Many things get better as we age—we get better at advocating for ourselves, we get more comfortable with who we are, we learn what matters to us and let the stuff that doesn’t fall away.
One thing that gets progressively worse, though, is our ability to make new friends. When I was a Jehovah’s witness at the kingdom hall you had instant best friends. As a young person you always looked for young people that were of the same age group and you were instantly friends excited to get to know each other, If you were a mom and had young ones you seek out other moms to share stories and play time, You may have even gotten together as families. We looked for people within our congregation that we had something in common with. But once you’re out of that structured environments, it’s hard to make new friends. It can sometimes feel impossible.
Friendships matter. Whether you’re five or sixty-five, you are an innately and intensely social being. Yes, even introverts are social beings. We humans are like pack animals. We survive best when we connect with others. When we have friends to talk about our day with, support us in times of struggle, or cheer us on in times of joy, we are at our happiest and healthiest. We are wired to form positive connections with others and suffer serious consequences when we don’t.
Step number one in making new friends is an obvious one. You must meet new people.
Seek, and you will find
You know how you can meet new people? By mixing up your routine, change the structure of your day. A strategy with a high-return rate is to go places or do things you enjoy and see who you meet there. If you like to read, join a book club. If you’re more physically oriented, join a gym or take a class in a new sport: golf, tennis, yoga. Do some volunteer work. Cooking class, Dance class. The more it involves interacting with other people, the better.
Keep an open mind
Having only friends who think exactly like you—or who come from the same background—limits your learning opportunities. You may surprise yourself and discover that someone you initially rejected as friend-material, thinking you had nothing in common, becomes a close friend if you give them a chance.
Let’s say you’ve met someone you like and you’re becoming friends. Now what? Not only may your friend-making skills be lacking, but your being-a-good-friend skills may be lacking, too. To become a better friend, think about the qualities and characteristics you like in a friend and make sure to develop them in yourself. To attract the kind of people you want and to keep them in your life, you need to be that kind of person. Some have been very traumatized by their past experience being a part of a controlling group or religion however our new friends may not stick around too long if that is all that is talked about. So be sure and find positive upbuilding topics for conversation.
I am going to share with you a mindfulness exercise that will help you become a better friend.
1. Imagine an interviewer is asking someone you know—a friend, relative, colleague—to describe you.What are the first three words you’d like them to say?
2. Find a quiet place and some alone time de-clutter your mind of other thoughts, and focus on those three words. See what images present themselves that show how you display these qualities in your interactions. Or how you display the opposite qualities.
3. Write down your thoughts and any physical sensations you experience. Feelings of tension, sadness, or the like, can be signs you’re disappointed in or angry with yourself for not displaying the qualities you’d like. Ask yourself what you can do or say that would more authentically embody the quality you think you’re missing?
4. Make a “to do” list for how you can display the qualities you’d like to embody.
5. Establish some checkpoints for yourself: Once a week, perhaps. In mindfulness practice, let images from the previous days come to mind and see how you’re doing.
To make new friends as an adult, you’ve got to meet new people. To meet new people, you’ve got to do new things. And to do even more new, fun things with these fabulous new people you’ve met, you’ve got to be the kind of person someone would want to be friends with. It may not be as easy as making friends where you came from but it’s likely not as hard as you fear, certainly not impossible, and definitely worth it.