Making Friends as an Adult
Friendship is one of the most important parts of life. Along with family, friends claim, perhaps, the most valuable slot in life. Truly, friends are what make life worth living. However, friendship goes even deeper than that—in fact, friendship is inextricably linked to your health, both mental and physical. As you mature, grow, and change, it’s more important than ever to maintain old friendships, and replenish your store with new ones. You’ll feel better, and you’ll be better.
We still don’t understand all the ways that friendship and social well-being interact with your body and mind. But we can easily see the results of that interaction.
For instance, research shows that those who have healthy social relationships have much lower levels of interleukin-6. Interleukin-6 is an inflammatory factor that’s linked to Alzheimer’s, arthritis, some cancers, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease—you name an issue, there’s a good chance that interleukin-6 is part of the mix.
On the other hand, loneliness is a high risk factor for depression. And when both loneliness and depression are present, the adverse effects grow exponentially.
Going a step further, social isolation is a major risk factor for both morbidity and mortality.
Meanwhile, those with strong social ties have lower blood pressure, lower heart rates, and fewer colds (despite greater exposure to germs). A healthy social life leads to lower rates of mental illness and alcoholism.
A strong marriage adds years to your life—but the same can be said for strong friendships. One study concluded that seniors who went out to the movies, restaurants, or on outings with friends lived 2.5 years longer than those who spent their time alone.
And surprisingly, the benefits of social interaction were just as strong as the benefits of exercise—even when the social occasion involved no physical exertion.
Take it all together, and it’s obvious that a healthy social life is essential for your overall health.
But that’s sometimes easier said than done.
Making Friends All Your Life
For many people, friends are most plentiful during our school years and soon thereafter. Over time—between moves, changes of circumstance, changes of personality, and just the normal drift of life—many of those friendships weaken or wither.
Over time, without enough attention, they can disappear.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Yes—some friendships will fade. They have a natural life cycle, and very few life cycles are for “forever.”
However, just because some friendships fade, that doesn’t mean new ones can’t bloom.
Indeed—making friends is a lifelong process, and a lifelong pursuit. Much like learning, it doesn’t end at school, but instead is an integral part of a full, healthy life.
If you’ve fallen out of the practice of making friends as an adult, renewing social connections, or simply have never figured out where potential friends might be, the following tips are for you.
1. Go To What You Love
What interest really lights your fire? What wakes you up in the middle of the night—in a good way? What could you do for hours without getting bored?
Hopefully, it’s obvious what hobbies or activities you love. Wonderful—go there.
If you love skiing, join a ski club. If you love reading, join a book club. If you love making quilts, join a knitting circle.
What you love—while vitally important—is, in this case, secondary. What is important is that you get out there and participate in the social scene attached to your interest.
2. Find What You Love
If you can’t really think of any great passion you’ve got, you’re even luckier.
Because that means you get to figure it out. Which will not only bring you enormous joy—and social opportunities—it will also introduce you to a wide variety of people on your journey.
For some people—especially introverts—it can be hard to get started on a journey like this. The important thing is just to take that first step.
Sign up for beginner’s classes in dance. Or woodworking. Or art appreciation. Or art creation.
Don’t be scared to branch out. You might be surprised by what loves await you, that you’ve never suspected.
And it doesn’t even matter that most tries won’t create a burning passion. Each lesson or attempt is also another opportunity to try something new and meet interesting people.
And some of those people will click. And your social circle strengthens and grows.
3. Take Your Time
It’s funny—when it comes to dating and romance, we have all sorts of expectations and rituals built into the pursuit. It’s a deadly-serious game, an often-awkward dance, and it moves in fits and starts towards the goal of a solid relationship.
That’s what you expect when you date. But, when it comes to friendship—a relationship nearly as complex—we expect an instant easy connection.
That’s not the way it works. Sure, from time to time you might immediately make a strong, instant friendship. Just as love at first sight occasionally strikes.
But it’s not the norm. And the sooner you let go of that vision, the easier it will be for you to find true potential friendships.
Don’t rush any budding friendships. Start at the acquaintance level, and get together occasionally over shared interests.
Let that happen a few times before you suggest moving into a new field, like going on a double date to a movie.
And let that expanded social interaction settle in for a bit before you begin revealing and discussing intimate personal details.
Again—it doesn’t have to take long. These sorts of relationships can be instantaneous.
But, in most cases, it takes time. You never want to scare a date by moving too fast. The same goes for friendships.
4. Grab The Initiative
Never assume that your potential friend will call you. If they do, wonderful—but you’ve got to own the initiative.
While everyone wants to meet and make friends, too many sit back and wait for friendship to fall in their lap. Again, that’s not how this works. Someone has got to do the work of reaching out, and maintaining contact—especially in the beginning.
If you want an expanding circle of friends, just assume that work will be done by you. If a friend winds up doing the same, even better—but if not, that’s no excuse.
There are enough obstacles to friendships and lasting relationships. There’s absolutely no reason radio silence should be one of them.
Remember—having a strong social circle and strong relationships makes you healthier, happier, and lengthens your life. In the face of that, a shy nature simply doesn’t stand a chance.
Get out there. Always be making new friends, even as you stay close with the old. And never let your interest in others wane.
The extra years you add to your life are just the beginning of the benefits you’ll get.
- Gold, Ellen. Benefits of Social Interactions. Value Options. Published Apr, 2006. Accessed Nov 26, 2016.
- National Institute On Aging. Research Suggests A Positive Correlation Between Social Interaction And Health. The NIH. Accessed Nov 26, 2016.
- O’Malley, Harris. How To Make Friends (When You’re Out Of College). Dr. Nerdlove. Published Mar 17, 2014. Accessed Nov 26, 2016.
- Bernstein, Elizabeth. The Science Of Making Friends. The Wall Street Journal. Published Apr 18, 2016. Accessed Nov 26, 2016.
Last Updated: August 16, 2018
Originally Published: December 23, 2016