Ever heard of the age-old saying, "Make new friends, but keep the old?" As we transition out of the pandemic, it seems like the perfect time to revisit this concept. With a significant decline in friendship and increasing loneliness in recent years, it's more important than ever to prioritize our relationships and build new connections. In this blog post, we'll explore the science behind making new friends as an adult, the health benefits of a strong social circle, and tips for optimizing your friend-making journey.
The Impact of the Pandemic on Friendships
The pandemic changed the way we interact with others, leading to a decline in friendships and an increase in loneliness. According to a 2021 online poll, 12% of Americans reported having no close friends, up from just 3% three decades ago. Additionally, 13% of women and 8% of men aged 30 to 49 said they'd lost touch with most of their friends during the pandemic.
Loneliness and social isolation can lead to increased risks for conditions such as depression, anxiety, heart disease, and stroke. A 2010 meta-analysis even found that loneliness is as harmful to physical health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Therefore, it's crucial to prioritize our social connections and ensure we have a healthy support system.
How Many Friends Do We Need?
The ideal number of friends varies for each person, but studies suggest that having between three and six close friends might be the sweet spot. According to Jeffrey Hall, a professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas, having at least one important person in your life can help mitigate the harmful impacts of loneliness on your health. However, having more friends can lead to a more meaningful life filled with deep connections.
While there isn't a magic number of friends that guarantees happiness and well-being, it's essential to focus on quality connections that nurture different aspects of our personalities.
Challenges of Making New Friends as an Adult
Making new friends as an adult can be challenging due to various factors such as trust issues, limited time, and difficulty finding like-minded people. As we age, it often becomes harder to build new connections and maintain existing ones. However, by rekindling old relationships and taking the initiative to create new ones, we can overcome these obstacles and expand our social circle.
Tips for Making New Friends as an Adult
One of the easiest ways to make new friends as an adult is to reconnect with old friends. Reach out to people you've lost touch with and suggest meeting up for coffee or a meal. It's often easier to reignite a friendship that has a history than to start from scratch with someone new.
Find activities and hobbies you're passionate about and join clubs, classes, or groups related to those interests. This will allow you to meet people with shared interests, making it easier to strike up conversations and form connections.
Volunteering is a great way to meet like-minded individuals while also giving back to your community. Look for local organizations, non-profits, or community events that could use a helping hand and sign up to volunteer your time.
Put yourself out there by attending social events, meetups, and gatherings in your area. This can be anything from joining a book club to attending a Welcome Strangers event. The most important thing is to get out there and just start with a simple "Hi". You'll be taking the first step toward a more fulfilling life.