How to make friends as an adult: 7 tips

It’s possible to make friends as an adult, but it can take a bit of effort and dedication.

Adulthood can bring its own challenges, and making new friends can be one of them.

Time pressures, juggling multiple responsibilities, and structured routines can make it difficult to meet people or even maintain relationships you already have.

But friendships are essential for your emotional and mental well-being. A study 2018 showed that the intensity and quality of friendships are positively correlated with the satisfaction you feel in your life.

Research also indicates that maintaining adult friendships can help you prevent:

  • depression
  • feelings of loneliness
  • social isolation

“Adult friendships are important in helping people feel a sense of community at any stage of their life,” says Gauri Khurana, MD, a psychiatrist in New York City.

So how do you make friends as an adult? Consider these steps to improve your social circle:

One way to grow your network is to tap into your existing network. You may already have acquaintances who are potential close friendships in progress. Maybe you haven’t had the chance or the time to explore these connections yet.

Think about the people you meet regularly at your fitness classes, your place of worship, your book clubs, your school, your workplace, or your favorite coffee shop. These casual encounters can be a meaningful conversation away from a closer friendship.

Here are some of the ways you could help with the transition:

  • invite them over for a cup of coffee
  • start casual conversations that can slowly become longer and more meaningful
  • offering to share your unique experiences or even recent events
  • make a plan to meet outside of your usual meeting place

Khurana says tapping into your friends’ circles of friends is also a great way to meet new people.

Many friends spend time talking about commonalities and participating in activities they both enjoy.

Shared interests can create effective conversation starters and strong long-term friendships. There is probably someone who shares your hobbies and interests.

To find people who share your interests and beliefs and who can potentially become friends, try the following:

  • join local groups on Facebook, MeetUp, and other platforms that take social activities offline
  • start or join a club or organization that revolves around a specific hobby or interest
  • share your interests on social media and check who is engaging
  • participating in local events, such as signing up for a 5k run or volunteering at a local animal shelter
  • take group cooking, dancing, kickboxing or gardening lessons

You can already do some of the things above. This means that you could have many potential friends around you and you could move on to transitioning them into closer relationships.

Meeting new people is not easy for everyone. Maybe you’re shy or don’t have many opportunities to socialize.

But what about how you think about yourself and others? Exploring what you tell yourself about making new friends could help you uncover thought patterns that might be holding you back from forming new relationships.

  • Are you concerned about what others think of you?
  • Do you fear rejection?
  • Do you have difficulty expressing your emotions?

Exploring these questions could be helpful.

Shyness, personality disorders, and living with depression could prevent you from making new friends as an adult.

Cognitive distortions can also filter the way you see yourself and others. But negative thinking can be challenged.

If you need help working through these potential barriers, contacting a mental health professional might help.

If you live with mental health issues, especially social anxiety, you are not alone.

“Anxiety and other mental health issues are often present in adulthood, and social anxiety can make it harder for adults to feel able to connect with others,” says Khurana.

But social anxiety can be managed. If you need help, consider talking to a mental health professional who can help you develop coping skills and find other ways to make new friends.

Adults who spend most of their waking hours at work may find it difficult to blur the lines between their professional and personal lives. Although friendships can develop in the office, they often take longer to establish.

So it’s important to set realistic expectations when trying to make adult friends. Research indicates that it could take around 200 hours of time together to make a new friend. So, it’s okay if you don’t establish a close bond right away. Try to allow time for things to flow.

Quality over quantity applies to many things, including friendships. You may need fewer friends than you think.

According to Khurana, one to three close friends can provide you with many rewarding benefits of adult friendships.

It can be a satisfying experience to devote more time and energy to those few quality relationships than to making new friends.

Friendships don’t always work. Inviting the opportunity to make new friends can open you up to rejection and disappointment. Although not a pleasant experience, rejection is a part of life and is often unavoidable.

“A breakup between friends can be more traumatic than a romantic relationship that ends because the level of support and understanding you had with a friend is usually greater than you had in a relationship,” Khurana explains.

Understanding why a friendship ends can help you gain tools to strengthen your future relationships.

Coping with rejection or the end of an adult friendship can be difficult. It’s natural to feel hurt, but that doesn’t mean you can’t develop a good bond with someone else.

How adults make friends depends on many factors, including opportunity and personality.

Friendships between adults offer great mental and emotional health benefits. That doesn’t mean finding friends as an adult is easy or effortless.

Giving it some time to flow naturally, turning acquaintances into friends, and exploring your insecurities might make it easier when you decide to strike up new relationships.

If you feel lonely or have difficulty forming new relationships, a mental health professional may be able to provide the support you need.

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