When we were kids, making a new friend was often as simple as walking up to another kid in the playground and asking, “Do you want to be my friend”, as teenagers our shared experiences and spaces in schools and activities created our social circles almost automatically, we had the time, tools and opportunities to have fun together - which is a very simple way to establish natural friendships.
But what happens when we grow up? After the engagements, marriages, long working hours, relocation and demands of life start to interfere with maintaining friendship or creating new ones, it’s often easy to wonder where the people we used to catch up with for a spontaneous outing, the people who used to have our backs when life doesn’t quite go to plan or just that person to share a laugh (or a cry with). Striking up new friendships as adults can be tricky and studies are showing that more and more people are reporting they are lonely, particularly as we suffer the effects of Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
According to the Australian Loneliness Report from Australian Psychological Society and Swinburne University (https://psychweek.org.au/wp/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Psychology-Week-2018-Australian-Loneliness-Report.pdf) One in two (50.5%) Australians feel lonely for at least one day in a week, while one in four (27.6%) feel lonely for three or more days. Nearly 55% of the population feel they lack companionship at least sometimes. One in four Australians experience high levels of social interaction anxiety. Higher levels of loneliness are associated with higher levels of social interaction anxiety, less social interaction, poorer psychological wellbeing and poorer quality of life.
Loneliness is something we all feel at times to varying degrees, but often we feel awkward about admitting that we are feeling lonely. As humans have evolved to be essentially social creatures, loneliness is thought to relate to our need to be part of a group being unmet. Feeling lonely an pose a bigger risk for premature death than both smoking and obesity according to according to research by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Brigham Young University in Utah, USA.
But what can dancing do to help loneliness?
Taking up a new activity or one you have been absent from allows you to meet people in your community with a shared interest and while you might start with the only thing you have in common is of not knowing your cucaracha’s from your lock step’s, it’s a very common experience for our students to discover a whole new social circle for activities that take them out of the dance studio.
MarShere Dance Studios offer a place where people can be comfortable to express themselves, and meet new people in a safe and welcoming environment. The first time you walk into a dance studio is such a memorable experience for most people, as dancers we remember that feeling vividly and our students and teachers are excited to make that first lesson a positive experience for newcomers.
What can you do to help find new friends?
- Make an effort to find yourself in places where you can interact with others. If you’re passive about establishing new friendships, then it’s unlikely that you will, be deliberate about trying new activities and interacting with new people. We encourage people to just come and “Give MarShere a Go” with a FREE class for new students (https://students.marshere.com.au/first-class/)
- Assume that people will like you. Once we drift into negative self-talk, it’s very easy to start avoiding interacting with others and engaging with them.
- When you show up at a class or a social activity, introduce yourself to people, make eye contact and be interested in others.
- To capitalise on the ‘mere exposure effect’ – the finding that people will like you more the more familiar you seem. Come to classes regularly, MarShere Dance Studios offer a range of membership options that encourage you to come back regularly.
- To turn an acquaintance into a friend, start practising vulnerability. Share more about yourself and ask the other person questions to get them to share about themselves.
What do our students have to say?
"I would recommend that you give dancing a go. While at the moment the current Pandemic has put a pause on learning to dance and interact with other people. Still consider learning to dance and find out what you can do if you believe in yourself and do the impossible because anything is possible if you believe you can do it. Be yourself and you may discover new things that you thought you couldn't do but can do now. Take a chance and see how you go.” - Stephen, MarShere Greensborough
“Feel so connected to MarShere and the people I’ve met. I hoped it would be a long term commitment, and now feels like a life long connection - with dancing and with my new friends. Simply being able to dance with so many awesome people and have fun. It really brightens up some tough days when you get to dance after a terrible day at work, or is the cherry on top of an already great day.” - Annabelle, MarShere Cranbourne
"I had been googling dance studios on and off for about a year prior to coming but during the Active April program there was 5 free sessions offered. The benefits I’ve experienced through coming to MarShere dance classes are building connections and friendships with other dances, having a healthy outlet to enjoy and forget about worries and it is one of the few cardio exercises I can do safely with my chronic illness. - Liz, Chelsea Heights
Our Melbourne and Mornington Peninsula dance classes we have a range of group classes on offer where you don't need to bring a partner. We welcome individuals, groups of friends (and couples) in our group classes and many of our students have arrived on their first night by themselves and quickly discover a new life-long group of friends. you will meet new people, find new friends, build your confidence on the dance floor and most importantly have fun. We offer a range of dance styles including Ballroom, New Vogue, Latin, Street Latin, Salsa & Tango, you can even try your first dance lesson for free. You’ve got nothing to lose and plenty to gain!
If you are you are struggling during this challenging period, there are many specialised mental health helplines and online resources to help you get through difficult times.
Get help today by talking to one of the following support services:
- SANE Australia Helpline - call 1800 187 263 for information about mental illness, treatments and support for you and your carer.
- Mensline Australia - call 1300 789 978 for telephone support, information and referrals for men dealing with relationship issues, or visit their website.
- Beyondblue - call 1300 224 636 for telephone support, information and resources for people dealing with depression or anxiety, or visit their website.
- Carers Australia - call 1800 242 636 to find out about short-term counselling and support services for carers and their families in Victoria.
- MindSpot Clinic - call 1800 61 44 34 for a free assessment and treatment service for Australian adults with anxiety or depression.
- Black Dog Institute - visit their website for information on symptoms, treatment and prevention of bipolar disorder and depression.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline - Call 1800 200 526 to talk to experienced family violence counsellors, 24 hours a day.
- Relationships Australia - call 1300 364 277 or visit the website for relationship support for individuals and families.
- Direct Line - call 1800 888 236 for Confidential alcohol and drug counselling and referral.