Expanding Your Social Circle and Avoiding a Mental Health Vortex

January 12, 2023 at 10:33 a.m.
Sunny with her daughter, Lucia. Lucia is a practicing attorney, best-selling author, a VP for UN Women USA but still seeks out advice from dear old mom
Sunny with her daughter, Lucia. Lucia is a practicing attorney, best-selling author, a VP for UN Women USA but still seeks out advice from dear old mom

...by Sunny Lucia

Imagine my surprise when my 52-year-old daughter told me she felt her life was getting smaller and asked if I’d experienced that. Did I have any guidance, she wondered.

Yes, since you asked. Start constructing a plan now because it can be a descending whirlpool without one. Friends move. The lucky ones buy a 2nd home for winter hibernation in the sun and slowly disappear. People change so friendships change.


I don’t think it’s necessary to rewrite the multitude of advice columns about this particular subject. If you’ve retired after decades of work, home, commuting, groceries, cooking, PTA, repairs, and wash, rinse, repeat without enjoyable hobbies, you know this budding sinkhole.


We can read all of those advice articles and say we’ll do something – tomorrow. But how do we motivate ourselves to get a swirling flow of energy moving? You know, the positive kind. Not watch TV, argue about politics and, even worse, about politicians. Don’t voluntarily wear negativity like a second skin. That’s a great recipe for losing friends and limiting our social circle. If life hurts, so can retirement. Embrace the pain and move on? Maybe not. I’ve met too many elders who embrace the pain of negativity and stay there. Those golden years become the rusty years.


The advice to my daughter was pretty simple. Evaluate your relationships. Which do you want to keep and expand? Reach out to those folks. Reconnect with old work or school buddies you liked and see if there is still any mutuality.


Start with easy stuff. For distant friends you want to keep, have a regular phone call and make that call resplendent with small details. Local relationships are easier face-to-face for lunch and exploring different locations once a month. Volunteering takes research and trial and error. Pick your flavor: indoor, outdoor, active, phone-based?


The key is starting with small steps. This isn’t an overnight overhaul. It’s a new chapter of life without the structure of a career. My advice to my daughter: Frustration is allowed but not crying. No tears, just new times.


She said she’d enroll. 

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