How to Make Friends as an Adult

We all know that a happy relationship with your partner can affect your health, happiness and even your pocketbook, but friends also play an important role in life satisfaction and overall well-being.

Jess co-hosted with expert nutritionist, Kyle Buchanan, on Global TV’s The Morning Show with Carolyn MacKenzie. They discussed friendships and strategies for making friends in your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond.

Check out the videos and summary below.

With online relationships and communication, do we have as many in-person friend as we used to?

Research suggests that we lose friends as we get older and one in five of us feels lonely.

Why is having friends so important?

Not only do the happiest and healthiest people have the strongest social ties, but happiness among friends is contagious.  A Harvard Medical School study of 5,000 people suggests that one person’s happiness spreads through their social group even up to three degrees of separation with the effect lasting for a full year. Having a happy friend increases your chances of happiness by 10-15 percent and when a friend’s friend is happy, your chances of happiness increase by 5.6%.

So how do we make friends outside of work and school as adults?

1. Talk to strangers (to whom you’re not sexually attracted). Try sitting in a restaurant or coffee shop without taking your phone out of your pocket and you’ll be surprised how eye contact and awkward smiles can lead to human connection. Even if you don’t strike up a close friendship, you’ll be expanding your network and one of their friends might be a good fit for you. Research also suggests that it’s not only our close social ties that positively affect our health, but our daily interactions with everyone from the bus driver to folks we pass on the street. Let’s warm up this cold country by smiling and saying good morning!

Go places alone. Don’t always bring a friend or family member to an event or party — unless they’re also open to talking to strangers.

2. Rather than looking for new friends, reach out to some old ones with whom you’ve likely lost touch. The beginning of relationships are easy, but maintaining them over the long run can be challenging. You don’t want to simply wipe out the past because things get difficult or feel awkward. It can take 50 hours to move from acquaintance to casual friend, 90 hours to become a “friend” and more than 200 hours to become close friends; reconnecting with old friends may allow you to renew pre-existing feelings of bonding and trust in less time.

3.  Connect online and make plans to meet offline. There’s an app for that: Bumble BFF, MeetUp, We3.

Bumble BFF is for women looking to swipe right on new friends.

We3 sets you up with two other people so it doesn’t feel like a date.

And MeetUp connects you based on interests and experiences. There are MeetUps for hiking, philosophy discussions, floral arrangements, poker, lesbians over 50, learning Japanese, improv and almost any interest you can imagine.

I’ve met and stayed in touch with folks in multiple cities after joining a hiking or ultimate frisbee MeetUp. We’re not best friends, but we connect when we’re in the same city and say hi on social media every once in awhile.

4. Volunteer, sign up for a team or take a course. You don’t have to push too far out of your comfort zone to volunteer for a work or community committee and it will inevitably expand your network.

5. Take an in-house activity out of the house. If you stay in to read a book or the paper on Saturdays, take the book to the library or the park. If you drink your coffee at the kitchen table, take it out on to the stoop or take it for a walk. If you work out at home, consider making one workout per week a group class or joining yoga in the park. We often do what feels most comfortable instead of pushing our comfort zones; one simple way is to make a solo activity into a group activity or simply change locations.

6. Look for life-stage peers. While it’s healthy to have a diverse group of friends, you might find that making friends is easier if you socialize or hang out in areas frequented by those in a similar life phase. If you’d just had a baby, you’ll likely connect with other new parents at a parent and tot drop-in. If you’ve recently retired, you might find that a 55+ sports league attracts people with similar schedules and interests.

You don’t have to be social all day and all night (we all have different requirements), but social bonds matter. A meta-analysis of results from 148 studies (with a total of 308,849 participants) found that social support increases survival by 50 percent and can be just as healthy as giving up a 15-cigarette-a-day smoking habit.

The bottom line: Friendships matter and you deserve friends who treat you well. But remember that you don’t have to love everything about those you love.

Want more relationship insight? Listen to the Sex With Dr. Jess Podcast where we discuss everything from communication and conflict resolution to sex dolls and orgies.

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