10 Practically Effortless Ways to Make New Friends as a Grown-Up
The quality of a person’s friendships can make or break their life, adding to feelings of happiness, and providing health benefits, too. For adults, it can be hard to find kindred spirits who are worthy of the label. Here’s how.
Shrug off the “I don’t wannas”
Adult lives are full of obligations, ranging from work, to taking care of children or elderly parents. It’s ever so easy to put yourself on the back burner, letting go of the desire to enjoy life, have fun, or get involved in anything, other than re-runs of Scandal. While this is totally understandable, it’s not in your own best interests to do so. Study after study extols the virtues of friendship on health, and even on life expectancy, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. It is important to motivate yourself to get out there, without feeling guilty about the time you’re taking away from your other obligations.
You knew those kids would come in handy someday
If you care for small children, you probably stand on a lot of movie lines, go to a lot of parks, and eat way too much pizza. (Here’s what you should be eating, instead). “After school and college, adults have to be more intentional about making friends. If you’re a parent, or grandparent, you can often quickly connect around various children’s activities,” suggests Helen Odessky, PsyD, a psychologist, and author of Stop Anxiety From Stopping You. Parents can be as cliquish as kids, but don’t be intimidated by the moms or dads you see, chatting each other up in the school yard or park. Your common frame of reference are your children, so use that as a conversation starter. You can ask for opinions about the homework assignment, school dress code (or lack thereof), or any other child-related topic you can think of. The worst that will happen is you’ll have a one-time conversation with someone, and call it a day. The best-case scenario is that you’ll enjoy each other’s company, and seek each other out until eventually a friendship blossoms. You can use the same strategy in children’s museums, waiting for the bus, or in child-friendly cafés. Whatever you do, don’t say these things to a stay-at-home mom.
Live your value system
A good way to find like-minded people you have something in common with is by getting involved in causes that matter to you. That doesn’t mean you’ll make friends—or even like—everyone who wants to save the whales, but it does mean you will be putting yourself in the company of people who care about the same things you do. That common denominator can make conversation easy, and lead to long-term, meaningful friendships. Life coach, Alexandra Jamieson, recommends rolling up your sleeves, and volunteering for a charity, or movement, that speaks to you. “Women thrive when we connect more, and have a secret superpower, called ‘tend and befriend’. We befriend, by seeking out friends for support, in times of stress. Women also ‘tend,’ or take care, the vulnerable or hurt person, to help them heal, and recover. Volunteering provides an opportunity to do both things,” she explains. “Researchers suspect that endorphins (hormones that help alleviate pain) and oxytocin (the ‘bonding and love’ hormone) may play an important role in establishing this pattern. Women release both when we emote: laughing, crying, excited talking, all contribute to these bonding and relaxing hormones. Endorphin’s main function is to cause lasting happiness and satisfaction,” she adds.
Get a (friendly) dog
It’s amazing how many people you can meet by simply walking a dog. Dogs create—and require—routine. You’ll be out there at the same time, every day, and so will every other dog walker in your neighborhood. Friendly dogs love the company of other dogs, so while your waggy-tailed friend is making a new buddy, you can be doing the same thing. (Just make sure you’re following the rules of dog owner etiquette.) Also seek out the dog parks and runs in your area, so you have more opportunities to meet other people, and to establish relationships with them. Speaking of man (or woman’s best friend), here are 13 things you didn’t know about your pooch.
Use the Web to get off the Web
Five thousand Facebook friends do not equal the quality of one, face-to-face compadre you make time for, can count on, and trust. Social networking sites do, however, present opportunities for reinvigorating old friendships, or for making new ones, and taking them offline. Also, don’t overlook Meetup—a website where groups and clubs of every possible description are formed, and looking for members. With a free Meetup membership, you can join groups, from bird watching to wine tasting to scuba diving, in your local area. You can join as many, or as few as you want, but the trick is to actually attend outings. The more outings you attend, the more you will get to know the other members. Considering scaling back on the time you spend on Facebook, Instagram, etc? Here are all the amazing things that happen when you quit social media.
Anything you love to do, others love to do, too. Groups formed around hobbies are fertile hunting grounds for friendship. There are many activities you might enjoy, but think of as solitary, such as sewing, hiking, or reading. A little sleuthing online, or at the local library, is bound to uncover some information about local knitting circles, book clubs, or outdoor enthusiasts you can join. Or if you’re a novice, consider taking a class at a local crafts or cooking store. (Watch out for these mistakes, which can wreck a new friendship fast.)
Get a post-retirement job
When you’re retired, extra income need not be your only motivator, for seeking out a new form of employment. Despite what you’ve heard, the job market is not closed to older Americans. You may have to get creative in your job search, but that’s one of the great things about a post-retirement job; it doesn’t have to be the be-all and end-all you needed, years ago. Work places, from the local supermarket to an office, are wonderful friendship builders. Make work as social an activity as you can and forget the solitary lunch on a park bench, and ask your colleague to join you for a sandwich or an after-dinner drink.
Check out networking events
Job seekers often seek out networking opportunities, where they can meet, and connect with, other folks looking for the same thing. Look for places where people gather who are searching to create their next iteration, be that a new career or acquisition of a skill. Job fairs and networking events are sponsored by local government offices, libraries, and AARP, among other organizations. Get onto mailing lists and attend things that sound interesting to you. Make sure to chat to people while you’re there, and exchange business cards or personal information so you can stay connected.
Pursue physical fitness and friendship simultaneously
Joining a gym, yoga class, or any other sport is a health-boosting plus. It’s also an easy way to connect with others on a regular basis, who can, in time, become good friends. “Being active is good, but it’s not enough. You also have to make an active effort to invite people into your world. Taking the next step after your social connection can feel hard or awkward, but inviting someone for a quick coffee is one example of an easy way of getting to know each other a bit better,” explains, Julie Gurner, PhD and clinical psychologist. “If you hit it off, often the relationship just continues to evolve from there.” Just make sure to avoid these common group fitness class mistakes.
Go back to school
Maybe you’ve always dreamed of getting a degree, or maybe there are adult education courses you’ve always secretly wished to look into. Either way, putting yourself in a classroom setting is bound to bring you into contact with potential pals. These may be the other students, the teachers, or the clerical staff in the main office. Find topics that interest you, and put yourself out there. Talk to people, ask for advice, and don’t be shy to take it to the next level—coffee, breakfast before class, or a beer afterwards. If someone asks you for the same, just say yes!