How to Make Friends as an Adult

Close, meaningful relationships help people live longer, improves well-being, and even strengthens memory and brain function.

Apr 5, 2019

When in school or college, meeting new people happens easily. You naturally spark up conversations with classmates that may lead to friendship. Playing on a sports team, having a college roommate, joining a fraternity or sorority, or participating in campus activities offer plenty of chances for making new friends.

But then dorms and parties turn into offices and meetings. Happy hours and nights out become Netflix and dinners in. At the same time, our priorities change as we focus more on our careers and family life, and we tend to spend spare time with the people we already know. We also invest more time in ourselves to get rest on the weekends, have some downtime, or focusing on wellness and health.

Our social priorities change in adulthood as well. Whereas during earlier stages of life, we tend to let people in, as we grow older and get to know ourselves better, we have a tendency of filtering people out.

Still, friendships matter… a lot. Harvard researchers found that close, meaningful relationships help people live longer, improves well-being, and even strengthens memory and brain function. Loneliness, on the other hand, can have terrible consequences for our health. Weak social connections can reduce a person’s lifespan as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

But hectic work schedules and daily routines give fewer opportunities to branch out and make new friends. Building meaningful connections in adulthood can become especially challenging when moving to a new city. Still, by intentionally engaging in our lives and community, we open more opportunities to develop meaningful connections.

Participate more fully in your own life

Many people expect that by meeting new friends, they will then participate more fully in life. In actuality, it works the other way around. We need to actively take in interest in the world around us first in order to attract new friends. We can’t rely on others to broaden our horizons, but instead, by broadening our experiences, we will naturally bring new people into our lives.

So what does that really mean? It starts by intentionally taking part in activities and pursuing passions that matter to us. As a result, the people we come into contact with will tend to share the same values and interests. Perhaps you love yoga. You could join a class or attend a retreat as a way of meeting others who enjoy the activity as well.

Engage more in your community

Staying indoors in front of the television or reading a book in bed might feel good when you need a bit of downtime alone, but it can also isolate you from the world around you. Try spending more time participating in your community. If you have a dog, you can visit a local dog park more often and meet other owners and their furry companions. If your town has a farmer’s market, First Fridays, or similar neighborhood events, try showing up and engaging with members of the community. Even the shops or bars we go to regularly can offer opportunities to chat and eventually build friendships with locals.

Explore new experiences

You can also make friends by trying new things and exploring experiences outside of your day to day routine. It will provide the chance to cross paths with people we ordinarily wouldn’t see. For example, you could volunteer at a local animal shelter or soup kitchen. Local meetup groups can also provide a way to potentially meet new friends in the area.

Invest in the friendships you already have

Busy lives and the convenience of social media can often lead us to neglect spending enough time and attention on the friendships we already have. If you feel disconnected from people, consider how much energy you put into the ones that you care about. Strengthening the bonds with people you know and love will lead to a happier, healthier life.

Discovering what friendships mean to you

Meaningful companions don’t necessarily mean seeing each other every day. A great friendship covers a spectrum of many things for each person. We turn to our friends to for guidance, laughter, support, and to share life experiences.

Friendships can mean different things to different people. As you take steps toward nurturing current connections or meeting new people, you’ll need to ask yourself which kind of social connections make your life richer and more fulfilling. Do you want a large network of moderate friends or would you rather have a few deep relationships? How often do you need to see or speak to your friends in order to feel supported? These questions can differ from person to person, but understanding your needs to feel socially fulfilled will make your life happier and healthier.

ALLISON MICHELLE DIENSTMAN, CONTRIBUTOR
Working from her laptop as a freelance writer, Allison lives as a digital nomad, exploring the world while sharing positivity and laughter. She is a lover of language, travel, music, and creativity with a degree in Chinese language and literature.

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