When were we children, it was a lot easier to make friends. We often became friends with the people on our street, the kids we met at the park, or through school and other after-school clubs. We had a smörgåsbord of people to pick from delivered to us on a platter. But when you’re an adult, it’s a lot harder when it comes to making new friends or even just being a good friend, with all the hardships of life we have to manage. Hopefully, this article can help you with that.
Why It’s Important To Keep Making New Friends As We Age
The main reason we need to keep making friends as we age is because friendships are an invaluable source of emotional support, as well as a resource for problem-solving and knowledge acquisition (Hartup, 1992).
Because of how life is, we grow apart, move away, have families, and people die. Therefore, it’s important to keep making new friends so that this source of friendship and the resources they bring remain available because it’s important to our mental wellbeing.
Expanding and maintaining friendships is especially needed for men, who often lose their friendship circles and sources of emotional support the older they get. A trend that is much less in our female counterparts. The result of this is a much higher suicide rate in men. So be there for a friend when you can.
40% of countries have more than 15 suicide deaths per 100,000 men; only 1.5% show a rate that high for women
How To Be A Good Friend
First off, being a good friend doesn’t mean you have to put everyone else’s wellbeing before your own. That’s people-pleasing, and that’s in no way healthy. That road only leads to burnout and unhappiness. You can be a good friend without having to sacrifice yourself in the process.
The main thing a good friend needs to be is to be a safe space. As I said in my article on creating a safe space, “Many issues can be resolved just by having a safe space to talk about your struggles. A problem shared is a problem halved, after all”.
An important part of friendship is understanding your friends for who they are (Vox), which can only really be achieved when everyone involved feels safe to be vulnerable. The best way to create that safe space where your friends feel comfortable about being vulnerable is to be vulnerable yourself. So talk about your problems and ask your friends about there’s. Do you know what else is great about being a good friend by creating a safe space? It also works as a good way to make friends as well.
Another way to be a good friend, as stated by @Survivor_John7 (account no longer exists) for my ‘The Best Tips For Maintaining A Relationship According To Twitter‘ article, is to “Respect boundaries“. And I couldn’t agree more. The sign of a healthy relationship with anyone in your life is the ability for all involved to respect boundaries.
The Benefits Of Making New Friends As An Adult
Making new friends as an adult offers several benefits, both emotionally and socially. These benefits I’ve put into a handy little list which you’ll find below.
Meaning and purpose
Similar to what I talked about in my article about finding purpose, you can get that sense of purpose and meaning in your life from your circle of friends, and not just from your family or work. As Stavrova and Luhmann (2016) stated, positive social relationships are an important source of meaning in life.
Social connections are linked to better mental health and overall wellbeing. Thus, engaging in meaningful friendships can reduce feelings of loneliness and boost happiness (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2010).
Having supportive friends can help buffer the effects of stress, as well as other negative states. According to (Seeman (1996), this is the result of a strong social support network being associated with lower cortisol levels and reduced stress responses.
Studies have shown that having strong social ties can lead to a longer life span. One such study was conducted by Holt-Lunstad et al. (2010), who found that strong social connections are linked to a reduced risk of mortality in adults.
Improved coping skills
Our friends can provide emotional support during challenging times, helping us to develop better-coping mechanisms. Thus, our social support system can aid in overcoming obstacles and dealing with life’s difficulties (Cobb, 1976), which life loves to throw at us.
Making new friends as an adult allows for exposure to different perspectives and interests, broadening our social horizons and enriching life experiences (Hays, 1988). I know if it wasn’t for my partner and friends, I’d probably never do anything.
Making new friendships can create networking possibilities, both personally and professionally. The more diverse your social circle, the more doors to potential career opportunities will be open to you (Stavrova and Luhmann, 2016).
Growing a more diverse group of friends can cultivate empathy and understanding for different backgrounds, leading to a more tolerant and compassionate outlook (Batson et al., 1997). I know a few people who could benefit from this.
