Explore ways to socialize and deepen connections with others, even when depression makes it difficult.
Staying well-connected to friends and family while struggling with depression can be a challenge. When you’re in so much pain, it is easy to shut yourself in your room under a pile of blankets and let calls and texts go unanswered. Your feelings of pain are valid, AND it is hard to feel less lonely if you tend to isolate yourself from others. As you likely know, having high-quality relationships with others can be protective against depression and can help you to start feeling better.
Increasing Connections with Others
Sometimes, getting out of the house and talking to people is too much to handle. The following suggestions can be done from your home & minimize voice conversation, but still provide you with some form of socialization.
- If you’re not socializing at all, try doing something (even if it’s small) to expose yourself to another person- this can be through a text message or short phone call with someone, or can even be through watching a TV show or YouTube video with people in it.
- Sometimes having full conversations with others can be overwhelming. Call someone you trust, (or go where they are if they’re physically near you), and say, “I’m not feeling too well and I don’t want to be alone. Could we just be together right now and not talk? It’s just nice to have a friend.”
Feeling like you’re not alone in your experience is incredibly powerful.
- Don’t feel like talking with other people? Try talking with an Artificial Intelligence supportive chatbot, such as Wysa or Woebot.
- Have online conversations with other people going through similar experiences. Try out:
- Forum-based support websites/apps, for example:
- Online/app-based support live chats: for example:
- Anonymous apps, where you answer a question, and see the answers of others, helping you to feel less alone, such as:
- Just watched an interesting TV show or YouTube video or read a great online article? Go to the comments section on the article/video host page or social media page & respond to others’ comments.
- Have a particular interest or hobby? Find an interest-based online forum (by searching “[hobby/interest name] online forum” in Google, Reddit or Facebook) and engage with the discussions. (Examples of forums here, here and here.)
- Social media can be a place to have meaningful conversations with others, if you know where to look. Hashtags can be a great way to filter results so they’re more relevant. For example, as a start, try the following hashtags on Twitter to introduce you to various mental health communities: #SickNotWeak, #SPSM (stands for Suicide Prevention Social Media), #KeepTalkingMH
If it is overwhelming to leave the house right now, but you’re comfortable doing activities from home & having conversations with others, try the following:
- Support groups can be a great way to share your experience and learn from others’ experiences. If you’re not ready to show your face, simply turn your camera and/or microphone off and listen. Go at your own pace.
Not in crisis, but just need to talk to someone? Try calling a warmline! Warmlines were created so that people can have non-crisis support calls with trained volunteers. These calls are typically free, confidential, and run by people who understand what it’s like to struggle with mental health problems.
What to know before you call:
- Call a warmline in your own state first, if one exists.
- If one doesn’t exist or is busy, call a warmline in another state that is close to you and provides national service.
- When you call, they might ask for some information, like where are you calling from.
Virtual volunteering has many rewards – not only do others benefit from your help, but giving back to others can improve your mood. Check out the following opportunities below:
- Provide tutoring and/or advice to low-income high school students to help them succeed through UPchieve.
- Virtually help veterans and their families with career prep through mock interviews or job search advice. See Hire Heroes USA for more info.
- Be an online emotional support person at 7 Cups.
- Use your vision to solve tasks for blind and low vision people with Be My Eyes.
- Send a card or letter once/week to someone undergoing chemotherapy. Apply at Chemo Angels.
- Find additional virtual volunteer opportunities at VolunteerMatch.
Coffee shops can be a great starting place for when you aren’t feeling up for talking to many people, but you also don’t want to feel alone. Plus, the promise of coffee and/or a sweet treat can be a great motivator to get out of the house. Make it a goal to have a short interaction with at least one person, even if that means saying hello and asking how their day is going.
Along the lines of the coffee shop, spending time in a park can be a great way to spend time with people, without necessarily having to talk extensively with them. Have a dog? Go to a dog park and strike up a short conversation about another person’s pet. Easy conversation start + you’ll have your furry friend there for moral support.
While it may be difficult for you to initiative making plans, try to resist the temptation to say no to invitations from others to spend time with them, even if you really don’t want to go. Oftentimes, you may notice that if you are able to spend time with people you care about, your mood will also improve.
Reconnecting with old friends usually isn’t as scary as meeting a new group of people. Check out social media for ideas and then send people some texts to check in and perhaps make plans to meet.
Meetup is a website created for people to connect with others and find in-person events for people with similar interests. Find meetups for activities such as reading books, watching movies, playing sports, making crafts or create your own group if your interest isn’t represented.
Participating in an adult class or workshop can be a great way to meet others while learning something new. Want to make some new culinary creations? Take a cooking class and chat with the people at your table, Search for available classes online, from crafting to dancing to woodworking classes, or check out local community colleges.
Volunteering is a great way to meet people, and help others at the same time. To find opportunities, you can:
The Building Positivity page has a number of activities you can do with others. Just click on the “social” filter, along with other filters that may be of interest, and see what activities you could do with a friend/family member.
Developing Deeper Relationships with Others
Feeling alone with your experience of depression can be extremely difficult. Sometimes, even if you have loved ones and friends, you may not feel close enough to them to reach out to tell them about what you’re going through. The following tips are meant to assist you in developing deeper relationships with others.*
*Tips are best used when you’re not in a depressive episode, however can absolutely be used when you’re depressed.
Before starting to get closer to someone else, evaluate whether you have a general “foundation of security” that will enable you both to have a stronger bond. Researchers have found 5 key elements of secure relationships:
- Consistency – do we drift in and out of each other’s lives on a whim
- Availability – how available am I/them to spend time together?
- Reliability – can we count on each other if one of us needs something?
- Responsiveness – do we reply to each other’s emails and texts? Do we hear from each other consistently?
- Predictability – can we count on each other to respond in a consistent way when we need something?
If you relationship is missing 1 or more of these elements, don’t fret! That is just where you may want to start to build up the relationship.
Empathize by making eye contact with the other person and observing their expressions & body language.
Also, try to give them your full attention by listening and not jumping to problem-solving. This can help you better empathize with their experience & connect more.
This isn’t easy, but by accepting your imperfection and that of others, you’re on your way to creating stronger bonds. Admit that you’re having trouble getting all of your laundry done, or that you can only fall asleep if the latest cringey reality show is playing.
Ask for help even when you don’t need it so that when you really need them, you’ll have a better sense of how they’ll respond. Having a minor work issue or a car problem? Lean on your friend and see how they respond.