Study after study is demonstrating that not only are humans wired to be social, but more importantly, those with the strongest social networks are healthier and live longer. Research Suggests a Positive Correlation between Social Interaction and Health
Chronic conditions can be very isolating for a host of reasons including: no longer able to work; limited energy to socialize; fear of how people will respond to you; have limited time due to caregiver responsibilities etc. Add to this living in a rural or isolated area, having no means of transportation and/or naturally being shy, and it’s very easy to find yourself feeling quite alone.
Cut to the Chase-Three things you can do to increase your social circle:
• Join a group and become involved. While a condition specific group (e.g. Diabetes support group) is very useful, 12 Step groups (e.g. AA) can serve the same purpose and many people find general community groups to be a good way to build friendships and reduce loneliness. Churches, businesses, libraries and communities have all sorts of groups, such as a quilting circle, theater group, reading group etc. While organizations like Rotary are very useful to members and community alike, they do require dues, which for many is an expense they can’t afford.
If your only option is on-line, explore condition specific support groups but try to arrange in person meetings. People say all kinds of things on social media sites like Facebook that they never would in person. As helpful as the digital connections can be, we need face-to-face contact.
• Check out Meet Up. The goal of this site is to revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize. Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference. Living rurally, I’ve been amazed at the wealth of free social opportunities that are now available thanks to this website. I even know people that have met “the right one” through this network.
• Make the first move-be pro active. Call, e-mail or text family, friends, work colleagues or neighbors and make a suggestion about getting together. It can be as simple as suggesting you meet for a walk or coffee. If you see a local organization needs volunteers, sign up. If you know a neighbor needs some help, go over and be the person you’d like someone to be for you. Since we have glorified the "too busy" culture, don’t be upset or take it as a rejection if people don’t respond to your suggestion for getting together.