We Tried Socializing for a Week and Didn’t Hate It

The LD staff decided it was high time we all made health a priority. Enter Wellness Wednesdays, a series of weekly health challenges by LD writers (and editors!) where we commit to seven days of healthy habits and share the results with our readers. This week’s challenge: socializing.

This Week’s Participants: Kelly and Lauren

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Kelly: I can’t say I’ve always been much of a social butterfly, but I can 100% confirm that I’ve been less social –even anti-social – in recent months. In the process of getting married, the friends I talked to narrowed down to the ones I needed to talk to (bridesmaids, groomsmen, etc.) and after getting married, all I wanted was some peace and quiet with my husband for a few months. I still interacted with a few select friends, but generally didn’t eagerly want to go out or initiate contact. The reasons are a mixture of exhaustion from work/commuting/wedding talk. There’s also the expected shift from my friends to our friends. Post-wedding, it’s easy to slide into only hanging out with my husband or hanging out with couples. I’m hoping that this challenge will push me out of my anti-social shell to get me to reconnect with my friends again.

Lauren: I live in a house with four other people with whom I share a lot of mutual obligations. We spend a lot of time together. In recent weeks I’ve gotten back in the habit of going straight to my room or going to the gym and not doing as much interacting with my housemates. This challenge falls on a difficult week for me, I’ve been dealing with a lot of personal and emotional stuff, so I haven’t been doing much socializing. I don’t know how much socializing I’ll be up for but I’m ready to put in some effort.

Monday:

Kelly: Today, I’m going to take the time to reach out to old friends. These friends and I were close at one time, but have drifted away due to time but primarily location. Neither of these friends live within two hours of me, so all contact will be through technology. I picked two friends that I adore, but haven’t talked to in depth recently.

I spent almost four hours chatting with my friend via text throughout the day. She is getting married in T-minus three weeks and asked for advice andshared pics and her wedding experience so far. We did talk about other non-wedding things, but it also felt good to share my knowledge and be on the other side of wedding planning. We made plans to reconnect in person post-wedding.

For my other friend, email is generally our preferred mode of communication because of our busy schedules. I sat down, dug out her email address and typed a two page email. The email included a brief overview of what was going on in my life; however, I made a conscious effort to talk about all the many things going on that were not wedding-related. I asked about her life, a general update and a demand that she email me back with details soon. Altogether, I feel accomplished and happy to have reconnected with friends outside my usual circle.

Lauren: I was not as accomplished as Kelly. While I did text some friends I haven’t talked to recently, it wasn’t a conscious effort. These friends are ones that I talk to pretty constantly and I have a Snapchat streak going with one of them. Texting them was habit. Mondays and Tuesdays are difficult days for making plans because of house obligations. We meet every Monday to go over groceries and other important tasks for the week and on Tuesdays we try to eat a meal together. Overall, I wasn’t having a great day, so I stuck to text and didn’t go out of my comfort zone.

Tuesday:

Kelly: I almost always exercise alone. I’ve never struggled to motivate myself to work out and I don’t guilt-trip myself if I skip a day, so I’ve never felt the pressing urge to have a gym buddy. In addition, my go-to exercise is running, which is a difficult exercise to do with a friend unless you are at the same pace/distance level. My husband is a competitive runner and we never run together because his mile time is half of mine (Exhibit A: the Turkey Trot debacle of 2015). There’s also my own embarrassment when I get out of breath working out or I think I should do better. Today, I decided to suck it up and work out with a friend—in this case, my younger sister. Because DC was hit with a massive thunderstorm, we elected to just go to the free gym at my apartment complex. I learned many things during this workout session, like the fact that side-by-side treadmills makes running with a friend much easier—although I still refused to speak to her until I finished my three miles. Afterwards, we caught up on life while doing yoga and stretching. Before I knew it, I’d spent over an hour at the gym instead of my usual 25-minute run outside scenario. This may prove to be a better workout system for me!

Lauren: Today is Shrove Tuesday aka Fat Tuesday aka Mardi Gras, which means I had a pancake supper to attend. One of my housemates and I went over together and stayed for half an hour. I have a hard time connecting with people in groups and gatherings like that make me anxious, especially after a long day at work. I prefer socializing in small groups (3-4 people usually) but really prefer one on one time with friends, it’s less stressful for me and makes me significantly less self-conscious. Ultimately, I went to bed early and chatted with a few guys. It was a long, frustrating day.

