Having a strong social network and doing regular social activities can help you to feel more resilient and have better mental health.  Below are a few tips of places and activities you can do to increase your social circle and create more opportunities to make new friends.

1. Learn a New Skill
Many colleges and educational establishments offer a broad range of study opportunities ranging from learning a new qualifications, vocational course and short leisure courses which teach you a new skill or expand your knowledge on an area of interest. Also check out the notice boards and leaflet racks at your local library, faith organisations, health centres and community centres. If you are not working or on a low income then you may be entitled to do your chosen course for free or at a reduced rate.  Being together with a new group of people learning a new skill can be a great way to meet new people.  If the course is over several weeks or months then there is a good chance of building new friendships.  

2. Volunteering
Offering your time to an organisation or cause that you believe in will bring you into contact with others who share similar values and interests.  Many organisations who recruit a large team of volunteers will often have regular social get togethers and offer training opportunities.  Volunteering doesn't just mean working at your local charity shop, in can cover an enormous range of activities. Check Do-It and Timebank for volunteering opportunities in your local community.  

3. Join a Club or Hobby Group
Hobby groups and clubs can provide an informal and friendly environment which will enable you to meet new people who share a common interest.  Your local library will act as a good starting point for researching groups in your area.  Also websites like Meet Up will allow you to search for hobby, social and support groups in your local area.  If you are feeling a bit anxious about meeting new people knowing that you have an activity or interest in common can act as a good ice breaker and get conversations started.

4. Become More Active
Sports groups, exercise classes and gyms can provide excellent places to meet new people.  Taking up an active hobby can also help you to managing stress, lift your mood and increase your overall fitness and physical health.  If you suffer with any long term physical conditions or you haven't done any exercise for a long time then it is worth getting your fitness checked by your local doctor.  They will also be able to advise you of any exercises to avoid. Becoming more physically active doesn't necessarily mean doing formal exercise, it can also include activities such as walking, dog walking and getting an allotment and doing some gardening.

5. Social Network Websites
Social media sites have become a massively popular place to chat to new people.  When joining a new website forum or online group be mindful of your own safety and wellbeing (more on this in a minute).  Aim for groups which are moderated as this can reduce the risk of falling victim to internet trolling and provide a means of reporting any unpleasant episodes if they occur.  Avoid giving out any personal details on forum pages and don't be afraid to join the forums as an observer to start with.  This can give you a feel for the kind of topics discussed, how active the site is and how difficulties are addressed.  

Personal Safety
When engaging in any new social activity it's always good to be cautious. Avoid meeting new people in isolated venues or at nighttime.  If possible bring someone with you, even if it is only for part of the time.  They don't have to accompany you every time but it will help you to feel more confident and you will feel less vulnerable. If you are going alone make sure you let someone know where you are going, who you are meeting and when you expect to be back. Get the person to check in by text or with a phone call while you are there and agree a plan if you need assistance or to leave the group early.  Also make sure that you have your mobile phone with you and that it is fully charged and has credit so you can make a phone call or send a text and bring enough money for transport home.