When it comes to your lifelong mental health and happiness, friendships play a huge role. Good friends relieve stress, provide comfort and joy, and prevent loneliness and isolation. Strong friendships can also support your physical health. A lack of social connection may pose as much risk as smoking, drinking too much, or leading a sedentary lifestyle.
It can be hard to make friends when you’re an adult. Work, family, and other obligations squeeze your time, and many people in your age group may already have long-established friend networks. It can be hard to break in.
But don’t lose hope. You CAN make new friends as an adult. These tips will help.
The benefits of friendship.
Not sure if making new friends is worth the effort? Check out the many ways that friends are good for your well-being. Friends can help you:
- Improve your mood. Spending time with happy and positive friends can boost your outlook.
- Reach goals. Supportive friends can inspire you to get fit, give up smoking, change careers, or achieve other goals you’ve set.
- Reduce stress and depression. An active social life can bolster your immune system and help reduce isolation, a major contributing factor to depression.
- Cope with tough times. Friends can support you through a serious illness, the loss of a job or loved one, the breakup of a relationship, and other challenges.
- Age well. As you get older, changes such as retirement, illness, and the death of loved ones can leave you feeling isolated. Friends can serve as a buffer against depression, disability, and loss.
- Improve self-worth. Being there for your friends makes you feel needed and adds purpose to your life.
What to look for in a friend.
Your time and energy are precious, so it’s important to be thoughtful when building friendships. A good friend will:
- Show a genuine interest in what’s going on in your life, what you have to say, and how you think and feel.
- Accept you for who you are.
- Listen attentively without judging you, telling you how to think or feel, or trying to change the subject.
- Feel comfortable sharing things about themselves but won’t monopolize the conversation.
- Be someone who you feel comfortable supporting and accepting, and someone with whom you share a bond of trust and loyalty.
Tips for being more social.
Some people walk into a room and become the life of the party. For some of us, it’s harder to start conversations and form new friendships, especially if we’re introverted or shy. Here are some ways to move past these barriers:
- Focus on others, not yourself. You’ll make more friends by showing interest rather than trying to get people interested in you.
- Pay attention. Try to truly listen to the other person. Small efforts go a long way, such as remembering someone’s preferences, the stories they’ve told you, and what’s going on in their life.
- Be aware of others’ interest. Friendship takes two, so it’s important to figure out if the other person is open to a new friendship. Do they ask about you? Do they give you their full attention? If the answer is no, they may not be a friendship fit.
- Get active, get involved. By participating in events and activities in your community, you’ll find other people who share your interests and values. Try volunteering, taking a class, walking a dog, joining a book group, or attending a sporting event.
- Think like someone new to your area. Take the time to re-explore attractions in your community. New arrivals to any town or city tend to visit these places first—and they’re often eager to meet new people and establish friendships, too.
Friendships are a true win-win. By having friends, you’ll enrich your life and boost your well-being. By being a friend, you can do the same for others. With a little effort and courage, you can get out there and make powerful new connections who can change your life for the better.
Connect with MOBE.
A MOBE Guide can help you learn more about how your social and emotional well-being impacts your overall health. To find out if you’re eligible for MOBE, check your status or call 844-841-9725. If you’re ready to take the first step, schedule a call online or download the MOBE Health Guide app.
Content adapted from “Making Good Friends,” HelpGuide.org, https://www.helpguide.org/articles/relationships-communication/making-good-friends.htm