Maintaining friendships can be good for your health. According to the Mayo Clinic, having friends can help you:
- Give and receive companionship, helping you feel less lonely
- Help you feel like you belong and have a better sense of purpose
- Increase your happiness
- Reduce your stress level
- Positively impact your self-esteem by improving your self-confidence and self-worth
- Provide support during difficult times, such as during a divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
- Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, like excessive drinking or sedentary behavior
But many adults have a tough time sustaining friendships. This can happen for many reasons. You may have fallen out of touch with, or moved away from, high school friends during your college years. And maybe your college friends went in all different directions after graduating, and you’ve drifted apart. Maybe you work in a job that keeps you so busy it’s hard to go out and meet new people. Maybe you’re really busy with caring for your children or an elderly loved one. Or perhaps the concept of meeting new people is so intimidating that you haven’t mustered up the courage to give it a try yet.
Developing and maintaining friendships does take a little time and energy, but doing so can help keep you happier and increase your sense of well-being—so it’s worth it to make the effort! Luckily, forging new friendships isn’t as tough as you might think. These tips can help!
First, reduce the pressure. Don’t go into a situation thinking you need to be perfect (or the perfect friend), or thinking that this person you’re meeting is going to be your new best friend. That puts a lot of pressure on you and can feel intimidating. Reduce your stress and nervousness by reminding yourself, “I’m just going for a cup of coffee/a movie/a dinner/etc. It’s no big deal!” Feeling nervous is normal. Just do your best to be yourself, be friendly, and have fun!
Look to your coworkers. You might spend more time with your coworkers than with anyone else you know. Are any of them potential candidates for friendship? Start small. Find someone you know you have something in common with. Invite them to lunch or to take a short coffee break with you, and break the ice by talking about your common interest. Getting them away from their desk and into social situations can help you get to know them as a friend in addition to as a coworker.
Find a new hobby. Is there a hobby you’ve always wanted to try, or a hobby you abandoned years ago that you’ve wanted to pick back up? You may be able to make friendships through your interests. For example, if you’re into crafting, running, quilting, writing poetry, or hiking, find a local group that’s centered around that interest, and join the club! You already share one interest with the other people in the group, so it won’t be hard to find something to talk to them about. Sites like meetup.com allow you to browse and join local groups that may be of interest to you. If you can’t find a local group for your favorite hobby, consider starting one yourself!
Take a class. Classes are naturally social situations. It’s a great opportunity to gather with people who share a common interest and do something together. If you’re into fitness, find a new fitness class to take at a local gym. If you’re into cooking, see if your local community college, or your favorite kitchen store at the mall, has any cooking classes that interest you. Search for local ballroom or salsa dancing classes. See if the craft store near you offers any painting, sewing, or decorating classes. Depending on what you like to do, the opportunities can be endless! And, in addition to potentially making new friends, you’ll get to pick up a new skill in the process.
Get help from your other friends. Don’t be afraid to network! Talk to your current friends and let them know that you’d like to expand your social circle a little more. Ask them if they have any friends that you might click with. If they do, ask them to introduce you, and set up a time to meet and chat with them over coffee.
For Health Advocate Members
If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to our EAP+Work/Life Program and need more tips and suggestions on making friends, or handling any other types of relationship issues, call us! Our Licensed Professional Counselors are here to help you with these types of concerns, and more!