Now that I’m out of the workforce and not seeing work colleagues every day, I’m feeling it. Collective loneliness: it’s loneliness from not being part of a group that’s working towards a common goal, according to Dr Marisa G. Franco*. Working in a large school (1400 students), the colleagues that I saw daily were the ones in my immediate hallway. Downstairs might as well have been another building all together. There was no regular contact. But when we did get together for dinner, we shared a common experience of teaching and dealing with all the ups and downs of a shared school. We had a common interest.
Not Bumping Into Friends
It’s isolating being retired and at home. It reminds me of when I was on maternity leave many years ago. I’m cut off from my work community. My work colleagues and I no longer share the common experience of dealing with the stresses of day-to-day teaching at the same school. I no longer see them in the hallway or at lunch every day. My day is not organized to organically bump into them. Do we even have anything in common anymore to base our continued friendship on?
Building On My Experience With Staying Connected
I think we can all agree that having friends is important to our mental and physical health. But how do you get more friends when you’re not at work anymore? It takes effort. Working in a large school meant that every time in my career when I switched departments, I’d lose touch with a group of colleagues. We would joke when we bumped into each other in the hallway for the first time in months, that we needed to make plans to get together and actually see each other. It took, and still takes, purposeful effort to arrange to meet up for dinner every few months. I need to build on this idea in my retirement.
Here are some tips from Dr Franco:
- go to a regular class or lecture series where you will run into the same people every week for a couple of months. This generates the “Mirror Exposure Effect, which is basically the idea that we like people more when we’re exposed to them more.”
- If you already have a few people in your friend group but you’d like to see them regularly, start a dinner club or book club or meet up for a regular hike. There needs to be a shared interest.
Thinking about friendships is prompting me to consider re-starting my gym membership that has been dormant since the pandemic started three years ago. Maybe it’s time.
*Find out more about Dr Marissa G. Franco’s research in her book, Platonic. Click here for a link to her website.
*Dr. Franco has also been featured in several podcast interviews (About Progress and We Can Do Hard Things) including this one with the US Surgeon General. Click here for the link.
I don’t think you write to get advice Caroline, but I thought I’d share just one thing that’s been good for me. I finally joined a book club after being resistant to the idea for years, and I love it. But I guess I’ve been really lucky in joining such a good group. Maybe it doesn’t always work out that way.
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