Making friends early in life was so easy: You met someone on the playground or sat beside them in class, shared a laugh, and BOOM, you were friends. If you’re like many others, you may find it’s not as easy when you get older, and work, spouses, kids, and “adulting” take up so much of your time. Additionally, making new friends can be nerve-wracking, and may even feel a little bit like a first date.
Nevertheless, friendships are crucial to a long, healthy, happy life. Several studies from Michigan State University (Chopik & Henion, 2017) found that supportive friendships had a positive correlation with increased happiness and decreased chronic illness. While making friends in adulthood may be difficult, it’s important, so what can you do about it? Here are some tried-and-true tips:
Go Online to Get Offline: There are countless phone apps these days that encourage the development of platonic friendships between people who share similar interests. MeetUp and Bumble BFF seem to be the most popular, but a quick Google search pulls up many more. Local for Facebook is also a great app that lists events around town. So take a chance, swipe right on a new friend, and go enjoy some new experiences together.
Do Things You Love: Do you like making pottery? Playing music? Hitting around tennis balls? Exercise? Prayer? Find clubs or groups in your area that correspond to your interests and try to attend an event once a week or so. This guarantees that you’ve already got something in common with the other people there.
Capitalize on Parenthood (and Pet-parenthood): Most towns of any size include various “mommy-/daddy-and-me” groups that meet up at kid-friendly venues. And bonus: Who else understands the triumphs and tribulations of parenthood better than another parent? You can also do this with your four-legged babies; dog parks and dog-friendly events are a great way to plan some doggy play dates with new friends.
Volunteer: Giving back to your community not only helps your town, the planet, and your mental health*, but you might meet some pretty amazing people during your act of service.
Reach Out: Odds are that several people in your workplace, church, friend-group, etc., are feeling the same isolation and desire for connection that you are. Ask someone you already know to meet for coffee or a walk on the beach.
Just Breathe: Yes, making new friends can be uncomfortable. Getting out of your comfort zone, making yourself vulnerable, and trying new things are scary at times. But nobody ever achieved change in their life without taking a little leap of faith. Take a deep breath, and remember that other people are likely as nervous as you are about making friends, and who knows, maybe you can revel in the awkwardness together.
*Science actually suggests that doing nice things for other people boosts self-esteem and acts as a protective factor against depression (Watson, 2013).
Chopik, W., & Henion, A. (2017). Are friends better for us than family? MSU Today. Retrieved from https://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2017/are-friends-better-for-us-than-family/
Watson, S. (2013). Volunteering may be good for body and mind. Harvard Health [blog]. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/volunteering-may-be-good-for-body-and-mind-201306266428