The quality of a person’s friendships can make or break their life, adding to feelings of happiness and providing health benefits. But once you’re an adult, it can be hard to make friends. Here’s some tips that show you how.
Adult lives are full of obligations, ranging from work to taking care of children or elderly parents. It’s ever so easy to put yourself on the back burner, letting go of the desire to enjoy life, have fun or get involved in anything – other than watching Netflix. While this is totally understandable, it’s not in your own best interests to do so. Study after study extols the virtues of friendship on health, and even on life expectancy, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. It is important to motivate yourself to get out there, without feeling guilty about the time you’re taking away from your other obligations. Learning how to make friends as an adult can be a daunting task, but it’s definitely necessary.
If you care for small children, you probably stand in a lot of movie lines, go to a lot of parks and eat way too much pizza. “After school and college, adults have to be more intentional about making friends. If you’re a parent or grandparent, you can often quickly connect around various children’s activities,” suggests psychologist Helen Odessky, author of Stop Anxiety From Stopping You. Parents can be as cliquish as kids, but don’t be intimidated by the mums and dads you see, chatting each other up in the schoolyard or park. Your common frame of reference is your children, so use that as a conversation starter when making friends as an adult. You can ask for opinions about the homework assignment, school dress code (or lack thereof), or any other child-related topic you can think of.
The worst that will happen is you’ll have a one-time conversation with someone and call it a day. The best-case scenario is that you’ll enjoy each other’s company and seek each other out until eventually a friendship blossoms. You can use the same strategy in children’s museums, waiting for the bus, or in child-friendly cafés.
If you’ve recently moved or your current friends are too busy for you, ask them to set you up with new people. Let them know that you want to be more social and ask them to recommend people they think you would get along with and have them introduce you. It’s just like asking your friends to set you up on a date, but instead, it’s a way to make new friends as an adult.
A good way to find like-minded people is by getting involved in causes that matter to you. That doesn’t mean you’ll make friends with – or even like – everyone who wants to save the whales, but it does mean you will be putting yourself in the company of people who care about the same things you do. That common denominator can make conversation easy, and lead to long-term, meaningful friendships.
Life coach Alexandra Jamieson recommends rolling up your sleeves and volunteering for a charity or movement that speaks to you. “Women thrive when we connect more, and have a secret superpower called ‘tend and befriend’. We befriend by seeking out friends for support in times of stress. Women also ‘tend’, or take care of, the vulnerable or someone who’s hurt to help them heal and recover.
Volunteering provides an opportunity to do both things,” she explains. “Researchers suspect that endorphins (hormones that help alleviate pain) and oxytocin (the ‘bonding and love’ hormone) may play an important role in establishing this pattern. Women release both when we emote: laughing, crying, excited talking, all contribute to these bonding and relaxing hormones. Endorphin’s main function is to cause lasting happiness and satisfaction,” she adds.
An easy way to connect with someone new and have a conversation flow easily is to discuss your love for a book or author. Search for a book club online or visit your local library to see if there are any advertised. You’ll meet new people and learn new things from reading, it’s really a win-win.
An easy solution when searching for how to make friends as an adult is to get a dog. It’s amazing how many people you can meet by simply walking a dog. Dogs create – and require – routine. You’ll be out there at the same time, every day, and so will every other dog walker in your neighbourhood.
Friendly dogs love the company of other dogs, so while your waggy-tailed friend is making a new buddy, you can be doing the same thing. Seek out dog parks in your area so you have more opportunities to meet other people and to establish relationships with them.
Still want to live out your dream of being the state champions for your high school sports team? Join an adult league and prove to everyone that you still have the skills to win. Making friends as an adult comes more naturally when you get together with a group of people who share a common interest, work to build trust with each other, and get competitive at games.
Five thousand Facebook friends is not equivalent to one quality mate you share time with, can count on, and can trust. Social networking sites do, however, present opportunities for reinvigorating old friendships, or for making friends as an adult, and taking them offline.
Also, don’t overlook Meetup – a website where groups and clubs of every possible description are formed and looking for members. With a free Meetup membership, you can join groups in your local area, from bird watching to wine tasting to scuba diving. You can join as many, or as few as you want, but the trick is to actually attend outings. The more outings you attend, the more you will get to know the other members.
Anything you love to do, others love to do, too. Groups formed around hobbies are fertile hunting grounds for friendships. There are many activities you might enjoy but think of as solitary, such as sewing, hiking or reading. A little sleuthing online, or at the local library, is bound to uncover some information about local knitting circles, book clubs, or outdoor enthusiasts you can join. Or if you’re a novice, consider taking a class at a local craft or cooking store.
If you want to learn how to make friends as an adult, think like someone looking for a new job. Job seekers often seek out networking opportunities, where they can meet and connect with other people looking for the same thing. Look for places where people gather who are searching to create their next iteration, be that a new career or acquisition of a skill. Job fairs and networking events are sponsored by local governments as well as private organisations. Get onto mailing lists and attend things that sound interesting to you. Make sure to chat with people while you’re there, and exchange business cards or personal information so you can stay connected.
When you’re retired, extra income needn’t be your only motivator for seeking out employment. Despite what you’ve heard, the job market is not closed to older people. You may have to get creative in your job search, but that’s one of the great things about a post-retirement job; it doesn’t have to be the be-all and end-all you needed years ago. Workplaces, from the local supermarket to an office, are wonderful places for making friends as an adult. Make work as social an activity as you can and forget the solitary lunch on a park bench. Ask colleagues to join you for a sandwich or an after-dinner drink.
Joining a gym, yoga class or any other exercise is a health-boosting plus. It’s also an easy way to connect with others on a regular basis who can, in time, become good friends. “Being active is good, but it’s not enough. You also have to make an active effort to invite people into your world. Taking the next step after your social connection can feel hard or awkward, but inviting someone for a quick coffee is one example of an easy way of getting to know each other a bit better,” explains, clinical psychologist Dr Julie Gurner. “If you hit it off, often the relationship just continues to evolve from there.”
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