How to Stop Being a Loner (And Warning Signs With Examples)

Do the words “recluse”, or “loner” sound familiar when people describe you?

I love spending time by myself playing video games or taking care of my plants, so I understand the feeling of not “living enough” (and perhaps even missing out on life because I’m staying at home too much).

Over the years, I’ve learned strategies to avoid turning into a hermit.

We, humans, are social creatures and we’re expected to interact with others, whether it’s at work or in a social environment. But, unfortunately, society can sometimes make us feel like a square peg in a round hole – no matter how hard you try, you just can’t fit in.

You might end up thinking that you have nothing interesting to say around others, and this can make it really hard to make friends.

In this article, we’re going to discuss the possible reasons why you might shy away from others and explore ways in which you can make socializing a more comfortable experience for you.

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How to stop being a loner

Although there are benefits to quiet time, not having the option of seeing friends can be lonely.

You may be wondering how to get out more when you like staying at home, but the bottom line is, due to issues such as job changes, parenthood, and even apathy, we have to work harder at being social after we enter our thirties.

Fortunately, even if you’re naturally introverted, there are steps that you can take towards becoming more social.

See our complete guide on how to become more social.

The following are some guidelines for becoming more social:

1. Set social goals

Just wanting to be more social isn’t enough. You have to drive change by setting clear social goals and parameters that you can work towards.

For example, perhaps your goal is to get out more and talk to people; the steps that you take towards achieving this goal should be based on the type of connection that you want to make.

Think about what type of a person it is that you want to meet – is it a friendship goal, or a business goal? Once you figure this out, base the activities that you do around it.

2. Focus on what you like about what you have to do

Think about the elements of being social that you enjoy; maybe it’s trying new things, seeing a new film, eating food that you’ve never had before, getting dressed up, or listening to your friend’s hilarious stories.

Focusing on the positive parts about being social will help to ease any apprehension that you might have about going out.

3. Start small

Don’t just jump in head first – if you want to make lasting changes to your social skills, you’ll need to start by understanding what works for you.

Expand your comfort zone bit by bit, for example, if you’re used to spending time with one or two close friends, then perhaps go one step further by suggesting that next time they bring along someone that you don’t know.

4. Set deadlines and reward yourself

Establishing a deadline is a great way of keeping yourself from becoming too reclusive. You’re setting an end-point to your hermit habits and mentally preparing yourself for leaving the house.

If you manage to meet your deadline, reward yourself with something that you usually enjoy when you’re out. Perhaps it’s as simple as ordering dessert or buying yourself a certain item that you’ve been wanting for a while; bribing yourself with a reward that is valuable to you is an excellent way of increasing your motivation to socialize.

5. Mirror sociable people

If you want positive feedback and motivation from new friendships, then you may need to attempt new ways of communicating with other people.

Take influence from the social butterflies that you know and mirror their body language and mannerisms:

  • Project your voice with confidence so that people don’t have to struggle to understand you.
  • Smile and make eye contact – this may take a bit of practice, but everybody responds well to a warm smile.
  • In a conversation with a new person, ask them questions, and actively listen to them.
  • Ask open-ended questions that fuel the conversation.
  • Ask other people for advice – it will make them feel valued and important.

In your efforts to get out more when you’re a shut-in, you might notice that you’re feeling a bit more drained than usual. It’s important to check in with yourself regularly and, if necessary, “recharge” after a social event.

Perhaps take a solo walk or listen to some music – taking care of your personal needs means that you’ll have the energy and motivation to be present when you are being sociable because you’re doing it from a place that’s true to who you are.

6. Think positively about yourself

Seeing yourself in a positive light can lead to you becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy; if you believe that other people like you, then you’ll act in a way that will cause it to come true.

In fact, a study from the 1980s demonstrated that when people believe that they are liked, they tend to share more about themselves, disagree less, and have an overall more positive attitude.[4]

Perhaps try practicing positive affirmations before a social event to get yourself in the right frame of mind for meeting new people.

7. Be proactive

Remember the adage “nothing ventured, nothing gained”? Don’t wait for friendships to come to you – it’s important to put yourself out there so that you can meet new people.

Joining local clubs such as running or cycling groups can be a positive step towards forging friendships. This can be especially rewarding because you get to engage in something that you enjoy, as well as meet new people.

See our guide on how to find like-minded.

8. Ask questions

If you want to make friends, ask people questions about themselves, and actively listen to their responses.

Demonstrate through your body language and facial expressions that you’re hearing what they’re saying – this will help to break down initial barriers to a new friendship.

See our guide on how to make interesting conversation.

9. Invite potential friends to do something with you

If you start to click with someone in work or in a class, ask them if they would like to do something outside of the environment in which you know them. You might initially fear rejection, but not taking this step might mean that the friendship is never given the chance to flourish.

10. Build on your new connections

Once you’ve made one or two new friends, then you’ve got a good base to work from. Having friends makes making new ones easier – you’re more likely to be invited to social events or be accompanied to places that you want to go.

11. Manage your expectations

It can be tempting to expect a lot from a new close friend, but it’s much more realistic and healthy to have a wide range of friends from different environments.

Also, don’t take it personally if people aren’t always receptive to your efforts; they’re likely not consciously trying to reject you, so don’t let it deter you from trying again.

