Francisco and Bay Area, Portland, Seattle, Chicago and New York City. You must be able to use the membership in one of these cities to be eligible.
1. Simply leave a comment on this post that says why you would like to try the GirlFriend Circles membership.
2. Tweet this contest for an extra entry.
3. Blog about it, linking back to this post, for an extra two entries.
Contest will remain open until 11:59 PM CST on Friday, January 22, 2010. Winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries. Good luck, girlfriends! Read the rest of this entry »