How to make friends as an adult

As a kid, making friends was a lot easier. We’d bluntly ask each other ‘want to be friends?’ and it was a done deal, solidified with friendship bracelets or an hour of play on the playground. As an adult, friendships are seemingly harder to find and hold on to. With busy schedules, less opportunities to meet friendly faces, and the perception of more being at stake, the prospect can seem daunting. As an adult I have seen my circle of friends dwindle, as people move in different directions, and felt incredibly anxious to branch out and put myself out there. But forming friendships is extremely important to our wellbeing. According to research, forging relationships can have a profound effect on our survival; not only can friends help to reduce stress, boost self-confidence, and encourage healthy habits but they can also lead to 50% increased likelihood of survival.  

With this in mind, how can we forge these new connections in adulthood?

1. Make space mentally and emotionally for new friends

Making new friends can take time, effort, commitment, and vulnerability. To help you create space for this, try to give yourself time to let go of past experiences with friendships, releasing where you were with friendships and opening yourself up to where you are. Let yourself be open to new experiences and new people. This can be hard, and take time, so give yourself grace and be kind to yourself. 

A running club, if you like running, may be a good way to meet new people

2. Pursue hobbies where you may meet new people

Putting yourself out there is a great way to meet new people. Maybe now is the time to take up the hobby you’ve always been thinking of: why not join that walking group you’ve been interested in, or look for local choirs, or even research into nearby book clubs? This is a great way to meet likeminded people and, what’s more, you’ll even have common ground to start a conversation. This is a great way to meet different people and find who you gel with. 

3. Add people into your everyday activities

Trying to find time to add new hobbies into your routine may feel daunting and unapproachable. And, if so, that’s okay. Sometimes life can be extremely busy and hard to find the time to add things to your routine. Consider, instead, adding people into your everyday activities. Do you need to walk the dog each day? Have a look to see if there are dog walking communities around your area. Do you go to the gym? Maybe join a class for one of your gym sessions and strike up a conversation there. Do you read every day? Maybe try and find a group reading session, like The Reader, to get your reading fix. There are many ways you can incorporate people into what you already do! 

4. Make sure to show up for yourself and others

Once you have made an initial connection, it can be intimidating to follow-up as the feeling of being a ‘nuisance’ or a ‘bother’ may start to take root. But remember, you are neither one of these things. You are allowed to take up space, take ownership and message first. There’s no harm with dropping them a message; you never know, they may also be nervous and waiting for you to message first! 

After your next meeting has been agreed, make sure to say ‘yes’ and mean it. It can be easy to cancel, and find a million reasons why you should, but showing up and putting in effort really goes a long way. When we were kids, we would make sure to attend play dates, birthday parties, etc. This is the same in adulthood! Of course, sometimes things come up that are unavoidable but try not to cancel if possible. 

5. Be kind to yourself

It is so important when making friends to be kind to yourself. If things don’t work out the first time, don’t worry! Keep trying — you will find your people. Sometimes it can feel safer to latch onto one person but try to open yourself up to more people to find multiple connections. You never know, you may come out with more than one good friend. Remember that you are enough, and you have something special to offer your friendships. 

6. Consider another avenue

Befriending can be a great way to try something new whilst helping someone in your local community

Why not consider volunteering as a befriender? There are multiple schemes in which volunteers can dedicate time to befriending an older, isolated member of their community. These schemes often need a minimum commitment period, for example an in-person meet up for a coffee or tea once a week for six months.

As someone who has previously been a volunteer befriender, these connections can be incredibly valuable not only to the person you’re supporting but to you too. I would always look forward to speaking to my befriendee each week and I would leave my chats feeling a little lighter in my heart. A study by Catherine Elliot O’Dare, a social policy professor at Trinity College Dublin, found that participants viewed intergenerational friendships as ‘a boon, a catalyst for conversation and skill-sharing, a door for accessing new parts of one’s local community.’

Befriending can offer the opportunity to forge new friendships but will also help isolated and lonely people in your local community. If you have the time and feel like you have the capacity to offer a listening ear, this may be a lovely way to find new friends and give back to your community. For more information on befriending in Croydon, please visit one of the following schemes: 

  • Croydon Two’s Company Befriending: This is a telephone befriending service only, providing hourly calls every week or fortnight. 
  • Croydon Voluntary Action: This service is seeking both telephone and face-to-face befriending options. 
  • Age UK: Volunteers can sign up for face-to-face or telephone befriending. They will be expected to visit or phone their befriendee weekly or fortnightly and are asked to update the befriending coordinator regularly. Training is provided for volunteers. 

However, if volunteering is not the right option for you, and you instead feel that you would benefit from being referred to a befriending service, please contact your GP and they can help to find the right support for you. 

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