When you were a kid you probably had a new best friend every day and all the time in the world to play with them. But as an adult, work gets in the way, people move for careers and family and lose touch and sometimes people fall out. So, how do you meet new people and make friends as an adult?
Making friends as an adult is tough. You have fears and insecurities, there are social politics to consider, and some people can just be a little odd. So if you find yourself in adulthood without any close friends that American sitcoms tell us is the holy grail of social normality, then what do you do? Not feeling like you have your own "tribe" of friends can be really lonely and isolating and a huge factor when it comes to mental health. As it is Mental Health Awareness week, we are sharing tips on how to make friends.
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Oh, making friends was so much easier when we were kids (wasn’t everything?). You just walked/crawled over to someone of a similar height, or who had a toy you wanted and you instantly bonded. No wondering “what will we talk about?” or “will they like me?”. Just instant friendship and bonding over a stick or ball. There are no language barriers, as play is a universal language and no judgement at all based on size, colour or financial and social status. Kids take everything at face value and are a lot more accepting than adults, so maybe that’s the first thing we need to do as adults. Stop over thinking things and stop judging people.
Loneliness can be crippling, and it affects far more people than you would expect. The person that posts all those cute family photos online? They might be lonely. Someone with thousands of social media followers can still be lonely. That seemingly confident ‘social butterfly’ can be lonely too. Not everything is always as it seems and for people that find themselves without a close friend that they can talk to, or someone to just call up and invite for a coffee/wine, that can feel really isolating. Especially when everyone around you seems super popular with a never ending social calendar.
So, how do you make friends as an adult when it’s not really acceptable to just walk up to someone in the park and ask them if they want to play? Is there a Tinder for friends? Will everyone think you are a total loser if you go looking for new friends? (NO!) Here are some good places to make friends as an adult.
Chat to work colleagues
Most of us spend the majority of our time at work, so a good percentage of your time is spent with work colleagues. You might just nod to them in the lift, or say hi at the photocopier, but why not challenge yourself to start up a conversation with them. You already have something in common with them after all... work! Maybe set up a charity event like a cake sale or wear a funny hat to work day and not only do you get to raise some money for a good cause, but you will bring people together and get chatting to your colleagues too. Don’t like your colleagues? Why not use some spare time to volunteer and you can meet some new people that way.
Parent and baby groups
These can be an amazing place to meet people and a great way for your little ones to make friends too. If you are one of the first people to have a baby in your friendship group, then you can feel really lonely and find it hard to relate to your friend's drunk tales of adventures to the kebab shop after the club. Especially when you spent the whole of Saturday night with a screaming toddler. Parent and baby groups are full of other mums and dads who are going through the same thing, who are just as confused and Googling every symptom as you are, and who are looking to socialise with other parents.
There are relaxed play groups where you just have a tea and a chat, or there are plenty of messy play and arts and crafts group if you are shy and need something else to do too. Something for everyone. Local SureStart Centres are a good place to ask about groups, or download and app called HOOP that tells you all the local groups on any day in your area. Or just use good old Google to search for baby groups.
I should also mention, if you are pregnant I would definitely recommend doing an NCT course, as we met some amazing people through that and all the babies were Avery's first little friends.
Back to the parent groups, just a gentle reminder that if you go to them and you see someone new, sitting by themselves, go up and say hello. If you are already feeling lonely and you go to one of those groups and no one talks to you, it’s a right kick in the teeth. I have been there!
If one of the reasons why you feel lonely is due to something like anxiety and depression, there are lots of support groups out there. You will be surrounded by people who know what you are going through, which is always nice in a friendship. Google support groups in your area, or ask your doctor for more information.
Stop saying "no" so much
Do you always find yourself saying "no" to invites to parties, weddings, business events? Well, they could be good places to meet people. It’s a lot harder to meet people if you don’t leave the house.
Look at building the relationships you already have
You might think that you don’t have any friends, but you might have just lost touch. Reach out to old friends and make an effort with current friends/acquaintances. If you are always waiting for people to come to you, make the first move and send them a message. But, I am a firm believer that you can’t force friendship. If you are always the first one messaging or inviting them out, then let them make some effort. Friendship is a two way street.
Clubs and organisations
What better way to make new friends than to learn a new skill at the same time? Look on local noticeboards or in your local paper/town Facebook group for clubs going on. Maybe there is a choir that has started, a walking group, kayaking classes starting, a ladies rugby team or a pub quiz team you can join. You would be amazed at what kind of things are going on out there, you just have to look for them.
Join the gym
If fitness is your thing, or even if it’s not and you want to get a little fitter, then join a gym. I have no idea why gyms get this reputation for being unfriendly and cliquey places, but I have always found the exact opposite. You will always get a knowing smile as you step off the treadmill having run a personal best and that’s a great place to strike up a conversation. Fitness classes are a great place to meet other people, as although they are a good workout they are social too. Sign up to Zumba, kickboxing or legs, bums and tums and meet some new people.
Join a Facebook group
There is a Facebook group for just about everything and whilst you will find some very odd people on there, most people are lovely and there for the right reasons. So, whether you are vegan, in to knitting, love slow cooking recipes or training for a marathon - there is a group on Facebook for you and they are a great way to start chatting to some new people, especially if you are a bit shy. If you are shy, my next tip may not be for you.
Strike up a conversation in a pub
Channel the 20-year-old-student you and just start chatting to some people in a pub after a couple of drinks (remember, drink responsibly and you don’t need a drink to be a happy and confident you!). Remember how you would go on a night out and come home with a pint glass in your handbag, photos with people you don’t recognise and 8 new MySpace friends requests (remember MySpace? Loved it!). That’s because 20-year-old you was happy to just chat to people and not worry too much about it.
Introduce yourself to your neighbours
Do you know your neighbours? You probably at least know their name from taking in their Amazon parcels when they are out, but beyond that and waving at them from the front door, do you really know them? Next time you see them, say "Hi" and ask them how they are. Maybe ask something about the neighbourhood to strike up a conversation and then each time you see them, talk to them a bit more. It’s nice to know the people you live closest to, especially if you need them in an emergency. You never know, you might make a good new friend that will water your plants whilst you are on holiday.
There are lots of ways to make friends as an adult, you just have to put yourself out there. There are potential new friends all around you and whilst every new connection might not turn in to an instant bestie, you will gain lots of confidence in the process and build up a circle of close friends in no time. Because, who wouldn’t want to be friends with you? You are awesome!