Photo: Mark Bowden via 123RF

Think about your relationships—parents, children, coworkers, the barista down the street. As adults, we have many connections in the world, some chosen and others obligatory. Still, our friendships are often the best chance to connect with people who enrich our lives and help us feel grounded. Why, then, does it feel so hard to make new friends as adults? And why do we feel so scared to do it? Making new friends as an adult is different, but it’s still just as crucial as those childhood bonds. If you’re struggling to find new friends, read on for some helpful insights.

Why Are Friends Important?

Friendships enrich our lives—we have company for activities, someone to lean on in times of stress, and community support with daily tasks. More than that, however, friends can have an actual impact on our physical, mental, and emotional health. Recent studies suggest that social relationships (friendships) have a noticeable impact on reducing disease and increasing longevity. That means ignoring your social circle in favor of heading to the gym might not be in your best interest! In fact, friends can help reinforce our healthy habits and spread their own happiness our way.

How Friendships Change in Adulthood

As we are, the opportunities for making friends seem to disappear as life’s obligations take up more time and space. It’s not that we don’t value friends as adults; we just can’t engage with them in the same ways. William Rawlins, Stocker Professor Emeritus of Interpersonal Communication at Ohio University, describes the three things that almost everyone universally wants from close friends, no matter their age: “Somebody to talk to, someone to depend on, and someone to enjoy. These expectations remain the same, but the circumstances under which they’re accomplished change.” It takes purposeful effort to make new friends as an adult, but with a bit of work, it can be rewarding!

Tips for Making New Friends

Don’t assume that everyone already has a full social circle!

One of the biggest mistakes adults make is assuming that everyone already has plenty of friends, so reaching out to form a new bond would be “a waste of time.” No! Most adults are eager to create new connections and are just as nervous to reach out. Take the leap and extend an invitation to chat, meet up, or work together on an activity. If your new connection really doesn’t have time for more relationships, they’ll let you know, and everyone can move on with no hard feelings.

Photo: Mark Bowden via 123RF

Be brave and use the apps.

It’s a new era, and “dating apps” aren’t just for dating anymore. The industry has branched out to include apps devoted to meeting friends and making connections with people in similar life situations. Although meeting new people online might not sound ideal, using an app is a straightforward way to break the ice and avoid feeling like you’re “imposing” on new people—everyone has signed up for the same reasons! Most apps guide you through your profile creation so that you can list interests, goals, and even available times to hang out. MeetupBumble BFFPeanut (for moms), and Atleto (for workout buddies) are some of the most popular choices.

Join a club or volunteer group.

As discussed above, making friends as we get older is challenging because we aren’t naturally thrust into new social circles all the time. It’s up to you to create those opportunities! Look for local clubs or volunteer organizations that interest you. You’ll get to spend time doing something you enjoy while meeting others who share similar passions. These new connections can easily turn into friendships.

Have a concrete plan for “first friend dates”.

Have you ever met someone great at a party or event, hit it off, and then never managed to connect again later? This scenario often happens because making future plans (and getting them off the ground) can be challenging in our busy world. Avoid this obstacle by creating a routine schedule for your follow-up meeting with a potential new friend. Choose a coffee shop or low-key activity you love (walking around the botanic gardens, visiting a museum, painting pottery, heading to the driving range) and always suggest this as a “first friend date.” You’ll be comfortable in the environment, you won’t have to worry about figuring out what to do, and you’ll be able to suggest this meetup before the energy from your initial encounter fades.

With a little creativity and initiative, you’ll be making new friends in no time!