There are a lot of reasons why you might find yourself with fewer friends as you get older. People start to re-prioritize their lives, choosing to focus on their partners, their jobs, or their children. Maybe you had to move to a new city for a job opportunity and never had the time to invest in meeting new people. There are plenty of resources to help you find a romantic connection, but where are the apps just for making new friends?
It’s incredibly important to have a support system surrounding you, even if you’re a diehard introvert. According to WebMD, “increased levels of socialization are associated with: longer life, increased happiness, improved physical health, and improved mental wellness.” Building connections with new people can challenge your perception of the world and broaden your horizon, which can only make you a better, more well-rounded person. Making new friends can be a tough challenge, but it is well worth it.
The first step in branching out is making a commitment to yourself that you will prioritize this effort. Making new friends as an adult can be complicated, confusing, and oftentimes downright intimidating. (For some comic relief on this subject, I’d recommend watching I Love You, Man.) You have to be willing to persevere even when it’s uncomfortable.
The next step to meet new people is identifying your values and what you need from your support system. What kinds of people are you looking to meet? One of the hardest parts about branching out and meeting new people is that everyone has their own sets of values that impact how they spend their time. One person might be seeking a friend who wants to get together after work to have a few drinks at a bar, but someone else could be looking for someone to go hiking with on the weekends. Everyone has his or her own version of what they need out of a support system.
Once you know what kinds of people you’re looking for, it will be easier to figure out where to find them. Do you want to hang out with people who like doing yoga but also enjoy a beer? Find a yoga studio that hosts events that combine the two! Are you craving more opportunities to have in-depth discussions about spirituality? Try looking into small groups at local churches or synagogues. If you’re looking for some light-hearted fun, most major cities have meet-ups based on a huge variety of shared interests—kickball, reading, running, going to museums, etc. Check out Meetup.com to explore all the different groups of people who are meeting up in your city!
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the idea of showing up to an event without knowing anyone, start with baby steps. When you’re walking around in your day-to-day life, smile back at the people who smile at you. Engage in small talk with the cashier who rings up your groceries. Have lunch at a restaurant by yourself. Try going to larger event where it won’t be obvious that you’re alone. Smile at the people around you; they’re here for the same reason as you!
Start showing up, and it’ll get easier.
ABOUT ERIN PATTERSON
Erin Patterson is a consultant and freelance digital strategist and writer based in Washington, DC.