A solid social support network is very beneficial for your mental health. This doesn’t have to mean dozens of friends and constant social plans. It is about having a few people you connect with and enjoy spending time with. Those who are more introverted may have a lesser need for social activity, but no one benefits from too much isolation.
A social circle can be challenging to build or maintain for a variety of reasons. Maybe you just moved to Chicago, lost touch with friends during COVID, or they moved away. Maybe you don’t have much in common with your old crowd anymore or you have always struggled in this area. Whatever the reason, it is always possible to make some new friends, although sometimes it may seem a little daunting.
Below are some ideas you might consider in your efforts. Some things you try may work out, yet others may not. It is helpful to view that making the effort and putting yourself out there is a win in itself. Plus, each effort can help build your confidence and comfort level in new situations. If you meet some folks but they don’t seem like best friend material, that’s OK. Try looking for similarities rather than differences. It is great to have some casual acquaintances to do activities with.
While you are out trying new things, remind yourself not to mind read and decide what others may be thinking about you or how you think you are coming across to others. Try to be present and focus on the activity at hand. Building a support network by making new friends can take some effort, but the pay off will be worth it.
TOP TEN Ways to get involved Socially.
1. Volunteer: Volunteering Untapped Chicago This organization meets the 2nd Saturday each month to volunteer at different nonprofits around Chicago. They stress the importance of first timers and that the group gets together to socialize.
2. Improv classes: Improv Escape at Second City Improv classes are a great way to build confidence and they tend to attract people wanting to meet new friends. You can either sign up for a class or if you’re not ready to commit you can try one of their one-time drop-in classes. They even have an Improv class especially for those struggling with anxiety.
3. Join a meetup group: Meetup-The people platform. Where interests become communities. There are all kinds of groups join from book clubs, running groups, hiking clubs, and even knitting groups. Focus on groups that have a decent number of activities that you may be curious about.
4. Join a rec league: Better off Bowling Chicago, The Skee League, Chicago Sport & Social Club.
5. Play board games. Bonus Round Game Café.
6. Junior League. JLChicago. This organization offer opportunities for philanthropy, volunteering, leadership training, advocacy and socializing for women.
7. Join an associate or young professionals board of a non-profit. Associate Board Open-books Ltd. This can be a great way to support a cause you care about while meeting new people. One option is the Associate Board of Open Books a literacy organization which operates several used book stores.
8. Running club: Fleet Feet Running Club. Running is a great way to get exercise and meet people at the same time. The group meets in Old town at the Fleet Feet Shoe sore.
9. Book Club: The Book Cellar Book Club in Lincoln Square has a book club which meets the first Wednesday of each month. You can also find book clubs on Meetup, at your local Chicago Public Library and at other bookstores.
10. Salsa Dancing: Latin Rhythms Academy of Dance & Performance. Salsa dancing can be a fun outlet and a way to meet new people.