When did you last feel lonely? Maybe it was yesterday, earlier in the week, one evening when you partner was working late and the kids were tucked up in bed. Perhaps since the pandemic, your social life feels like it has been reduced down to the size of a pea, and you’re wondering whether if you disappeared off the face of the earth with a little *poof* of smoke, if anybody would even notice. Maybe you’ve recently left your partner or husband and wondering whether there is any hope for making friends after 40 or if you’ll just be left on the friend shelf like a defective raggy doll. Or could it be that you have an absolutely raging social life still….in which case, I salute you!
Whatever the above, loneliness has reared its head in all corners of world, as we got robbed of our normal way of living with 79% of us now feeling lonelier than we did before Covid came and smacked us and our social lives full-on in the face. That’s felt even more keenly among single people, where the figure rises to a whopping 87%. And if you already struggled with social anxiety before? The bets are on that you are now feeling lonelier than ever before as the struggle to maintain friendships becomes even harder.
Is the forties the lonely decade?
So you’ve hit your 40s, and they say that life begins at 40, expect a study has found that people in their 40s feel the most lonely of all, god help us. But why is this? This Loneliness Awareness Week, I asked best-selling author, Gill Hasson of Lonely Less: How to Connect with Others, Make Friends and Feel Less Lonely why exactly this might be and here’s what she said:
Typically, you can become lonely either because of a gradual change in your circumstances or a because of a sudden change in your circumstances. You then either gradually become aware that you’re lonely – you feel disconnected, separate and maybe even isolated from others – or you are aware of a sudden loneliness.
The following circumstances can leave you feeling lonely:
- A deteriorating, unhappy relationship or divorce.
- If you have teenage children they need you less and less or they may have left home for university or work.
- Becoming a parent for the first time – when all your friends’ children are much older
- An unfulfilling job, having to now work from home, redundancy and unemployment.
- A change in family and friends’ circumstances – maybe they move away, have a new relationship, start a family.
Well that all makes sense. But without a tribe around us, shrinking social circles and confidence resulting in that feeling of withdrawal from life what is the remedy here? Is it making friends after 40, which in itself probably makes your insides cringe, but is probably the loneliness remedy here? The answer is categorically, yes.
Making friends after 40
So once we have chewed the cud and swallowed the horror that we need to put ourselves back out there on the friend market in our 40s, the question is – how the hell do we go about making friends after 40 anyway?
Firstly, fret not! Gill quite rightly points out, “There are people who are open to meeting others and making friends too. You’ve just got to find them. It takes effort on your part; you need to be willing to meet others, to be yourself and give something of yourself. A good way forward is to start with your interests. When you have interests and activities you enjoy, you can meet and join in with people with similar interests. Whether it’s playing or watching a sport, a creative activity or an enjoyment of arts and culture, getting together with people who like and enjoy the same things as you makes it easier for you to talk to them and make friends because you’ve already got something in common; you share similar interests and values.”
I asked her to share her top tips for making friends after 40 and this is what she said:
Go to a Meetup event
Have a look at www.meetup.com which enables people to find and join groups of others in their local area who share each other’s interests. There are Meetup groups to fit a wide range of interests and hobbies, plus others you’ll never have thought of: Book groups, art groups, film and theatre groups and sic-fi groups. Hiking and running groups, football groups, netball groups and cycling groups. There are groups centred around particular age groups, cultures and identities; ’40’s – 60’s’ groups for example, Japanese appreciation groups, conservation groups, singles groups, LGBT groups and so on.
People who go to ‘Meetups’ do so knowing they’ll be meeting people who are also open to meeting other people with a shared interest or identity and making new friends.
Take a class
Meet people who want to learn the same things as you. You can search for courses by going to your local council’s website and searching ‘adult education’ or ‘adult learning’ in the search bar. You can also find courses in your area by searching on FindCourses findcourses.co.uk/search/fun-hobby-and-exercise-classes And the WEA www.wea.org.uk have classes in almost every area of England and Scotland.
Volunteering for a cause or local community initiative that interests you is another way to connect with other people. As well as helping and meeting others, you’ll meet other volunteers who could become friends.
Volunteers can do almost anything; there’s a huge range of volunteer opportunities available to you. Whether it’s serving tea at a local hospice, helping at a local community food project or an animal rescue centre, working with refugees, advocating for someone with a learning disability or mental health problem, not only can you do something of worth and value, but you can be involved in something that’s relevant to your values and interests. Go to www.ncvo.org.uk.
Look out for organisations that connect people
As well as the Meetup groups, courses and classes in your area, there are national organisations with local groups and clubs whose specific aim is to bring people together so that they can connect and make friends.
Mens Sheds menssheds.org.uk
The Women’s Institute thewi.org.uk
The Townswomen’s Guild www.the-tg.com
Apps that connect people with others:
Meet My Dog meetmydogapp.com
Remember; you can make new friends, but you have to get out there!
Have you been feeling more lonely in your forties? How do you feel about making friends after 40? Do leave a comment and connect with us on Instagram here where we love to chat all things being in your 40s.
About Gill Hasson
Gill Hasson is the author of Lonely Less: How to Connect with Others, Make Friends and Feel Less Lonely (published by Capstone, June 2021). She has 20 years’ experience teaching and writing on a range of issues to do with personal and professional development, mental health and wellbeing. She is the author of more than 22 books; the bestselling Mindfulness, Mindfulness Pocketbook, Emotional Intelligence, Positive Thinking, the Sunday Times bestseller How To Deal With Difficult People, plus other books on the subjects of resilience, communication skills, assertiveness, and Careers. Follow: @gillhasson
Photo by Designecologist, Polina Sirotina, Felipe Cespedes, RODNAE Productions from Pexels