Think about how easy it was to make friends when we were younger. When we were in school, we had friends in our classes or on sports teams. They were readily available to us. For the most part, we were all progressing through similar stages in our lives as we went through school and college and transitioned into our careers. As we got older though, we moved into different stages of life at different times. Some people got married and now have kids. Some stayed single. Some went back to school or changed careers. Unlike when we were young, the older we get, the harder it can be to make friends.
By the time we’re in our 30’s and 40’s, we are pretty set in our ways. We spend most of our time at our jobs or with our families or partners. If you’re married and have kids, your partner and your kids have become your priority, which can make it even more difficult to make friends or keep close relationships with the ones you do have. You have less opportunities to make friends and much less time to spend with them.
Since we spend most of our day at work, we think this can be an easy place to make friends, but the truth is that can also be complicated. Let’s say you get close with a co-worker and you share too much of your personal life with them. Then you have a falling out and that can create a pretty awkward environment for all parties involved and could potentially have an effect on your work performance. While it’s good to have friends at work, we tend to keep these friendships more surface level to avoid any potential drama.
We might have friends from our past, from high school or college, people we met from past jobs or social groups, or friends we made while dating an ex. They are friends, but not people that you interact with every single day. They’re not people you have a deep and meaningful relationship with. So, we count them as friends, but would they be someone you would call if you really needed help? As our lives have changed over time, maybe these relationships have drifted, and these people are no longer considered close friends anymore.
Take a moment to think about your close friends. Not the peripheral friends I just mentioned, but your close friends. The ones you have a real connection to. The ones you can call in the middle of the night for help. The ones who support your story and your goals. Do you still have friends like this in your life? If so, where did you meet them? If not, why not?
Making friends as an adult doesn’t have to be hard.
The first thing you can do is set an intention to make friends. Friends aren’t just going to find you. You need to put the energy out into the universe and make an effort.
Pick a hobby or an interest that you wish you had more time for. Fitness is an easy one. Not only are you prioritizing your health by being physically active, but if you join a fitness community, you automatically have a built-in social network as well. The next step is to make sure you’re engaging with people in that community. Talk to people. Introduce yourself.
I get it. It can be so scary to put yourself out there. It feels unnatural to approach strangers as an adult looking for new friends. It can almost feel forced or fake or like we’re trying too hard. We also run the risk of being rejected in these interactions. If you don’t take that risk though, you’ll never be able to find and develop those real friendships.
Put down your phone and engage with your surroundings. This seems so obvious but think about it. How often do you go to a coffee shop or walk your dog and you’re glued to your phone? You need to engage with people in person! Put your phone away. Make eye contact. Smile at someone. Say hello. Engage with the people around you.
Don’t say no to anything social. Get out there! You’re not going to make friends sitting at home watching Netflix on the couch. When someone asks you to do something social, do it, even if it’s not something you would normally say yes to. Be open to new experiences and enjoy being present in the moment. You can also take the initiative to plan something social with people you know. Ask them to bring friends so you can make new connections.
It can also be helpful to take an inventory of your friends every now and then. Do your friends have your best interests in mind? Are they supporting you and giving you the space to grow? Are any of your friendships one-sided? Maybe you have a friend who is draining your energy and is always focused on the negative. If they’re not willing and able to change, maybe invest less time and energy in this friendship and invest more time in others.
Meaningful friendships where you can truly connect with another person and feel supported are so important to your happiness and success. Take some time to think about your current friendships. If they aren’t meeting your needs, use some of the strategies we talked about today to expand your social network and create better friendships.
Set an intention to make friends. Pick a hobby or activity that you’re interested in and engage in that community. Get off your phone and engage in your surroundings. Don’t say no to anything social. Foster positive relationships and invest less time in those friendships that are draining you.
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