With recognition growing of the problem of loneliness in the UK, the Oddfellows Friendly Society, who are based on Deansgate, has produced a new guide highlighting the benefits of friendship and full of useful tips for making friends.
The launch of the “Oddfellows guide to making friends” coincides with their Friendship Month and draws on the advice and experience of the organisation’s 310,000 members.
Nearly eight million people now live on their own in the UK and one in 10 people experience feelings of loneliness. An overwhelming body of research suggests that having a network of family and friends can lead to longer, happier lives.
Oddfellows CEO Jane Nelson said: “Our members know the joys of friendship – many of them come together in Oddfellows groups across the country each week to chat, take part in fun activities and hear interesting talks. Some of them have been through lonely and difficult patches too, so this guide is rich in experience and comes from the heart.”
Tips for making friends
The 36-page guide looks at what people seek from friendships and offers ideas on where to go to find friends. It recognises the importance of self-confidence and offers useful tips, including:
· Acknowledge your fears but try to picture positive outcomes too
· Focus on solutions rather than constantly thinking about problems
· Set small achievable goals each day so you don’t feel overwhelmed
· Be kind and helpful – it makes you feel great and those who give lots tend to receive lots too
· Exercise – modest exercise can make a big difference to your confidence and mood
· Smile – it relaxes the facial muscles and sends “happy” signals to the brain.
Tips for making friends include:
Just be yourself. If you want to make genuine friends, there’s no point pretending you’re something you’re not or faking interests that aren’t real!
Be patient. It will take other people time to realise how marvellous you are, just like it will take you time to learn how lovely they are when you’ve just met.
Don’t feel intimidated. Your opinions and enthusiasms are valid.
Smile and introduce yourself. It’s a friendly way to start a conversation.
Maintain eye contact. Look people in the eye, smile, nod, show that you’re listening.
Ask questions. It’ll help you establish things you have in common.
Listen. It shows you’re interested but don’t get stressed about not remembering names. You can always ask again later.
Pay compliments. If you like how someone looks, let them know – it’s a great way of showing you’re a positive and supportive person.
Jane Nelson said: “There’s a huge amount of scientific research out now that proves how important friendship is to our health. It reduces risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, mental health issues and much more. Friendship makes the good times better and the hard times easier so we’re keen to do everything we can to support people in making friends. We hope this guide will help those who are struggling, but also encourage those who are just out of practice in nurturing friends to do more – most of us can do with more friends!”
Oddfellows member Dorothy Emerson, 78, from Manchester, who won the high jump silver in the 1960 Rome Olympics, said: “When my husband Jack died, I struggled. I was spending less time with others and hurting. I began by attending some of the Oddfellows events locally like lunches and day trips. Now I volunteer as a Care and Welfare Officer, supporting other members who are going through a rough time and also helping to arrange events and trips. I know how important friends can be, so I was keen to share my experiences to encourage others.”
The “Oddfellows guide to making friends” includes a useful directory including dozens of organisations that provide opportunities for friendship and support. The guide can be downloaded and shared from bit.ly/friendsguide