Social anxiety, forgetting how to act normal thanks to the pandemic, wondering if they’re just as tired as you are — do I need to go on listing why it’s hard to make friends as an adult?
A 2021 survey found that close friendships have declined over time — 49% of Americans report having at most three close friends. I’ll pause while you count how many friends you have. OK, the number doesn’t really matter — the connections and relationships you have with friends are what matters.
Having friends can have significant benefits for your health. If you don’t know where to start, use these fool-proof tricks to put yourself out there and meet new people.
Why is friendship important?
We’re social creatures. We require human connection to be happy. But it’s more than that; friendship isn’t just important because being alone is worse. Friends promote better overall health. They give you someone to talk to andoffer emotional support that helps you cope with things you’re experiencing. Whether financial strain or mental health struggles, having friends to talk to about can validate your feelings and may even empower you to make changes.
Friendship offers tangible short- and long-term benefits for your mental and physical health that you can’t get by yourself. Benefits of friendship include but are not limited to:
- Improving your physical health: Research suggests that having friends may lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and compromised immune function.
- Reducing loneliness and feelings of social isolation: Close friendships will keep you from feeling isolated and reduce the impact of loneliness.
- Boosting your self-esteem: Just like not having many friends can drain your confidence, making new friends boosts your self-worth. Why? Because you have new people to support and celebrate your wins.
- Helping you cope with stress: Studies have shown that people with more social capital or close friends tend to be better at handling stress. You may also experience fewer spikes in stress in the first place.
It can be hard to make friends as an adult
You know how your mom stops making doctor appointments when you grow up? She also stops making sure you keep up with your relationships. As an adult, you have to make an effort. With things like social media to passively keep up with people, sometimes it’s hard to secure good, dependable friends. Liking and commenting on “friends'” pictures gives you the illusion of closeness without actually feeling it, which can leave you frustrated.
Friends are worth making, but it’s not always a walk in the park. Everyone knows the fear that goes along with trying to make friends as an adult — a fear of being misunderstood or rejected. It’s understandable, but giving in to those feelings may be what’s sabotaging you in the first place. Research has found that those who assume they will be rejected come off as cold and withdrawn, which pushes people away.
7 techniques to help you make friends as an adult
1. Make sure you know what you want
Defining what you want is where everyone has to start. Before you do anything else, think about what you want out of the relationships you’re trying to make. How much time and effort are you willing to put into finding a friendship and maintaining it after? What type of friend are you looking for?
Remember, friendship is a two-way street. Once you know what you expect and need from a friend, ensure you reciprocate that with others.
2. Put yourself out there
There’s no sugarcoating this: Making friends will require a lot of effort on your part. You can’t just click your heels and expect friends to appear. Putting yourself out there means pushing outside of your comfort zone. A great place to start is your community. Attend events at your local brewery or networking events. It helps you put down roots and connect with the people around you.
If you’re someone (like me) who loves their comfort zone and struggles to get out of it, don’t forget to set boundaries for yourself. You don’t want to push yourself so hard that you retreat out of necessity. Building relationships takes time and can be draining while waiting for positive reinforcement from others.
Try marking your calendar with the days you’ll make your social outings. On those days, you can go to new places, introduce yourself and put yourself out there. On the other days, you can commit to recharging and taking time to care for yourself.
3. Try online groups
I mentioned how social media can sometimes backfire regarding friendship — it gives you the image of it but not the real thing. That’s not to say that you cannot create meaningful friendships online without ever meeting your friends in real life. Many people prefer online connections because it doesn’t have the pressure of going out and meeting in person. It’s a great choice for people who have anxiety or are introverted.
Using online shared interest groups like gaming servers or support groups gives you the biggest opportunity to meet different types of people. Doing it from the comfort of your own home isn’t half bad, either.
4. Throw a party
This one isn’t for everyone, but if you’re a social butterfly looking for others like you, consider throwing a party. It doesn’t have to be a fancy soiree; watching a sporting event or hosting a trivia night counts too. Whatever it is, the idea is to host a social event on your terms — you choose when it is, dictate the hours and pick your guest list.
If you cringed at the thought of inviting a bunch of strangers over in the name of friendship, don’t worry. You can use your social gathering as a sort of networking event. Invite the friends you already have and tell them to bring one new person with them when they come. That way, you have the comfort of the people you know and meet new people that have already been vetted. It’s like getting set up, but for friendship.
5. Get on the apps (but in a friend way)
Picking friends is hard. Sometimes, you need an algorithm to help you find them. Similar to dating apps, there are apps specifically designed to meet and become friends with people. All you have to do is make a profile by adding a few pictures and a bio, and then you’re ready to start swiping. On many apps, you can filter by age, gender and interests.
Popular options are Bumble BFF, WINK, Nextdoor and Meetup.
6. Start volunteering or join a club
Let’s talk about the concept of situational friends. Essentially, it refers to the friends you make simply because you’re in the same place, like work or the gym. Frequently, situational friends stay just that — the person you chat with when you see each other, and then you go your separate ways once you leave.
There is plenty of value in this type of friendship. However, if you’re seeking something longer-lasting, you can take advantage of situational friendships by volunteering or joining a club. Introduce yourself, and establish a continued line of communication with them. Ask them if they will be at the next event, or give them a follow on social media.
7. Stay with it
Making friends as an adult is a process. You should expect peaks and valleys of feedback. Take time to keep your self-worth from getting tied up with your friendship search. Indulge in self-care by treating yourself to things you enjoy — like bubble baths or little treats.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Take a walk if you’re feeling overwhelmed, or try meditation to get in touch with your feelings.
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