Wednesday:

Kelly: Today was not looking good in terms of socializing. I’m bogged down with another sinus infection and I had to physically drag myself to work. In addition, I knew that my husband would be working a double shift and the house would be empty when I got home, which meant homemade grilled cheese and early bedtime. However, I felt a little better as the day went on, so I rallied. I texted a friend on the way home—one I do not normally hang out with one-on-one or outside of the group and we got a quick dinner together. Not the most groundbreaking day in terms of socializing, but I didn’t go straight home and sleep, so a win for me.

Lauren: I didn’t do much socializing today. I texted some friends and tried to see one of my cousins at the last minute but she was busy. It was so nice out and I was feeling like driving and wanted to be a beach bum, so I got in my car post my mandatory Ash Wednesday service and drove to Yorktown, VA. I have a ton of family in that area and was thinking about dropping by my grandmother’s house but ultimately I drove down the Colonial Parkway and drove slowly through Historic Yorktown, parked near the beach and grabbed ice cream. It was very windy but I persevered and spent some much needed alone time on the beach reading and people watching. I also get my best writing ideas while driving and there’s something about driving alone that lets me relax and examine how I’m actually feeling. I came home feeling very relaxed and hung out with my roommate in the kitchen and helped in her mission to make quinoa not taste like dirt. I also chatted with a friend from college and made plans to see her in a few weeks.

Thursday:

Lauren: I’ve been working out alone recently and I’ve found that I work out better with a buddy. I need someone to motivate me otherwise I tend to do a lot of aimless (read: embarrassing) wandering around the gym searching for motivation. My roommate and I are members at different gyms but she gets a free guest with her membership, so the few times we go to the gym together we go to her gym. Since her fiance (her usual workout buddy) is sick, we made a plan to go to the gym together in the morning. Timing is weird because she doesn’t have to be at work until 8:30 and I start work at 7:45. We woke up at 5:30, got to the gym around 5:50 and worked out for an hour. I love working out with a buddy, especially one who likes doing the same workouts. We were laughing and being silly the whole time we were doing squats, crunches, lunges, and planks. I’m sure all the other early morning exercisers were jealous.

Kelly: Today was…an unusual day. Around 9:45 am, my boss’ water broke at the office. Mild panic ensued, an ambulance was called (she declined it and got a ride to the hospital with the VP of the department) and then our floor was very quiet. In response to the quiet and also to celebrate, the remainder of our department went out to lunch together. While I was already planning on scheduling a social lunch this week, this just fell into my lap and I grabbed it. After a quick walk across the street to downtown Alexandria’s Buzz Bakery, we spent an hour of socializing and counting our blessings that we weren’t currently in the hospital and in labor. While I think this was a great socializing opportunity, I don’t think this can be a too frequent occurrence—eating lunch out is costly and I usually stick with a packed lunch or quick sandwich from a local cafe. Future note: perhaps a group lunch in the cafe where we bring our own lunch would be more cost effective.

Friday:

Kelly: I ended up getting home early from work today and having more time to socialize than I anticipated. Feeling more energetic, I texted my close friends to come over for Friday dinner and game night. Together, we whipped up a quick and easy dinner that even I couldn’t mess up and started up a game of Heads Up. It didn’t take long for everyone to get silly as the charades went on and we ended up having a great and relatively inexpensive fun time without leaving the house. While it was the same group of friends I always socialize with, it was a different activity from our normal out-to-dinner routine and triple the fun.

Lauren: I told myself that I would branch out today but I didn’t. I ended up watching a movie with three of my four housemates. I think I’m in a rut, I do the same things with the same friends and my housemates because it’s easy. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to branch out but it’s difficult being in a new city and only knowing a few people.

Saturday:

Kelly: Technically, we had these plans before I took on this socializing challenge, but it just fits so perfectly for this week. Today, my husband and I got in the car and drove about 20 minutes to a new part of the county we’d never been. It was a beautifully scenic drive and at the end, we met up with two of our favorite people at a winery. While my friend and I have been best friends for years (she was a bridesmaid at my wedding), we didn’t start hanging out with her and her fiance on a double-dates until recently. They’ve become one of our favorite couples to hang out with because they are on a similar life track as we are—not to mention they’re hilarious. This was a new social experience, as we’ve never gone to a winery together on a double date. While the trip was a fun alternative to our regular Saturday schedule, we learned it can get pricey quickly. However, I’d count the day of socializing as a success with plans for the next double-date in place.

