Let’s be honest, making friends as an adult can be hard! It can be a challenge to find the time and confidence to invest in socializing and making new friendships. Many times, the structure of jobs, faith communities, and shared interests helped create the infrastructure for making friends in the past. When those change, we may need to put more intentional effort into building new friendships and it can be hard to know where to start.
Research has shown that having meaningful and quality friendships are an important part of our overall wellness at every age. According to the Mayo Clinic, good friends are good for our health, and adults with strong social connections have a reduced risk of depression, and high blood pressure older adults who report having meaningful relationships are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections (Mayo Clinic). Now that we know how important friendships and positive social connections are for our overall well-being, how can someone feel more confident about making new friends?
Here are some steps you can take when trying to make new connections.
- Try a new hobby – whether it’s a bowling league, running club, pottery class, or creative writing workshop – the options are endless. It doesn’t matter what you pick, anything that you’re interested in ultimately attracts other people that are also invested in the same hobby. This will help create a space and place for you to meet new people with similar interests.
- Volunteer – whether it’s at your faith community, gym, or local nonprofit. Volunteering is a great way to meet people centered around a common cause.
- Make a Plan – rather than allude to getting coffee or going out to dinner- create a monthly gathering. Create a space and opportunity for people to gather. You can host an event at your house or invite others to a local restaurant, park, or coffee shop. This could be a monthly brunch, happy hour, or potluck. This gives you a chance to invite people you meet throughout the month to your event and avoid the pitfall of talking about getting together and making it happen!
It takes time to make and build friendships and it may be helpful to manage your expectations and not be too hard on yourself if this process takes longer than you want. Practice being the friend you want which includes listening and being curious about getting to know people. A great way to do this is by asking open-ended questions. This process may take you out of your comfort zone and involve putting yourself out there in a few new ways. Try setting a flexible yet realistic goal for yourself. Such as I will try to volunteer at least one Saturday a month at the local animal shelter.
In a study conducted by Jeffery Hall in 2018, time spent engaging in leisure activities predicted closeness. Casual friendships emerge around 30 hours, followed by friendships around 50 hours and good friendships begin to emerge after 140 hr. Best friendships do not emerge until after 300 hours spent together (Jeffery Hall).
Making and keeping friends takes time and requires a commitment but there is also a reward that comes from this prioritization of our relationships. Having friends is an important predictor of happiness and life satisfaction and the number and quality of social interactions can predict loneliness, well-being, and depression (Jeffery Hall). According to the Mayo Clinic, good friendships lead to an increase in belonging and purpose, an increase in happiness and reduced stress, an increase in self-confidence, and self-worth, and promote health as well as an increase in resiliency around loss and stress (Mayo Clinic). While it can be challenging to make new friends as an adult, it is never too late in life to start. The time and effort you put towards friendships and socializing is an investment in your overall health and well-being.
Written By Jenna Najjar, LCSWA
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