Signs of becoming a recluse

Staying at home is great for reconnecting with yourself; it’s possible to burn out socially, so it can be a way of recharging your batteries. But, if you’re avoiding text messages, are starting to feel a little down, or Netflix is asking you whether you’re still watching reruns of a series from the nineties, then perhaps it’s time to consider whether you’re becoming a recluse.

Research has shown that being social is important for your mental health.[1] The following are signs that you may need to get out more:

1.The thought of going out makes you feel anxious

social anxiety might make staying at home the more appealing choice, but people are social animals, so long periods of isolation can worsen your nervous thoughts.

2. Your friends don’t call or text anymore

If you constantly say no to every invitation, then it’s inevitable that people will eventually stop asking. You’re not expected to drop everything you’re doing to respond to someone, but it is important to maintain friendships by making an effort.

See our guide on what to do if you don’t have friends.

3. You’ve become more awkward in public

If it has been a while since you ventured into the outside world, then you might find that you’ve lost the ability to be social. You may notice that you feel more uncomfortable and at a loss for things to say to other people.

See our guide on how to stop being awkward.

4. “Real” clothes are a thing of the past

If your daily go-to outfits haven’t extended beyond pajamas and exercise gear, then it might be time to consider getting out of the house. There’s nothing wrong with wearing comfortable clothes, but it’s a great confidence boost to put on something nice and go somewhere where there will be other people.

5. You’ve been feeling down

It might be difficult to describe exactly how you feel beyond “bleh”, but this relatively undescriptive word is universally recognized as feelings of loneliness, boredom, and a lack of creativity or spark. Conducting a conversation with another person actually requires you to get your creative juices flowing. So, even though you can entertain yourself from your own home, it is still important to seek out real, human connections.

6. You don’t have stories about your own experiences

If all that you can talk about is something that you saw on TV, or read in a book, then you may be at risk of living vicariously. It’s important to create your own life experiences, so it might be time to change your habits.

7. Your problems are starting to feel like the center of the universe

The more time you spend by yourself, the more difficult it becomes to see things from other people’s perspectives. Being social allows us to hear and see things from other vantage points and helps us to develop an outside perspective on our own experiences.

8. You’re losing aspects of your personality

Your social skills can suffer if you haven’t used them for a long time, and your sense of humor and who you are around other people is a large part of that. You can lose confidence and your natural rapport with friends when you’re not regularly socially engaged with them.

9. You’re starting to feel depressed

Humans are meant to be social, so a lack of social interaction leads to depressive symptoms in many people. If this is something that you’re starting to experience, then it might be time to schedule some social events.

See our guide on how to make friends when having depression.

Places to go to get out of the house

If social anxiety is something that you struggle with, it can be difficult to resist the lure of your couch and slippers. However, it’s vital for the status of your relationships and mental health to remind yourself that you actually like your friends, and you might even have fun if you go out with them.

The following are places that you could go to potentially reconnect with your social self:

Exercise

Exercise classes, regardless of your level of fitness, can be an excellent way of meeting new people. It might be spinning, martial arts, circuits, or yoga – a shared experience and goal to become fit and healthy can create a bond with others as you support each other towards achieving your goal.

Evening classes

Fitness-focused classes might not be for everyone, especially if they have physical limitations, but no matter where you live, there’s usually a wide range of classes available.

Art classes, book clubs, cooking classes, and wine tasting groups, are just possible examples of evening activities that could get you out of the house.

Check your local university or community college sites to see if they are offering anything that takes your fancy. Websites like Groupon and LivingSocial are also excellent ways of finding classes and deals in your area.

Volunteering

Trying something new, like volunteering in a cause that you believe in, will not only motivate you to get out of the house, but it’s also a great way of meeting people with the same belief system as yourself. What’s more, volunteering will give you that “feel-good-factor” that many people crave after a prolonged period of time by yourself.

Dating-apps

Dating apps are a useful tool if you’ve been feeling lonely for social interaction or partnership.

It’s not only a way of encouraging yourself to leave the house, it’s also an opportunity to meet interesting people, make new friends, have fun, and potentially even find someone that you could be compatible with and interested in.

Becoming more reclusive with age

It might have seemed easy to make friends when you were younger. Back then you were probably more sociable, energetic, and keen to meet new people. But, unfortunately, it takes more time and effort to make new friends as an adult.

A recent study from the University of Kansas reported that for two people to feel like friends, they need to spend a minimum of ninety hours together.[3]

However, even though it can be more difficult to make friends as you get older, meeting new people can be a deeply rewarding experience.

Being sociable when you’re young makes sense from an evolutionary point of view – it helps you to forge friendships and potentially find a life partner. So, even if you’re naturally introverted, in your teens and twenties, it was normal to spend every Friday and Saturday night out with groups of people.

But as you’ve grown older, you might notice that you prefer a night at home without any social plans.

In fact, even extroverts report this phenomenon of intrinsic maturation; it just means that you’ve become more emotionally stable as you’ve grown older and that you don’t need as much excitement to feel content as you used to.

Research has even shown that our personalities aren’t as fixed as we once might have believed.[2] As we age, our priorities change and we mature, often due to increased responsibility at work or at home.

However, growing older doesn’t mean that you should become entirely reclusive – it’s still healthy and important to go on work and friend nights out.

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Viktor is a Counselor specialized in interpersonal communication and relationships. He manages Socialpro’s scientific review board. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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