Lauren: I went to Costco and ran some errands but ultimately I stayed in my room most of the evening watching Netflix. I couldn’t bring myself to initiate plans with anyone and while I called my brother and texted a few friends, I’d count today a failure. I went to bed fairly early, though I did do an evening Trader Joe’s run for wine and socialized with the cashier a bit. I’m never at a loss for people to talk to face to face in my house so I did chat with my housemates but that feels like a cop out.

Sunday:

Kelly: Today wasn’t a particularly “sociable” day. After a long week, my husband and I spent the morning in the apartment, chilling out and researching townhouses for rent. Technically, we did socialize with the Realtor briefly as we walked through the house, but I don’t think that counts. We went out on the town for a couple hours — eating lunch, getting new phone cases and hitting up Barnes & Noble for new reading material. While it may not have been socializing in terms of hanging out with old/new friends or trying a new activity, it was the my favorite part of the week of socializing—a quiet day with my husband.

Lauren: I went on a date this afternoon and it was awful, he was loud and annoying and really ignorant about some things (“I want to go to Africa, like that one place where the giraffes can walk up to the huts.” Okay bro, Africa is full of many very different countries. “What’s your favorite Shakespeare book?” Apparently since I have a degree in English I have to like Shakespeare). The whole date made me regret leaving the house today honestly. When I got back I watched Gossip Girl with my housemate Erin and her friend who was visiting and that night we all (Erin, her fiance who is one of our housemates, and their friend) went out to a local brewery and then to a bar near our house for wings, cheese fries, and mozzarella sticks. While at the brewery we played Cards Against Humanity until they closed. It definitely made up for my meh date.

In conclusion…

Kelly: This week’s challenge wasn’t as much of a challenge as a prompt to remind myself not to get too complacent in my stay-at-home habits. Throughout the week, a few surprises came up (hello, baby) and I reconnected with old friends. I tried a few new socializing activities with my circle of friends. At the end of the week, I want to make sure that I stick to the socializing challenge and remember to step outside the comfort of being at home. It’ll be important to remember that socializing also can mean spending money for special out of the ordinary activities, but this week has taught me that there are other non-expensive ways to socialize! Also, planning ahead generally works well for me and my friends’ busy schedules—we don’t do very well with spur-of-the-moment. I’ll definitely be continuing the lessons I learned this week.

Lauren: Honestly, I don’t think this challenge did much for me. It’s difficult living in a new city where I didn’t go to school and I don’t work with people my age beside the ones I live with. I have a few friends from high school in Richmond but beyond that I’m pretty isolated in the city, which is really difficult for me. While I have friends in Charlottesville and other nearby areas, I can’t afford to constantly travel to socialize. I did make plans with one of my former college roommates to hang out in March, so I’ve made steps but ultimately this challenge seemed pretty pointless to me. One thing to note, I felt more up to socializing if I’ve taken time to myself.

Trying to break your own antisocial habits? Try the following tips to becoming more social — one step at a time:

  • Write a letter or email to a friend
  • Call your mother, father, sibling, grandparents to catch up
  • Reach out to an old teacher
  • Leave a nice comment on a friend’s Facebook post
  • Look up a recipe and invite a friend over to cook
  • Go hiking with a friend to enjoy nature
  • Try a group exercise class, like hot Yoga or spinning
  • Make your living room a movie theater and invite close friends over for a screening
  • Plan a day trip with a friend
  • Create a weekly game night

Photo Credit: Max Bender

Kelly Morrison Menk

Kelly Morrison Menk

When not writing, Kelly works as a communications associate at a nonprofit in Washington, DC. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Mary Washington and Master's in Communication from George Mason University. She firmly believes that running daily allows her to continue her serious Coca-Cola addiction without repercussions (no, Pepsi is not the same). When she's not working or fighting horrible DC traffic, you can find her sleeping, eating or attempting to train her two pups.
Kelly Morrison Menk