When we’re young, making friends is often as simple as being in the same class together, or sharing a love of horses – but, as we grow older, things get a touch more complicated, and different universities and jobs can push some of these earlier friendships apart. Kat Nicholls has some helpful ideas on making new friends when you’re all grown up
This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Happiful
When we begin settling down with partners, starting families and pursuing career opportunities in far-flung corners of the globe, our network can feel like it’s shrinking. But it doesn’t have to be this way; we can make new friends.
As an adult, the prospect of making new friends sounds a little scary. It feels very much like dating, and I think we can all agree that’s pretty stressful, right? My small-but-perfectly-formed pockets of friends are now scattered, with some an hour’s drive away, and others a seven-hour flight. We talk online, and I have my partner to keep me company, but I won’t lie and say things don’t get lonely – they do.
A couple of years ago I started a new blog and decided to put my all into my Instagram account to support this. I was astounded at how quickly I formed online friendships. Eventually I started attending events and meet-ups; I even set up some friend dates.
Today, my network is that little bit bigger as a result and – bonus – I have people who really ‘get it’ when I ramble on about Instagram and blogging.
The Action For Happiness movement cites human connection as one of the ‘10 keys to happiness’. “People with strong and broad social relationships are happier, healthier, and live longer. Close relationships with family and friends provide love, meaning, support and increase our feelings of self-worth. Broader networks bring a sense of belonging.”
So, it’s time to take a deep breath, and broaden those networks. Here are some tips to get you started.
Cultivate online friendships
This is often one of the easiest ways to start reaching out. You can do this on any social networking site; use Facebook to try to find groups which are focused on subjects you’re passionate about, or search for these topics using hashtags on Instagram.
Start conversations, interact with people – and see what happens. If real-life social interaction drains you, this is a great way to ease yourself into it from the comfort of your own home.
Initiate a group meet-up
If you’re in a group online, or have found a few friends through Instagram, why not initiate a real-life meet-up? This also works well if you’ve just moved to a new area. If you feel comfortable, get really honest and share that you’re on the lookout for some new connections. Arrange a time and place for people to meet – maybe a local cafe so you can all grab coffee and have a chat.
Scout out events/classes near you
If you’re not a fan of social media, or simply prefer to start connections in person, have a hunt for any local events or classes you could go to. Maybe a cooking class, or even a wellbeing retreat? In these environments people are often much more open to chatting. If you notice someone else who’s arrived alone, strike up a conversation with them. You’ll all be there because you have an interest in the same topic, so you already have something in common!
Set up a one-to-one friend date
Maybe you’ve exchanged messages online, or chatted a few times at yoga class; perhaps you’ve already met at a group event. Reach out to them and see if they fancy a coffee, going for a walk together, or even attending an event.
If you live far apart, consider a Skype/FaceTime date instead. When I went to my first ‘friend date’ I worried we would have nothing to talk about, which now seems silly as we chatted a lot online. And, of course, my worries were unfounded – we talked for hours.
If the date goes well, follow up! Find out when you’re both free and get something in the diary. New friendships often need that little bit of extra time and attention to help them thrive.