Think about who you consider a friend – did you meet them in adulthood? Possibly through work, a friend of a friend, or a shared interest? Many friends are also made and kept from childhood and school, from your hometown, high school, or college. Meeting new friends seemed so easy when you were younger, but making friends as an adult can feel completely different. And many people struggle to make new friends as adults.
Having friends isn’t just good for a good time – strong relationships can improve your health. Fostering a community of people you can share your life with is an important part of staying mentally well, and there can be major impacts for your physical health if you don’t have relationships that nourish you.
Strong friendships can provide:
- Better immune function
- Reduced stress levels
- Faster recovery from illness
- Decreased risk of disease, illness, and injury
Studies suggest that without friendships, we’re also at greater risk of feeling more depressed. A study from two American psychologists found that the key difference between the happiest and unhappiest people was how socially connected they were.
Tips for Making and Maintaining Friendships
Keeping friends as adults brings about a whole new set of challenges. Between work, spending time with family, and caring for yourself and your home, time seems to fly by. Our busy lifestyles inevitably lead to the demise of many close-knit friendships.
It doesn’t have to be this way. With a bit of effort on everyone’s part, making new friends as an adult and keeping the friends you have are possible. Here are seven ways you can make this happen.
Find a group with common interests.
Between the virtual world and the physical one, there is a seemingly endless supply of interest groups to take advantage of when trying to make new friends. Doing activities you enjoy can reduce any level of awkwardness by giving you something to focus on other than the strangers around you. No matter how you like spending your time, there’s a group out there for you, including those for hiking, yoga, cooking, every sport imaginable, crafting, religion, literature, movies and TV shows, and community service.
Try friendship “dating” apps.
Just like there are apps for finding love, there are apps for finding friends. Some offer the chance to simply chat with potential new friends in your area (like BumbleBFF), while others (like Meetup) bring people together based on shared interests.
Accept invitations – and actually go.
This can be especially tricky if you’re introverted, are shy around new people, or have any kind of social anxiety. Flaking is easy – a simple “I’m beat from work,” or “I’m having car trouble,” makes an excellent excuse for missing a social gathering. You can’t maintain friendships without speaking with or spending time around your friends. And if they’re truly good friends, they’ll understand your quirks and arrange to spend time doing something you’re comfortable doing.
Recognize that friendships change over time.
Just like your life has changed, your friends’ lives have changed, too. They may have new partners, jobs, cities, maybe even children and new friends. If the relationship is important to you, it’s not about how often you can see each other ‒ it’s about making the commitment to remain friends through tough times. Scheduling regular check-ins via text or video call can allow you to catch up no matter where you are.
Reach out for help from professionals.
If you find yourself feeling lonely and unable to cultivate new relationships, you could have a form of social anxiety. If making new friendships is important to you, seeking help from a mental health professional like a therapist or even a friendship coach can help you determine what issues you’re having and how to solve them.
Reignite long-distance friendships.
Long-distance friendships can be tricky at times, especially if you aren’t seeing each other face-to-face very often, sometimes not for years at a time. Making plans to video chat or call at set intervals can help prevent the slow drifting apart that long-distance friends can experience. A simple “Hey, I saw this and thought of you,” text from time to time can remind your friend that you care.
Utilize social media.
Meeting friends through social media is easier than you may think. While it may feel a little strange to reach out through direct messaging, interacting with people online offers a buffer that in-person meetings just don’t. It allows for breaks between messages plus emoticons and videos that can portray feelings you can’t describe with words as well as for the sharing of media you both enjoy. You might have a new friend in the comments section of your favorite influencer or magazine – but you won’t know until you look.
The Bottom Line
Friendships are an important part of nourishing ourselves with primary food – that is, everything that isn’t on our dinner plates. You and your health are the sum of not just everything you eat but also the people you interact with, the places you go, and the bonds you form. Friendships feed and nurture the soul, and that can make all the difference when it comes to your physical health, too.