Social interactions stimulate the brain and have been associated with improved cognitive function and memory retention in older adults (Seeman, 1996).
Surrounding ourselves with supportive and positive individuals can encourage personal growth and self-improvement. Friends are also a good source of inspiration and will help motivate each other to achieve their goals (McPherson et al., 2001). We can all do with more positive influences in our lives, as our world is taken over by doomscrolling.
Making New Friends As An Adult
Let’s start with some of the basics of making new friends as an adult. As mentioned at the start of the article, it’s far easier to make friends when we were children because we all found ourselves in the same position and were constantly in situations where friendships could grow. Being an adult makes it a fair bit harder.
As stated in the New York Times, making new friends as an adult starts with internal motivation. You need to decide for yourself that you want to make friends, then, much like when you were a child, put yourself in situations where that can happen.
According to Laursen (2017), similarities are important in friendship formation. While we’re toddlers, this similarity is more basic and can be best seen as people that look like them. Thankfully, we become more nuanced as we grow up and can bond over similarities such as shared interests, views, and hobbies.
Websites like Meetup.com can help with this because it allows you to find people with similar interests to you, which will make it easier to bond over that shared interest.
Connect with coworkers
Much like making friends at school, an easy way to find a new pool of friends is through work. If you have a job, try to connect with your coworkers outside of work like suggesting going out for dinner or a drink after work sometime.
Attending events such as parties, concerts, or festivals can be another way to meet new people. Even going to the dreaded work events can help meet new people or improve your friendships with people you already know at work.
Volunteering is an excellent way to meet new people, and it has the benefit of making a difference in your community. I met one of my closest friends through volunteering at a substance dependency charity.
Take classes or join a club
Joining a club or attending classes can be a great way to meet people while also having fun. Before the pandemic, I used to go ballroom dancing with my partner and we meet some good people through that. My partner also attends aerial hoop class, and they’ve made some really good friends through that as well.
It’s also worth looking at your local adult education centre for classes to take where you can then meet new people with similar interests.
Join online communities
Join social media groups or online forums related to your interests. Although they may start off as only an online place to connect with people, these relationships can develop to be more than that. I have a few friends that I made randomly through Facebook, who I became friends with in the real world and developed our friendships that way. But even if it stays online, those friendships can still be really good for us.
Making New Friends: What To Do Next
Now that you’ve taken steps to put yourself into situations to meet new people, now comes the next phase. Developing and maintaining those new friendships.
Being there for a friend
As the New York Times pointed out, it isn’t enough to just meet people, you need to follow up. When you’ve met someone or a group of people you want to develop into a fuller friendship, then you need to put that at the top of your to-do list. If you don’t follow up with them, make new plans, and send messages, then how will the friendships develop?
Remember to reciprocate
When it comes to making new friends now’s not the time to play coy. Take the initiative, tell people that you value them, that they’re fun to be around, and show them you’re interested in developing the friendship (Vox).
Remember, it will take time and effort to develop a friendship, and it’ll take time and effort to maintain it. But the end results speak for themselves. So remember, your friendships are with people who are your equals (Hartup, 1992), and there will be some give and take involved.
One thing I’ve noticed since moving to London is the issue of people being flaky. I know there’s a lot to do in London, as there is in any big city, but if you’re flaky, you risk ruining any potential new friendships. As my partner keeps telling me when they talk about their dad, it’s about what matters to you. If it matters, you make the time. So be realistic about your commitments with your friends and what you want to do.
Remember that making new friends and building friendships takes time and effort. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, be open to meeting new people, and take the initiative to initiate conversations or suggest activities.
Making new friends as an adult may require effort and stepping out of one’s comfort zone, but the rewards in terms of emotional wellbeing and personal growth can be significant. So, be yourself and let your personality shine through. Because you want people to be friends with the real you, not a version of you. Good luck!
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, please share your experiences with making new friends in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget, if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.
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