How to make meaningful connections with people in your local community

Bonnie Evie Gifford
By Bonnie Evie Gifford,
updated on Jun 11, 2024

How to make meaningful connections with people in your local community

Nearly half of us in the UK have reported feeling lonely. Could making connections in our local communities be the answer to help us feel less alone and more like we belong?

Making healthy connections and feeling connected with others is an important part of life. Our relationships impact all aspects of our lives – personal and professional. Social connections help us to boost our moods, manage our emotions, and thrive. We need human connections – a sense of closeness and belonging that we experience through supportive relationships – in order to feel healthier and happier. According to the NHS, maintaining and managing good connections can even help us combat loneliness and improve mental health issues such as stress and anxiety. 

Loneliness can affect any one of us at any time, no matter what our age or circumstances. According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, nearly half (49.63%) of adults in the UK feel lonely occasionally, sometimes, often, or always. There are many different types of loneliness we can experience, including emotional (when we feel like we don’t have meaningful relationships), social (when the quality of our social connections feels low), existential (when we feel separate from others and the wider world), situational (feeling lonely during certain times, days or events), and chronic (feeling lonely most or all of the time). 

Counselling Directory member, solution-focused practitioner and CBT counsellor, Blou Hyland (Dip CBT Count, RMBACP), explains more about loneliness and how therapy can help.

When we are feeling lonely or low, it can be tough to figure out how to start making new, meaningful connections with others – and that’s perfectly normal! Trying new things and putting yourself out there to try and make new connections can be tough. Here are five ideas to help you get started. 

Try volunteering

Volunteering can be a great way to make new friends, connect with your local community, and give back all at the same time. Volunteering can help support your wellbeing by creating a sense of purpose, as well as allowing you to use existing experience and skills for good. It can also help you learn more about others and yourself, talking with your fellow volunteers, making new friends, and learning about those outside of your immediate social circle.

Local community groups can be a great place to try and find volunteering opportunities, or try an app like Do it, which helps you find one-off events and ongoing roles in your local community looking for volunteer support. 

Get social (media)

I know, I know – usually, the advice is to move away from online to start making meaningful connections. But if you are feeling nervous and aren’t sure where or how to get started, using social media to your advantage can be a great place to start. Facebook groups for your local community or websites like Nextdoor can help you to connect with other locals, keep up to date on local news, events, and get to know people better in a less intimidating way before you start taking more active steps in person. 

Explore your area

How well do you actually know your area? It’s easy to fall into routines and revisit the same places over and over and over again. Get out of your comfort zone and familiarise yourself better with what’s around you. 

Discover local parks, check out your local community centre and other public spaces. This can not only help you start to recommend familiar faces but also to find out what’s on in your areas. Local clubs, regular activities, and bigger events are often advertised through local community centres and can be a good way to see if there is anything that interests you. 

Try a new hobby

Picking up a new hobby isn’t just good for your social life – it could be the answer to a happier, healthier life. According to research, those with more hobbies report better health, feeling happier, as well as fewer symptoms of depression – and higher life satisfaction. 

Hobbies can create the opportunity to become more active, explore your creative side, boost your confidence, and even act as stress management. As explained on Life Coach Directory, hobbies can not only help us to de-stress but can bring joy and become an act of self-care. 

Taking up a new hobby or rediscovering an old one can help you connect with new people and widen your social circle. Choosing to do an activity you are already interested in or experienced with automatically creates a talking point and a shared common interest if nothing else. 

Take the conversation further

Many of us know our neighbours at a more surface level. Maybe you recognise them or know their name but not much else. Be the one to go further than surface-level introductions and initiate a bigger conversation. Why not invite them out (or over) for coffee, get to know them better, and see if you have any shared interests? We spend so much time in close proximity with our neighbours yet often don’t really know them. Why not try and change that?

Making the first step to creating new, meaningful connections can be tough. Our fear of rejection can often stop us before we’ve even truly got started. But putting ourselves out there is the only real way we can start opening ourselves up to meeting new people, finding new friendships, and getting more out of the connections we chose to spend our precious time and energy cultivating.

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