Make New Friends: Why it’s so hard, yet so important

If you’ve been to a doctor recently, they may have asked you about your social connections. That’s because they know how important it is for your mental, emotional and physical health.

Research shows that strong social ties can boost your immune system, decrease the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, and reduce the impact of stress and chronic pain.

The reality is, it’s hard to make friends and strengthen your social connections when you’re an adult.

COVID-19 has made it even more difficult, especially when so many people relied on coming into work for their social life.

It’s even harder if you’re in the one half of people who are natural introverts.


The secret to friendship

The key to making friends in adulthood is having a shared experience.

You’ll find it much easier to make friends with people who share the same interests as you, or who are doing something alongside you. Remember how much easier it was to make friends at school? You were literally sharing the same experience, be it in class, on the sports field or in the playground.

  • Like to be active? Join a local fitness group, or an amateur local sports team. Even if you feel you’re unfit or ‘no good at sport’, you’ll be surprised how welcoming and supportive people are of newbies.
  • Prefer inside activities? Find out about a nearby book club, or even a local drama group. Use an app to find groups who share your hobby. No matter how obscure your interests, there are others out there who share your passion!

  • Another great way to feel more connected and purposeful is to volunteer for a cause that’s important to you. This could be online volunteering in the evening, or in real life on weekends.
  • And of course, if you have a dog, make the most of having your very own friend-finding machine. Take your dog to the local dog park or café at a regular time, and you’ll soon find yourself bumping into and getting to know other dog owners. Dogs have the ability to break down barriers and get even the shyest people talking.

Remember, almost everyone else feels the same as you. We all need and crave social connections; that’s what makes us human. Yet we often feel too busy, or too shy, to start the process. If you make it easy for people, they will welcome your friendship.


A quick social guide for introverts

Let’s clear something up. Introverts still want and need social connection, they just want and need them in different ways to extroverts.

If you’re an introvert, you probably find you prefer one-on-one conversations rather than group activities. You’re more likely to have a small group of close friends rather than big collection of acquaintances.

The good news is that research indicates it’s the quality not quantity of your friendships that matters in adulthood.

Research in the journal Psychology and Aging shows that the important thing is how you feel about your social interactions. You might be happier having a good in-depth chat with one person, and your extrovert colleague might be happier going out with a big group. Neither interaction is right or wrong, better or worse.

By understanding what you need from friendships, you can start to create the kinds of connections that make you feel good.