By Lindsay Simon I Special to Moonshine Ink

Tahoe has recently had a significant increase in population growth which is being felt in the classrooms, daycare, and traffic. What that also means is a lot of like-minded people who might enjoy nature, cycling, skiing, hiking, wake surfing, or mountain biking have started a new life here in Tahoe. As things open up, so do the opportunities to integrate into the community.

Prior to the pandemic I worked with clients who moved to Tahoe and had difficulty finding a group of friends that they resonated with. Since the start of the pandemic finding community and friends has been a much more difficult task to achieve. However, now that things are opening up more and summer has arrived, opportunities for connection are upon us.

We are a social species. We need healthy relationships to feel happy. Research repeatedly demonstrates the positive health impact of having strong social connections on our mind and body. Strong social connections lead to decreased blood pressure, strengthened immune systems, and longer and more fulfilling lives. However, as we go beyond our 20s, it can feel increasingly difficult to make new friends.

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Tahoe has its own culture and unique situation that creates its own difficulties in making friends as an adult. Being a mountain town, there is historically a high move-away rate. Generally speaking, people don’t want to invest time into people that are not sticking around. This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint: Put your energy into those who are going to stick around to help protect you and your family. Therefore, people who have been here awhile don’t feel as comfortable devoting energy to friendships that might not last. Also, in a resort town there tends to be more of a “locals” vs “out-of-towners” culture that might create barriers to connection. In general, being new and feeling unfamiliar with a place can be its own barrier.

However, if you are new in town, or maybe looking to find one or a few new friends and don’t know where to start, I’m here to help give some tips. First, know that there are many awesome and amazing people here who are just waiting to be your friend. Having this positive mindset can help remove mental barriers and negative beliefs that might be participating in difficulty finding friends. I have worked successfully with many clients on this particular issue and will share some of the strategies that I have seen work.

  1. Participate in trail or beach clean ups, for example. This is the fastest way to meet positive people who want to participate in helping others and the community. You can do your own research, or if you are on social media ask on a post to your friends if anyone has any suggestions. Personal referrals seem to work great.
  2. Join a biking or running group. Check out your local sport shop and see what groups they have or recommend.
  3. Participate in an introduction clinic to a sport such as mountain biking, backcountry skiing, or backpacking. You can go through a private business or check out the local community colleges.
  4. Put yourself out there: Ask people you know or work with about events that might be happening.
  5. Join a class. Yoga, CrossFit, painting, it doesn’t matter; do some research to find classes happening in your area.
  6. Meet online. Did you know that there are online apps for finding friends? Bumble BFF, Friender, Hey! Vina, Peanut, Atleto, Meetup, RealU, and Meet My Dog are a few options.
  7. Find local events like farmers markets, live music, or food tastings and strike up conversations with people. It might feel uncomfortable, but being brave and vulnerable is the recipe needed to make friends. Try asking open-ended questions like, What brings you to Tahoe? or What are some of your favorite hiking trails? to engage others and move potential friendships along. You might also ask what community activities they like to do in Tahoe.
  8. Go to a local Facebook group and ask if anyone would like to have their dogs meet up for a playdate, or maybe show you biking or hiking trails.
  9. Go to the local natural food store and look at their bulletin board for inspiration and opportunities.
  10. Start or join a book club. This might take reaching out to acquaintances or co-workers who you might want to get closer with.
  11. Join a parenting support group or the PTA, if that is possible.
  12. Use your social skills. Practice listening without interrupting and being curious about people’s stories. This creates a deepening of connection and can lead to possible friendships. Also try being brave and asking people to join you on activities. Don’t take someone’s lack of availability or interest personally. It’s ok to get declines; keep trying until you find someone with the right alignment in their life to saying yes.

I hope these ideas help you on your journey of strengthening your social support network.  A strong social support network creates increased resiliency against mental and physical health challenges in life. If you are having difficulty adjusting to Tahoe life, then finding a skilled and great fit therapist can help you on your journey.

~ Moonshine Ink online monthly columnist, Lindsay Simon, is a licensed marriage and family therapist with more than 12 years of clinical experience. She is the clinical director and owner of A Balanced Life: Individual, Family and Child Therapy, a private practice with 10 clinicians based in South Lake Tahoe.

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