We all want good friends. Regardless of how extroverted or introverted you are, all of us desire at least a few relationships that are meaningful. People we can relax with, share our lives with, and that can help us through life when it gets hard.
But here is what we know: we are the loneliest and most depressed we have ever been, and it’s killing us. Study after study shows that loneliness has huge effects on our overall health. Which means loneliness isn’t just a feeling we don’t enjoy, but it hurts us physically, mentally, and even spiritually.
You don’t need me to convince you though, just scroll through social media on a Friday night when you have no plans and you’ll see plenty of people you know living what seems to be a great life having all kinds of fun. While you sit at home on your couch, alone.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with spending time alone, and many people need that to recharge. But what do we do if we are one the 89% of millennials or 70% of people aged 55-over who suffer from loneliness?* Is there a way we can make more meaningful connections in a world that has more points of connection through the internet and transportation, and at the same time is the least connected relationally in the history of the world?
Here are two easy things you can start doing today to beat the statistics and have more meaningful relationships that God designed us for.
Make plans and stick to them
Christina and I both lean on the extroverted side, so we try to spend time with people a lot. We like to make plans, have people over, and being in ministry, we also spend a lot of time with people. And it baffles me how often people will cancel plans last minute.
Typically it is something to the effect of being tired, not feeling great, it’s been a long week, or being caught up in something and losing track of the time. And I get, sometimes things do come up, but that should be the rare exception.
A large part of the problem is how easy it is to back out of something. Today, all you have to do is send a text, you don’t even have to talk to someone, so it’s a lot easier to change your mind last minute when you don’t have to face anyone.
Commit to stop doing that.
It’s been truly fascinating (and mind boggling!) to me the number of times Christina and I have had a conversation with someone where they have told us they wish they had more friends or better community, and within a week will back out of their plans to be somewhere with people.
If we want relationships that matter, we have to be willing to put in the work. And what I find is that the times I would rather stay home or just relax, when I actually get to wherever we planned to go that night, I am then so glad I went because I deepened relationships and made memories that make life worth living.
So fight the temptation to cancel you’re plans. It will make a big difference in the long run.
Spend more time outside of work with people than looking at a screen
Here’s a really easy way to track and adjust your schedule if you desire stronger relationships. Outside of work, how many hours do you spend watching TV, Netflix, or staring at your phone? If you are looking at a screen twice as much as you are spending time around other people, that’s probably a symptom of what is driving your loneliness.
Now I get it, not everyone wants to be around people all of the time. Especially if you are introverted and recharge by being alone. So this doesn’t mean you need to be with a large group of people all of the time, it could mean spending time with just one person rather than being alone.
But if you spent two ours a night during the week looking at a screen outside of work (10 hours total), and only two hours one night with other people, that’s a large gap, which causes us to be lonely.
Listen, we crave meaningful relationships because we are created in the image of relational God. Throughout scripture we see that believers are called to live life in community. That we are to do things like be generous to one another, care for one another, holding each other accountable, pray for each other, grieve with those who are grieving, and celebrate with those who are celebrating.
We can’t do any of those things on our own. So to honor God and for our own good let’s make it a priority, even when it is hard, to do life in relationships with others.