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Let’s talk: Improving your social health

Two friends enjoying a chat

Over 9 million adults in the UK are either always or often lonely, according to a study by The Co-Op and British Red Cross.

Loneliness not only affects our mental health, but can be worse for us than being obese or physically inactive (Campaign to End Loneliness) in terms of mortality. It is also associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and strokes.

Improving your social health isn’t always a quick or easy process, but there are plenty of tips and tricks that you can try.

Make yourself approachable

Keeping yourself clean and well groomed, and putting a smile on your face will make you seem more approachable. You don’t have to dress up to the nines, but make sure your clothes are fresh and ironed.

Use open, inviting body language by:

  • Making eye contact
  • Keeping your arms at your sides
  • Turning your shoulders to face whoever is speaking
  • Standing or sitting tall, rather than hunched over.

Most importantly, be friendly! Try to stay calm and be patient with the people you meet. Don’t be afraid to pay people compliments – it can be a positive way of starting a conversation.

Listen

Listen to what people have to say. Nod every so often and turn towards them to show you’re paying attention.

Be curious

When meeting other people it’s important to listen to them, show an interest in them, but try not to overreact to what they’re talking about.

Try asking open-ended questions to show you’re interested in what they have to say. Open-ended questions are those that cannot be answered in one word. They start with words such as:

  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • Why
  • How

It’s important to talk about yourself too or you will struggle to form a connection, but be careful not to dominate the conversation. If you find yourself rambling, you can turn the conversation back to the other person by saying something such as “have you ever done something like that?”

Pursue your interests

Make time for your favourite hobbies and interests. Not only can they help you to meet likeminded people, but they also give you something to talk about with others.

You could think about joining a sports club, taking night school classes or finding a club. You might find websites such as nextdoor.co.uk and meetup.com useful for finding groups or events to head over to.

Keep it regular

Make sure you meet up with friends on a regular basis, even if it’s just for a quick catch-up. If you haven’t seen someone in a while, why not reach out and try to arrange a chat?

Apply the same idea if you’re trying to meet new people. Try to go to a club or activity once a week or more. If you don’t make friends at one place, don’t give up – just try something different.

Friends at work

Don’t forget that work can also be a good place to make new friends. After all, you spend most of your time there!

Try chatting to people over lunch, offer to do a tea run or see if anyone fancies heading to the local pub after work. Some larger organisations may have social groups that you can sign up to.

Keep chats as positive as possible, think of some non-work topics to talk about and try to find out what you have in common.

More information

We have lots of tips and advice on improving and maintaining social health on our support pages.

If you’re feeling lonely, then we’re here to help. You can ring our free and confidential helpline on 08081 311 333 or use our online chat.

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