How to make friends as an adult

Americans as a whole are a lot lonelier and more socially isolated than they were back in the early 2000s, according to a special report by the U.S. Surgeon General. Consider these stats: We spend about 333 minutes a day alone versus the 20 minutes a day we spend socializing in person with friends and colleagues.1

We also have fewer close friendships. Nearly half of Americans reported having 3 or fewer close friends. And that’s not a good thing for our health or our society, according to the report.1

People are social by nature. “Relationships are good for both our physical and psychological health,” says Christina G. Yoshimura, Ph.D., a licensed clinical counselor and professor of communication at the University of Montana in Missoula.

But while we may focus on family and partners as the main relationships in our lives, we shouldn’t overlook our friends, says Yoshimura. “Friendships are wonderful sources of positive regard, recreation and companionship that can enrich our lives,” she says.

Granted, making friends as an adult may not be as straightforward as it was when we were kids. At school, we were in situations where we were doing the same activities as others, explains Yoshimura.

“When we get older and do see people in the workplace, on our commute, and while grocery shopping, we are focused on accomplishing the task at hand, so we don’t have many built-in opportunities for social interaction,” she says.

But making new friends at any age is 100% doable. Here are some ideas to help you get started.

1. Think about what you enjoy doing

Finding people who share your interests is a classic way to make friends. Your local community center or library may offer cooking classes, weekend day hikes or book clubs where you can meet new folks. Or tap into groups for people who share your interests, notes Yoshimura.

Then, whatever class, activity or club you join, make it a regular occurrence. The more you get to know the class or group members, the closer you may feel to them, notes Yoshimura.

2. Set a goal

A good way to make friends is to include them in some activity you’ve always wanted to do. If you’ve always wanted to run a 5K, join a beginner’s running group. If you need help with how or where to do so, check with your local sporting goods store.

This applies across the board to whatever goal you might have. Maybe you want to go on more walks or cook healthier meals. Invite an acquaintance or co-worker to join you. Sharing an activity and making it a habit may strengthen the connection.

3. Volunteer

Getting involved in an organization can be another way to meet people who share your values. Most volunteer opportunities have options to meet regularly. If you plan to volunteer on a regular schedule, you’re likely to see the same people week after week, or every month. That’s good for building connections.2

Another benefit? “You’re also likely to experience a burst of self-confidence because you are taking on a meaningful role while you volunteer,” says Yoshimura. Because when you're self-confident, you may find it easier to make friends — generally people are more drawn to people who feel good about themselves.

4. Try an app

Finding a potential friend can sometimes feel as tough as finding a potential partner. That’s why there are apps to make both easier. Some are just for adults looking for new friends, others can connect you with potential friends who live nearby or in another country. Other apps connect people with similar interests. Or try an app that helps you meet your neighbors or stay in touch with local neighborhood news. There are many options to try.

5. Take a chance

Being proactive about growing your social circle can pay off — you might need to remind yourself to stick with it and be patient. You may need to extend more than one invitation to someone to tell if they’d like to get to know you.

Think about asking that person you always see at the coffee shop to sit down over your cup of Joe. Or ask a fellow dog owner at the park to come along next time you walk your pup. You may be surprised at what a simple gesture can turn into.

In the meantime, don’t forget your old friends. Reach out to them too. Between making new friends and keeping old bonds strong, you’ll continue to widen your social circle and reap the benefits from good social health.

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