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The power of friendship: How to make friends as an adult

Friendship makes life better in many ways: It offers connection, love, support, laughter, encouragement and fun in good times and bad. But while friendships perhaps seemed effortless in our school years, they can be harder to maintain in adulthood. Lauren Liverman, LCSW, an oncology social worker at Piedmont Athens Regional, shares the importance of friendships at every life stage and how to make friends as an adult.

Why is friendship so important?

“Friendships support our mental and emotional health,” says Liverman. “As human beings, we were created to be in community.”

She says research shows that emotional health suffers when humans are isolated.

Loneliness is a profound problem and contributes to negative health outcomes,” says Liverman.

Friendship is particularly crucial in adulthood because it’s a life stage where we deal with many stressors, such as work stress, significant relationships, aging parents and chronic disease.

“I see it every day in my counseling clients: People who don’t have social connections struggle so much more in life,” she says. “Our ability to cope with life’s challenges is significantly impacted when we have limited social resources.” 

Why it can be hard to make friends as an adult

“We’re often out of practice,” says Liverman. “When we’re kids, we have a built-in environment in school to make new friends and socialize. Then we get into the working world where life becomes more static and predictable.”

A structured, unchanging routine offers less opportunity to meet new people and develop relationships, she adds.

How to make new friends as an adult

It takes effort to create opportunities for new friendships to occur. Liverman offers the following strategies to meet new people as an adult:

  • Sign up for a class, such as yoga, cooking or painting.

  • Ask acquaintances to meet for coffee or lunch. You may find you and your coworker, neighbor or friend-of-a-friend have more in common than you realize.

  • Join a group of people with similar hobbies, such as a running group, spiritual community, volunteer organization or book club.

  • Say yes to invitations and embrace spontaneity. If a colleague invites you to their weekend cookout, why not say yes? You never know who you’ll meet there.

Take time for self-reflection

If you don’t click with someone, don’t take it personally.

“You never know what’s going on in someone’s world,” says Liverman. “If they’re not open and receptive to you, there may be a reason that has nothing to do with you.”

That said, some self-reflection can be healthy.

“Being a friend is about how you show up,” says Liverman. “Know what you have to offer. It starts with the relationship you have with yourself. If something seems off, focus on cultivating a healthier relationship with yourself. When you take care of yourself mentally and physically, you’ll be more available to others.”

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