Men have traditionally treated friendships as “doing stuff with friends” and this has led to robust friendships taking a hit during the pandemic.
Psychologists, across the world, worry that the coronavirus pandemic is triggering a loneliness epidemic. While this is true, it appears that certain parts of society have taken a harder hit than others.
A new Harvard research suggests feelings of social isolation are on the rise and that those worst hit are older teens, young adults and men.
Men, more than women, are reported to be more worried that the pandemic has damaged many of their friendships.
According to figures from a men’s health charity, 40% of men fear they’ve lost friendships over the past year that they’ll never get back.
Why Men? And how does it impact their mental health?
“Having strong social connections has a major influence on our long-term health and wellbeing. Spending time with your mates and having people to rely on in a crisis is good for everyone,” says Movember CEO Michelle Terry whose charity released these findings.
The study further goes on to say that men feel more distant from friends compared with before the pandemic. Most have been experiencing poor well- being with some hitting depressive lows.
This is worrying news as the importance of friendships to our mental wellbeing is huge.
Though these figures are global and perhaps more inclined towards Western countries, we cannot discount that our male population in India could also be feeling more isolated.
Is this striking a chord?
Are you feeling disconnected from friends?
Don’t let things get you depressed and lonely.
The good part about India is that a large number of men live in a family set up, resulting in more interaction, and a larger network of support by default.
One of the better fallouts of the pandemic and the WFH (Work From Home) set up is that men (in general) have started understanding what it really takes to run a home, the nitty – gritty of raising kids, and responsibilities of endless house chores.
A large number of men have also started involving themselves more in the above mentioned activities and though they are mundane thankless chores – men have rolled up their sleeves to contribute their share ( apart from monetary) to get more involved in running the home.
However, by default of societal roles, men are more used to being out of the house and the lockdowns have certainly impacted them more.
If you find yourself in this sea of turbulence, don’t worry – not only do you have a lot of rocking boats around you, there are innumerable remedies to help you steer to friendly shores.
Let’s look at a few ways that will remedy the situation and get your spirits up and (social) life ticking again:
Reconnect with old friends
When’s the last time you spoke to your friends from school or college?
Barring a nasty fallout or conflict of interest, (you could even use the pandemic as an opportunity to rebuild bridges that were previously burnt), it’s never too late to reconnect with old friends.
Today there are so many ways to reach out to people; scroll through your WhatsApp or facebook connections and send them a message on social media, an email, or a text.
No matter how awkward it might feel, you will automatically have things in common. And it might feel good to find out what’s been going on in each other’s lives for the past few years.
What’s the worst that could happen? They say no? Then you’re just right back where you are right now.
A quick tip:
As mentioned above, men tend to connect more by doing things together, rather than just talking. So, calling up an old buddy may be hard because just asking, “Hey, how’s it going?” may not be enough to get the friendship going again. Listen to the things you may have in common now, and suggest a Covid- safe activity.
It’s never too late to forge new connections
Being grateful for cherished old friends doesn’t mean we can’t still be open to new connections too.
Are there people you see every day with whom you’ve never had a meaningful conversation?
It takes some courage but engaging a co-worker or fellow walker in conversation can help you determine common interests, and develop a future friendship.
Strike up a conversation or ask a question, be spontaneous and go with the flow rather than overthinking it.
Instead think, “I can do this. Maybe this person is also looking for new connections and will welcome the opportunity.”
Meet people through groups or hobbies
What hobbies do you have?
Are there ways in which you engage with this hobby that could involve others?
Maybe you could join a sports league, a book club, dance or run group or a volunteer group?
There are many resources to get you connected to like-minded groups. Apps such as Meet-up give you updates and info about all sorts of events related to your interests. Whether you go alone or with someone, this can be a great way to make new friends.
Reach out and make plans
When’s the last time you invited someone, or a group of friends to do something with you? Are you waiting on your friends or acquaintances to take the initiative?
Be the one to reach out and suggest an activity.
If you’ve found that your romantic partner seems to be your only friend, invite another couple over for dinner. Make it a double date.
Making plans, and trying to involve new friends or potential friends, could lead to establishing more meaningful relationships.
Leave your comfort zone
Putting yourself out there and trying something completely new is a great way to gain exposure to new people. Tolerating that initial awkwardness may feel difficult, but it will be worth it.
Reaffirm what’s Important to You
According to HBR (Harvard Business Review), without face-to-face contact, our emotional attachment to friends and family deteriorates quickly. After two months without an in-person gathering, feelings of closeness between friends and family members drop by more than 30%. After that, friendships go frigid. After five months — far less than the amount of time that has passed since lockdown orders were first issued — feelings of closeness between friends plummet by 80%.
A reaffirmation of who you are, your core values, can help you overcome some of the tendencies to “turtle in”.
Reaffirming who you are, and what is important to you, can help create a sense of comfort and control, and make it easier to reach out to people you’ve fallen out of contact with.
The relationship test
Are there relationships that didn’t hold their weight in gold? That they were dead but being dragged on and on?
For some, the pandemic may have been a chance to reassess which connections are actually most important to us. Perhaps some friendships will evolve or the ones built on shaky ground will drift off which may not always be a bad thing.
Are you on the path of self-discovery and solitude?
If yes, then you have nothing to fret about. Just enjoy each day as it is given to you! And you would have found the pandemic to be a booster in your spiritual progress.
Finding your true self is an equally important journey, but most important, is being true to who you are.
Once you have that confirmed, let nothing stop you to live your life to the fullest, making each moment count and finding that you have what it takes to see you through life’s darkest times. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it transformational lessons that are meant to change our lives forever.