Social Life

The need for social connection is instinctual. By nature, we’re drawn to seek the company of others. Social connections are an important source of fun, pleasure, sense of security, and support, all of which play into maintaining good physical and emotional health.
men in group circle, hands on shoulders

Fighting depression

When we’re fighting depression, simply getting out of bed can be a struggle, and mustering enough energy and motivation to visit with friends and family can be harder still. Guys tend to withdraw from friends and family when they’re depressed, but this ends up making them feel more depressed and also leads to loneliness.

Yet, just as a lack of social connection can contribute to depression, improving social connections can actually help us fight depression. Researchers have found that people who feel more connected to others have lower rates of depression.[1] Moreover, they also have higher self-esteem, are more empathic to others, more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more empathic and supportive in return. In this way, social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.

Being social may sound like a daunting task when we’re feeling depressed, but the more we talk to people, the more connected we’ll feel, and as we start to get better it’ll be easier to maintain our social connections.

Guys playing guitar together at beach

Getting the most from your social life

Here we will find some tips that can help our tackle a couple of key problems related to social activity when a guy is depressed: 1) withdrawing from others, 2) difficulty making new friends and 3) using social media.

We also provide some tips to keep in mind for maintaining a rich and meaningful social life. Most people need only a couple or few good friends in their lives to make a positive impact on their health, but effort is needed to keep these bonds in place and strong.  These tips will help us feel connected and stay connected to others.

For more comprehensive information and guidance about social activity, scroll to the Additional Resources section at the bottom of this page.

Withdrawing from others?
Trouble making new connections?
Using social media
Withdrawing from others?

One of the biggest problems for guys when they’re depressed is social isolation.  Rather than let others know that he’s going through a hard spell, most guys tend to withdraw from their friends and family as a way to “protect” themselves.  But the problem is that the people a guy pulls away from are the same people that he needs around him when the chips are down.  These tips can help us stay connected to important people in our lives. Remember, some things might not feel as fun or cool as they used to, but if we keep putting ourselves in situations that we know could be fun or enjoyable, we’ll eventually be able to feel enjoyment, and be more energized too.

Remind yourself of the importance of others

Depression messes with our thoughts and can cause us to under-value the importance of friends and family in our lives. Remind yourself that your life is richer, and achieving good health is so much easier, when you stay connected to friends and family.

 

Watch Jonathan’s Tip Video: Tips on Staying Social.

Believe in yourself

Don’t assume that because you don’t feel like being social that other people don’t want to be around you. When we make plans with someone, we’re actually helping fill the other person’s social needs as well – that’s something we can feel good about.

Keep it brief to start

If hanging out with friends or going to a social event seems too daunting, don’t worry.  Say hello to the clerk at your grocery store or your neighbour passing by. Though it may not seem like much, even brief interactions can help us feel connected to people in our lives.

Chat with friends online or on the phone

It’s usually best if we can connect with someone in person, but if we don’t have the energy to do that, chatting with friends on the phone or online still counts.

Get a friend to do the planning

If you have a friend or family member who wants to get together, ask them to make the plans. This way you can just focus on showing up, without the worry of planning anything.

Be open with others

Friendships aren’t just about sharing good times. We can confide in our friends about our concerns (you’ll find the other person will often feel honoured that you chose to confide in them). We can even invite their feedback. Speaking with a friend or family member about tough issues can be a great way of sorting them out and also bring us closer.

Show interest in your friend’s life

When we show interest and support in a friend’s life, they’re more likely to do the same for us.

Don’t set expectations

Hanging out or socializing doesn’t have to have an objective or goal – beyond simply allowing us an opportunity to relax and enjoy ourselves. We can focus on the experience of just being with others without worrying about whether or not we are accomplishing anything.

Give yourself permission to laugh

Often, when we’re not feeling 100%, we feel like we’re not allowed to enjoy ourselves when we’re around others.  No one is telling you that you have to 

“play the sick role” – let yourself relax, play, have fun, and laugh. Don’t feel guilty about having fun or laughing.

 

Watch Aidan’s Tip Video: Social Life and Laughter.

Trouble making new connections?

It can be hard to make new friends as an adult, especially when we feel weighed down by depression. But there are lots of ways to meet people. Here are some tips to help get us out meeting new people.

Start with places where you feel comfortable

It could be a coffee shop, a store you like to browse, a neighbourhood pub, or the gym – The point here is to put ourselves in places where we feel comfortable and thus more confident in striking up a conversation.

Explore your interests

No matter what our interests are, there’s bound to be a group, an event, a team, or club with others who share those interests. Meetup groups are another good way to find people with similar interests in your area.

Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to get us out of the house and do something meaningful and interesting in an environment where people appreciate even the smallest amount of our time.

Think of conversation starters

If you have a hard time getting the ball rolling when you meet someone, think of possible conversation starters and follow-up questions in advance (sports, current events, music – depending on setting) to get a conversation going. An easy way to start a conversation is to ask someone what brought them to wherever you both are.

Walk a dog

Not only will taking a dog for a walk help us get active, it’s a great way to meet other people.  Even if we don’t have a dog, we could ask a friend if we could take theirs for a walk.

Reignite old friendships

Sometimes old friends can become new friends. If there are friends from your past that you enjoyed but have lost contact with, you can consider re-connecting with them. Social media can be helpful in reaching out to old friends.

Using social media

Social media has become a part of everyday life for many people. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, discussion forums, and other online platforms can all be good ways to engage with others, but it’s also important to be aware of their limitations.

Social media can allow you to connect

If you use social media, take advantage of what social media is meant for: staying connected with your friends and family, and perhaps expanding your social circle.

Don’t make comparisons

Most people tend to post more about “good stuff,” making it seem like their lives are full of fun, excitement, and adventure, but these posts don’t necessarily reflect the realities of real, everyday life. Avoid getting sucked into thinking that everyone else’s lives are free of challenges and disappointments – it’s just not the case.

Don’t use social media to replace face-to-face interaction

While social media can be useful, don’t let it be your only social outlet. Face-to-face interaction is the most important part of a man’s social life, so use social media to supplement it rather than replace it.

Maintaining a healthy social network

Your social connections are an important part of your life, and you can’t take them for granted.

Maintaining vibrant and meaningful relationships requires time, effort, and a genuine interest in the other person. Here are some tips to keep in mind for making the most of our social connections.

Focus on quality

The key to a meaningful social network is the quality of our relationships, and not the number of friends we have.

Surround yourself with positive people

We can focus on people that are positive influences on our lives. Laughter and positivity are infectious, so we should make sure our relationships have healthy doses of these.

Support others

Take time to listen and be there for your friends, like you would want for yourself.

Show initiative

We can’t always rely on others to sustain our social lives. Make sure to do our parts in initiating contact and activities with friends and family – they will appreciate our efforts.

Create a list of different activities

Having a list of activities that we can do with others inside and outside can be helpful for planning or making the most of unexpected breaks in our schedule (example: create a list of hobbies).

Schedule regular activities

Organizing some routine activities can help take the stress out of having to figure out what we’re going to do each day. This could involve having friends over for a weekly game or show night, or signing up for a weekly sports activity.

Respect boundaries in relationships

Be mindful of asking too much of someone, or being overly involved in their life.


Putting It Into Practice

Forming new habits can be tough, so we’ve gathered helpful tips and strategies for creating daily habits and routines to fight depression.


References:

  1. Jensen, M., Smith, A., Bombardier, C., Yorkston, K., Miró, J., & Molton I. (2014). Social support, depression, and physical disability: Age and diagnostic group effects. Disability and Health Journal, 7(2), 164-172. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dhjo.2013.11.001