Friends provide physical and emotional support through life’s highs and lows, they give our experiences context and fill in where partners might leave off.
Importance of good friends
Multiple studies suggest that having friends helps reduce stress and may help lower blood pressure. Simply talking with friends can release calming chemicals in the brain.
The benefits of friendships don’t stop there. Scientists have observed that people with abundant social relationships have longer life expectancies than those who are lonely: friends may actually help us live longer lives! How could this be? Caring friends not only listen, but they may encourage better habits — noticing when we need rest, exercise, or a job change.
Find new friends
Make new friends by opening up and trying new things:
- Activity groups like hiking clubs or dance classes will hold your interest and potentially lead to more intimate relationships.
- Book groups and night classes are good friend hunting grounds for those with a love for deep conversation.
- Volunteering can bring you into contact with those with similar values, providing fertile ground for the growth of a deeper connection.
- Digital groups and chat rooms can provide support for those dealing with limited time. Some sites, like girlfriendcircles.com or letsbefriends.com match up friends by interest and location much like a dating service. Post an open invite for a group walk, coffee caucus, or interesting event on your Facebook page and see who shows up!
Make the Friend Thing Happen
You’ve found new places to meet people, but how do you turn new acquaintances into friends?
- Pay attention to your energy. Is there is someone with whom you might want to spend more time? Do you feel better about yourself after talking with this person? Does your life feel more open when you think about spending time with them?
- Watch for signals. Is there a mention of a possible get-together? Pick up on cues, or make the first move yourself.
- Diversify! As we grow older it’s crucial to make connections with people of all ages. Interests change, and having a cadre of friends of many ages can help to keep life interesting and lively.
Be a good friend
The key to keeping friends is being a good friend yourself:
- Be an all-weather advocate: When tough times come, be a willing listener. Providing a safe haven in hard times will give your friendships the foundation you both need to weather challenging times.
- Keep the air fresh: Clearing the air of resentments and grievances as they arise is crucial to the health of all relationships. As tough as it might seem, deep trust arises over time from the resulting shared understanding.
- Listen up: Make an effort to suspend the desire to give advice or interrupt. Friends may not always resolve their challenges the way we ourselves might — or even the way we’d want them to. Opinions can influence, but judgments may offend.
- Opt-out only: Establish a routine with a friend on which you can both depend. A 6 a.m. walk on Fridays before work? A Sunday tennis game and cold drink? Even a short 10-minute call once a week can keep the juice in a long-distance friendship.