It has long been established that being a part of a supportive community is a crucial component of healthy mental health. Regular social engagement and support can make people feel more valued and connected, and it can even assist to avoid cognitive decline and the beginning of mental illnesses such as depression as we age, according to the American Psychological Association.
But what if you are not the type of person who is naturally outgoing or who finds socializing to be easy? What if you are an introvert?
Although being in command may not come naturally to you, there is a certain comfort in being the one in charge. So if the thought of joining a new club or society fills you with dread, take the initiative and form a group that is comfortable for you instead. Invite a friend or neighbor over to take part in an activity that you enjoy doing together. It could be anything – playing a game of cards to indulging in a cup of tea and a delicious treat. Always make sure the activity is something you enjoy doing, no matter what you choose. Make this a regular occurrence, either with this person or with a different friend, or perhaps with a small group of people at some point. If you have done a Pilates certification, why not invite some like-minded individuals to your front room to take part in some relaxing exercise?
A group can consist of only you and one other individual. Instead of hosting a luncheon for everyone on your block, invite one or two of your neighbors over for cocktails instead. Remember that while interacting with others on social media is not the same as building a physical sense of community with those in your immediate vicinity, it is still a wonderful method to reach out, communicate, and reap the benefits of social interaction in some cases. By identifying and joining online communities of people who have a common interest, or who have a common history or experience, you may make the process of reaching out and presenting yourself a bit less difficult.
Set your boundaries
Recognizing that you have limitations, refrain from overextending yourself. If one hour of socializing is all you have to give, then give it to yourself! Make it clear to your guest or guests that you only have a small period of time to spend with them, and then stick to that time limit. In the event that you have chosen to participate in an activity or event in your community, the same restrictions apply as in the previous situation. Set a time limit for yourself and depart when you need to. When social exposure leaves you feeling drained, it is critical to take care of yourself.
Have an escape plan
Introverts and people who struggle with social anxiety frequently find that having an escape strategy is essential. If you are able, drive yourself to social activities so that you are confident in your ability to depart anytime you like.