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Why Making More Friends Only Makes You Even More Lonely

Why Making More Friends Only Makes You Even More Lonely

Chronic loneliness is a modern-day epidemic, and a sad one at that. We live in such a busy time, and it’s all too common to sacrifice relationships for more work, more money, more stuff. But as a species, humans don’t do well by themselves. We survive best in groups where we can look to others for support and empathy.

Despite the instinctual need for others, the percentage of Americans who say they frequently feel alone is at an all time high. In the 1970s and 1980s, the percentage was around 11% and 20%, respectively. Yet in 2010, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) repeated a similar study and the percentage was as high as 45%.[1]

When feelings of loneliness seem to overwhelm us, the instinctual fix is to make more friends; to socialize. But all this really accomplishes is a more intense realization of loneliness.

Loneliness Exists Even with Physical Company

Feeling alone is not the same as truly being alone. Think about this common situation: in a family gathering, a handful of relatives are sitting at the table with others, but they are scrolling through Facebook on their phone or texting people who are not present. None of the people in this scenario are truly alone, but they do create loneliness. Through being more interested in their phone than physical company, they miss out on true human connection through company.

Another relatable example is patients in hospitals. While these ill people are quite literally surrounded with support, they often feel lonely and forgotten if their relatives do not stop by frequently. Any type of separation, be it literal or emotional makes us (and even animals) feel very alone and cut off.[2]

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In animals, it’s not separating a monkey from any companion, it’s separating them from a preferred companion. When we do that, we see the same effects in those monkeys that we see in humans; they feel lonely.

Connecting Is Easy, Deepening Is Not

Part of the problem with being hyper-social or making new “friends” to fill a void comes from the fact that those connections are actually empty. This is due to how simple it is to connect with new people.

Any time you open an app like Facebook or SnapChat, you’re making connections with people. They could be long-time friends, acquaintances or even strangers, but the attention makes the line blur between true companion and internet stranger. A person can have thousands of friends on Facebook but only truly know 50 of them. The high number doesn’t mean loneliness is an impossibility.

Another trend in the loneliness quick-fix is dating apps. If you need a mood booster or just want someone to compliment you and keep you company, any dating app can do the trick within minutes. There are often no strings attached, but along with being dangerous, this is also emotionally detrimental; while you may not feel alone for the hour you spend with a new person, as soon as they leave (most likely to never be heard from again), you feel even more alone than before.

Promiscuity Is a Loner’s Drug

When you make new friends because of loneliness, you’re being promiscuous. While this word is typically associated with dating a lot or being intimate very casually, the alternate definition is more about being indiscriminate or casual when it comes to who you surround yourself with.

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Sure, it can feel good to connect with a lot of people, but new connections don’t always lead to strong relationships. The more shallow relationships you build, the more lonely you feel.

Think back to the last time you realized you were ravenously hungry. You probably raided the pantry and ate whatever you could get your hands on, even if it was pure junk food. Making empty connections to try to fill a void is the same thing; When you’re not being selective about who to connect with, you make plenty of shallow connections.

Beating the Loneliness-Free Addiction

Deep relationships connect people on an intimate level. When you truly connect with someone, you trust them. That trust allows you to exchange thoughts and feelings in order to truly grow as a person.

Shallow relationships, however, make people feel distant because thoughts and feelings are not exchanged and shared. Why would you share intimate thoughts and ideas with someone if you don’t know you can trust them to keep it between you?

Shallow connections lead you back to the original problem – “a separation from a preferred companion”, which leads to loneliness.

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It’s a vicious cycle: you feel lonely, you try to meet more people, you connect with even more unsuitable people, and those people leaving you more lonely. It’s why wise people often say they would rather have two really close friends than 20 acquaintances.

So what are you supposed to do? Stop being a friendly person? No.

Stop Aiming for Making More Friends

Aim to connect with a few who you can share your mind with. The goal is to build real relationships on a solid foundation. If you were in love with a diamond bracelet but you couldn’t afford it, wouldn’t it be better to do without than to waste money on a cheap knock off that turned your wrist green? Knock-off friends are no different.

It’s also important to note that friendship and connections with people should be done for you and your happiness, not to impress others or seem popular. Someone can be physically with a lot of people but still feel lonely. It doesn’t matter how many people are impressed by your friend group; if you don’t consider any of those people real friends, you’ve accomplished nothing.

When the people are the right ones, making friends with just a few of them is enough to give you the warmth and connection. When you find yourself physically alone, just sending a quick text to a real friend or two can make you feel better long-term. The real friends are the ones who will make you happy and challenge you to grow.

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Find out the types of friends you need here: The Purpose Of Friendship: The Only 4 Types Of Friends You Need In Life

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed as to how to go about making real connections, start with understanding others’ values to form a deeper connection.The more values you share with each other, the more likely the relationship will be a deep one. Read this article about knowing more about your values: Knowing My Values Has Filled up the Long-Existed Missing Gap in My Life

A Deep Connection Is More Worthwhile Than Hundreds of Shallow Ones

It’s not a bad thing to make friends, it only becomes a problem when you don’t pay attention to who you connect with and those so-called connections are vapid and empty.

Don’t let your “hunger” for going loneliness-free blind you. Be selective about who you connect with. Develop deep connections and ditch the shallow ones. You’re way too good for that anyway.

Reference

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Anna Chui

Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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