Hi everyone, Sam here!

Wow, it’s September already, the year is truly flying by. This month heralds the end to the

summer months; the evenings will soon be getting shorter, and we will be pulling out our hats and scarfs. However, September also marks the start of ‘Oddfellows friendship month’;

friendship being a topic closely related to the work we do here at Cyril Flint Befrienders, and something to discuss now.

Who are the ‘Oddfellows’ & what is the purpose of their friendship month?

The Oddfellows are a UK based ‘friendly society’, the largest of its kind. They are made up of approximately 310,000 members spread across 124 nationwide branches. The society began in 1810, holding close the ethos that the three facets of friendship, care, and charity are the most important ways to help improve a person’s quality of life. The ‘Oddfellows’ are not driven by any political or religious agenda, they focus on the fact we are all human, and thus welcomes individuals from all walks of life, and of all ages.

Their annual friendship month is an initiative to therefore raise awareness of the work they do, showing the importance of friendship by bringing local communities together. What makes this year even more special is the fact that this is the 10th anniversary since the launch of the first friendship month, and therefore more than ever the ‘Oddfellows’ have increased the number of friendship encouraging events across all regions. For example, looking specifically at the Greater Manchester area they are hosting a wide range of events like coffee mornings, lunch clubs, and craft sessions. If you are interested in attending an event then follow the link for all the necessary details: https://www.oddfellows.co.uk/events/.

The Importance of friendships:

There are many reasons why it is important to have and maintain a close network of friends in our lives, below I have listed some of the key points:

  1. Encouragement & Support- Life can often see us hitting rough spots, when we are down on our luck, and can sometimes struggle to see the positives or a solution to our problems; having a friend can help you weather the storm, making the transition more manageable. Friends can be that ear to listen, and shoulder to cry on when needed.
  2. Self-Esteem-A lack of friends can sometimes leave a person feeling down. Having a group of friends that are there for you can help reduce feelings of low mood and vulnerability, helping to build your confidence; they can provide that pick me up that we often didn’t know we needed.
  3. Keeping you active-If you live a life in isolation, it can often make you more hesitant or fearful about engaging in new social activities to break that cycle. Friends are useful for being that motivation to push you out of your comfort zone, challenging your anxiety to do things you normally wouldn’t have on your own.
  4. Positive influence-  Although there can obviously be negative peer pressure in some friendships, on the whole friends can be a positive influence in your life. For example, if you are surrounded by individuals who foster qualities of generosity, ambition, and care, then you too are likely to develop those values too. This will generally improve your social functioning.

Tips for making new friends:

Despite the fact it is clear that having a network of friends in your life is a positive force, many of us may find it difficult to put ourselves out there and make new social connections. This might be down to anxiety, shyness, or generally not knowing how to approach it. Luckily, I have compiled a list of some pointers inspired by the ‘Oddfellows’ that you may find useful:

  1. Focus on solutions, not problems! –We can find ourselves often focusing our energy on our fears, creating a negative cycle of thought, conjuring new problems. It is instead important to try and find concrete solutions to these problems/fears. Although not always obvious, they are there, and can often take many steps to get to that end solution.
  2. Think positively-Sometimes our inner monologue can act as a self-saboteur, telling us “you aren’t good enough”, or “you can’t do this”. It is necessary to retrain our brains to think in a more positive light about things, staying upbeat and being positive for all the good things we have in our life, and remembering we are the authors of our own lives and can change things to work in our favour. A tip to help foster this attitude is to write down all of our negative thoughts and feelings, as well as 5 things we are good at or grateful for, then to bin/burn the negative list, and refer to the positive list when we start to doubt ourselves again.
  3. Set achievable goals-It is often too easy to feel down ourselves, but often we may have set ourselves a target too high. It is important to remember that we all have to walk before we can run; therefore if you wish to put yourself out there more socially, setting a realistic goal can help improve your self-esteem and thus help you progress on your journey, making it possible to then set bigger goals that will eventually become realistic.
  4. Just ask-Friendship can often be like a ripple effect. Instead of focusing on the often scary task of meeting a large group of strangers, why not build upon any existing social network you have; you don’t need to necessarily need to be good friends, but just find out more about them and who knows where it might go; they might be part of some clubs or societies that you might like to visit, and from that meet some new people. Asking questions is a powerful way of communication that is too often underestimated.
  5. Smile! –Even if a little forced at first, don’t play down the significance of a smile. Smiling can help relax facial muscles, and acts a ‘happy signal’ to the brain. This might make daunting situations a little easier and make yourself look more approachable to others.

Cyril Flint & Friendships:

As a result of the ever-changing life circumstances of elderly individuals (e.g. late divorce, bereavement etc), friendships, or the lack thereof, can often be out of their control. This can often mean that they become a vulnerable section of society who are prone to loneliness and social isolation. This is the reason why here at Cyril Flint Befrienders that we work tirelessly with our volunteers to offer an effective befriending service, to provide those individuals with someone to bond with and create new, positive life experiences. We are proud to say that we currently

have facilitated about 110 friendships, and in our recent satisfaction survey discovered that 100% of our befriendees would recommend us to someone in a similar situation to themselves.

The service we run however could not continue without necessary funds, something that is mostly relied on via the generosity of our supporters and their fundraising efforts. If you would like to help us continue to bring friendships to the lives of those who need them the most then please donate to us at: https://cyrilflint.org/donate/. Just £14 funds one befriender to visit a lonely older person for a week; such a small gesture with a huge impact!

Equally, if you would like to host your own fundraising event in aid of Cyril Flint Befrienders, but feel you need some support in doing so, feel free to contact our me at: [email protected].

Hope you all enjoy the rest of the month, and keep safe.

Until next time,

Sam.