Friendships and friend groups change as we age and experience life. Studies show that personal and social networks increase through young adulthood, and then steadily decrease. It makes sense that social networks change as people transition through life-events such as parenthood, job entry, and the experience of death or loss. These life events redirect the focus of where people place and distribute emotional energy.
However, the ebb and flow of friendships is one that can be changed by pursuing actionable choices. The choice to pursue friendships has the opportunity to not only increase happiness, but overall health.
It may seem daunting and difficult to expand a social circle, to start over after moving, graduating from school, or a period of life focused on work or family. Making friends does take time and effort, but is a journey that can be filled with interest, excitement and joy. Consider these fun and simple ideas to meet new people and get started on opening a new social chapter, regardless of your age.
Look for a regular occurrence in the daily or weekly routine, such as visiting the same coffee shop every morning or maybe weekly yoga classes. It is easier to meet and get to know people when you feel comfortable in your surroundings and when there is a common or shared interest. Studies show that friendships develop over time and activity. So, how many hours does it take to make a friend?
10 hours to become acquaintances,
30 hours to become casual friends,
50 hours to become actual friends,
140 hours to become good friends,
300 hours to become best friends.
That regularly scheduled lunch break, coffee stop, or walk in the park is sure to add up over time.
Volunteering is a great way to interact with and provide support to your community while experiencing a host of beneficial effects. This includes the opportunity to socialize in a setting with a variety of people working towards the same goal. Working with a group of people toward a greater cause can provide the chance to bond and build relationships in unique ways.
Making the effort to volunteer can be done by attending specific events, or committing to a regular volunteer position. There are a variety of organizations including community, religious, and non-profit groups that frequently have a need for volunteers of all kinds. Consider things you value or interest, and see what local programs are available.
Book clubs are a fun way to discuss a love of literature with other people, and explore a variety of thoughts about perceptions of the text. There are many benefits of attending a book club including decreased stress, gaining new perspectives, and boosting teamwork and interpersonal skills. There are often book clubs already in place — check social media, community magazines, and other local sources.
If you can’t find a book club to join, consider starting your own. Select a genre, perhaps borrowing from a best seller book list, or build one from an educational book list that discusses an interesting topic, philosophy, period of time, or religion. Reach out via social media, Craigslist, or on a community message board. Invite the people you know already, and ask them to pass along the open invitation to others.
Much like volunteering, taking a class can provide a structured environment where those in attendance are seeking a common goal. Taking a class does not necessarily mean going back to school or enrolling in a college program. Many classes are backed by community programs, community colleges, or religious institutions — though religion is not required.
Consider participating in a class to learn something you have always wanted to learn about, or how to do; a community art class, language course, or dance lessons. Learn ancient history, basket weaving, or baking. There are often nominal fees, but learning a new skill and having the opportunity to foster friendship during workshops may be well worth the expense.
Social media and online friendship applications such as Bumble BFF, Hey! VINA, MeetMe, and Skout, make meeting people and joining activities more convenient than ever. Social media provides the advantage of reconnecting with old friends, and finding people who share similar groups and interests. Friendship apps are taking a page from the world of online dating, but creating spaces where romance is not the goal.
There are many benefits of playing team sports as an adult. The physiological ones are obvious, but there are also psychological benefits including:
Improved mood and confidence,
Alleviation of symptoms including anxiety and depression,
Expanding a social network,
Being accountable and committed.
Though team sports may seem intimidating for those that haven’t been on the field or court in a while, many community or YMCA sports leagues offer a variety of levels of play from very casual, or beginner, to mid-level and more competitive leagues.
Studies link friendship, social support, and health in a variety of outcomes. These outcomes may include feelings of renewal in life, physical and biochemical reactions to environmental stressors, strong feelings of support, safety, security, and more positive outlooks in the face of adversity. Making and maintaining friendships can even help individuals better understand themselves and their behavior. Scientists have even noted that friendship can act as a “behavioral vaccine”, by improving mental and physical health.
With all of the health benefits and opportunities there are to make socializing and networking possible, the last piece of the equation is time and effort. Making friends is much more than simply showing up. It requires initiating conversations, getting to know people, putting yourself out there, and making building lasting friendships a top priority.