Reconnecting with your past: The whys and the hows

Reconnecting is a positive word; one full of hope, nostalgia, and excitement for what’s to come. Anyone can reach out to old friends and loved ones at any time in life, but when life so often flashes by, that’s easier said than done.

At long last, retirement offers the kind of reprieve that allows us to give our attention to things long-neglected, such as cleaning out the garage, figuring out what all the fuss is about over Instagram, and catching up with old friends.

But not only is retirement the practical time to reach out – it’s the most rewarding, too.

How reconnecting can improve mental wellbeing

Naturally, reconnecting with old friends and loved ones from throughout life can be incredibly fun. It brings back old memories, rekindles past friendships, and lets you catch up on everything you missed by drifting apart in the first place.

All of that connection is great for your mental health. Age Concern states that roughly half of all older New Zealanders experience some level of loneliness, and the Ministry of Health states that there is strong evidence that loneliness is connected to poor mental and physical health outcomes.

Yet for many, actually making that reconnection is the hard part. Once you’ve made the decision to reach out, try one of these tips to rekindle those friendships.

Create a group event

Are you reaching out to a group of school friends or old work colleagues? Perhaps a ragtag collection of ex-flatmates from your university or early working years?

Getting in touch with a bunch of people at once has plenty of perks. It takes away any awkwardness you might find in a one-on-one catch up, it helps you find the contact details of some in the group you might not personally have, and it helps multiple people at once stay connected at a time that’s likely a bit strange and new for everyone.

Granted, it’s not always possible to meet up in person. Whether it’s for logistical or other reasons, sometimes our closest friends can also be the furthest geographically. 

That’s where video calling fills the gap. There are plenty of virtual chat tools that let you connect with your friends or colleagues anywhere in the world, as long as you have access to a smart device or a laptop (and an internet connection, of course). Many of these are integrated with other popular platforms such as Facebook or Outlook, which makes it even easier to set up a session with your contacts. 

Keep it simple with a quick message

It’s simple, easy, and you could do it right now. Sending a quick message to an old friend is easily the most common form of modern day reconnection, especially thanks to the advent of social media.

When composing your message, keep it brief, clear, and light. You can include:

  • What made you think to say hello
  • What you’ve been up to
  • A fond memory together
  • A question about how they’re doing

You’ll want to make it clear from the outset that you are only getting in touch to say hello.

You’ll also need to decide which platform to use. This depends on what you find easier to manage as well as what programs your friend is using. You can start by searching on Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social networks to see if your friends have an account. Or, you can stick to the regular method of sending an email directly.

Post a birthday or seasonal card

There are few feelings like getting a personal envelope in the mail these days, and few methods of reconnecting quite so meaningful and heartfelt as a card in the post.

Send one for your old friend’s birthday, or during the holiday season – or simply send a humorous card at any time. Add a note to say hello, update them briefly on your life, and ask for a response in turn.

This deeply special gesture won’t be missed, and is especially sincere if it’s a close friend you’re looking to reconnect with.

If you don’t currently have their home address, you can try searching for their details in the White Pages, which is available both in print and online. You can update your own details (for free) while you’re at it, so others can contact you as well.

So, you’ve decided to reconnect, you’ve figured out how you’re going to reach out – but what on earth should you say?

Start with the past

Remember that this person you’re about to chat with isn’t a complete stranger; you have the gigantic benefit of some sort of shared history that you can open with.

From sneaking out to parties as unruly teens to putting up with overbearing bosses or sharing a flat that was sub-zero even in summer, these are the shared experiences that bring you together in the first place, and they are the same experiences that will bring you together again now.

Perhaps you can find an old photo to share, or simply a particular memory to laugh about. From here, you can move on to catching up on the past decade or five.

Prepare a set of questions

This isn’t an interview, but you might be surprised by how handy it is to have a set of questions ready when catching up with an old friend.

We often find that during a call, a coffee, or even a text exchange, your mind goes blank when it comes to asking the other person anything beyond the generic ‘how are you?’. This is especially exacerbated by the slight awkwardness of catching up after a long time.

Mentally prepare yourself with a few questions in case the conversation ever lapses. You could ask if they still love their old favourite musician, if they’re still in touch with someone else from their past, or even if they remember a notable memory you shared together.  Simply consider what you know about them already, and go from there.

It is of course possible that friends from the past may be too busy or distracted to get back to you, but it’s far more likely that they’ll grin wildly when your name pops back into their life, instantly set about catching up, and enjoy the shared benefits of reconnecting with you.