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Episode 180: Finding Friends as an Adult - It's More Essential Than You Think

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It's getting close to the end of the year and around this time I always get a bit reflective. I think about what I've learned, what I've overcome, what's changed in my life, and what I want to change in my life. 

And in thinking about this past year, the thing I'm most proud of and the thing that's had the biggest impact on my overall wellbeing is how much I've prioritized my relationships. 

I've said yes to every opportunity to hang out with friends, I booked 7 trips to see friends and family (my average in the past might have been 2 or 3), I made some incredible new girl friends that have quickly become like sisters to me, I've signed up for fitness groups, and am getting ready to jump back into salsa lessons. All in the name of expanding, growing, and fostering the relationships in my life. 

Honestly, I think this focus on people has been a huge contributor to my success with my gut healing protocol. For almost 9 months I've had to go without sugar, dairy, grains, alcohol, legumes, and fermented foods. Had I spent all those months just sitting at home alone I don't know if I could have done it. Or it at least would have been significantly harder.

Which is why I wanted to write this episode. We live in a culture where loneliness is becoming the norm. Between social media that allows us to connect without really connecting, way more work-from-home jobs, pandemic fear, and a hyper-independent 'I got this' mentality, we've stopped seeing each other, stopped leaning on each other, and it's wrecking us. 

"In 2018, the health insurer Cigna conducted a survey intended to measure the prevalence of loneliness in the United States. Among 20,000 adults surveyed nationwide, nearly half reported either sometimes or always feeling alone or left out." -The Recovery Village

And here's the thing, loneliness is not only associated with psychological impacts like depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline, it has very real, measurable effects on our physical health too.

"According to a 2017 report by Harvard University, loneliness has a risk factor similar to that of smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and it can shorten a person’s lifespan by eight years." -The Recovery Village

Loneliness can also cause increased stress levels, increased inflammation, cardiovascular disease, a progression in Alzheimer's, addiction to drugs, alcohol, and food as a way to cope, sleep deprivation, weight gain, a weakened immune system, and a 50% increased risk of dementia.

There's a reason that prioritizing community and relationships is one of the top habits of centenarians in the blue zones (the areas of the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives). 

With all that said, I know it can feel incredibly difficult to find new friendships as an adult or even to make time for the friendships you already have. Which is why I'm sharing the exact steps I've taken that have worked for me (plus a couple bonus steps I plan to take in the coming year):

1. Just say yes.

It's so easy to stay comfortable in your routine, in your home, in front of the tv where you're all cozy, safe, and relaxed. But if you want your life to change, your behavior has to change.

That means stop looking for excuses to bail on plans and stop finding reasons to say no to invitations. Someone's having a birthday? Say yes. Someone wants to take you to coffee on a random Tuesday? Say yes. Someone wants to go on a trip with you? Say yes. 

That was me all this year. One of the most recent examples being a fairly casual friend asked if I wanted to go with her to Hawaii this month. Instead of hemming and hawing and worrying whether we'd travel well together, I just said yes! And it was the best decision I've made all year. 

2. Try out a new class. 

Whether it's a hobby you enjoyed as a kid like drawing, cooking, or doing pottery, or it's something you've always wanted to try, classes are a great way to meet like minded people. 

I took a few jiu jitsu classes earlier this year and met some really awesome people! 

3. Look for wellness networks in your area.

This may not apply everywhere, but for example in Dallas we have something called the Dallas Fitness Ambassadors. Basically you pay a due every year and there are multiple events each month that bring people together who like fitness. It could be fitness classes, sports games, lake days, etc. 

4. Search Meetup and Facebook for fun groups based on topics you're interested in. 

Literally search your area and a key word like 'stay at home moms' or 'female entrepreneurs' or 'hiking junkies', and you will be bombarded with groups you can join. Meetup in particular is great because the entire point is actually meeting people in person. 

5. Join an adult sports league.

Ok I admit I'm not one for sports, so my version of this was finding a ballroom dance studio. But basically the same thing: a group of people coming together, improving on a skill, and working as a team towards a common goal. 

6. Get involved in community theater.

I haven't done this in years, but there is no better way to find fun, open, welcoming people than joining a community theater group. Plus it really teaches you how to get out of your bubble and live a bit outside your comfort zone.

7. Volunteer. 

This is on my list for next year! Not only do you get the mental health benefits of doing something nice for others, but it's a great way to meet really kind-hearted, giving humans. 

8. Communicate!!

Have a friend you want to be closer with? Tell them. Wish someone would invite you out more? Let them know. Meet someone you'd be interested in getting to know better? Invite them to coffee. 

No one is a mind reader and people get busy and caught up in their own lives. Take the first step, be vulnerable, and start showing up in other people's lives the way you'd like them to show up in yours. 

The main reason my social circle has grown this year is because after meeting a few girls at a networking event I followed up with them multiple times to grab coffee, go on walks, and find fitness classes together. Trust me, most people are also looking for more friends, but they're just as nervous as you are to put themselves out there. So take a deep breath and just go for it!

9. Join the next round of Follow Your Gut!

If you want to find a great group of women who are in a similar place in life, with similar health goals, and similar struggles, who are going to lift you up and cheer you on, you're not going to find a better group than my Follow Your Gut ladies. 

We don't start until mid-January, but starting on the heals of a new year makes it a popular round and it fills up fast (I only allow 5 women in to keep things intimate). Click here to get your application in (and to get an early bird discount!)


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