The need to make new friends hasn’t always been seen as a preventative health measure. However, social isolation and lack of connection with other people can be a serious health problem especially for older men and women.
As I wrote in another blog, everyone needs a network of friends and acquaintances to keep them fully functioning.
Why we need to make new friends
- Families and old friends can move away.
- We ourselves move.
- Partners and older friends become ill and sadly perhaps even die. These losses leave hard-to-fill gaps.
- When we lose our friends, sadness, loneliness and even depression can set in, causing us to be less confident of ourselves and more vulnerable.
- Because of the changes in our circumstances, it’s easy to think that we have nothing left to offer. Friendship is a two-way exchange and if we feel we don’t have much to give, we hesitate to try to get to know new people.
- Sometimes loneliness can feel so bad we don’t want to talk to old friends.
Keeping up with one’s family often seems hard enough, but meeting new people and making new friends takes even more initiative and effort.
Doctors and other health care professionals stress the importance of a good diet, enough sleep, exercise, not smoking and drinking in moderation (if at all). They tell us to move more, sit less.
If I were in their position, I’d prescribe staying active and making new friends. I’d also suggest a daily dose of the slogan, Act Belong Commit. There’d be a sign on every fridge door to remind us. There are some amazing ideas on the website.
Children make friends easily. Listen to kids in a playground to find out how they do it:
‘I went down the big slide.’
‘This is my doll. Her name is Emily.’
‘Do you want to be my friend? ‘
‘We’ll go down the slide and take your doll.’
Making new friends as an adult is much more complicated than it is for children. But there are some things we can do to make the process a bit easier.
Ten tips to help make new friends
- Build your self-confidence. Make a list of the things you like about yourself and another list of things you are proud of.
- Smile. Smile at the people you pass on the street, the people who work in the shops you frequent because it makes them feel good, too. Don’t forget to smile at yourself in the mirror. Smiling makes us feel better about ourselves and the world.
- Wear clothes you feel good in and pay attention to your grooming. Clean nails and hair are winners.
- Go places where you will meet people with similar interests and passions as you.
- Don’t restrict the people you talk to. People of all ages can enrich our lives, as we do theirs.
- Take risks. Say ‘Hello’. Introduce yourself when there’s an opportunity. The worst another person can do is not respond, which says more about them than about you.
- Practice making small-talk. The weather, the place where you are or something interesting you notice are all good starters. Read, listen to the news, be aware of what is happening in the world.
- Ask the other person a little about themselves and listen with interest to their answers.
- In exchange, volunteer some information about you., but don’t talk too much.
- Go slowly. Becoming friends takes time.
- Don’t expect too much of acquaintances and new friends. At first, aim for a few new friends rather than one ‘bestie’. This is both healthier and more realistic.
- Invest in hearing aids if you need to hear better. I wrote a blog about the amazing difference my hearing aids made.
As I said, this is a starter list. I’d love you to add any ideas you’ve found helpful about how to make friends in a comment. You never know who might be helped by your wisdom.