The Health Benefits of Friendship

There’s no getting around it, making friends as an adult is hard. Whether you just moved to a new city, changed your career trajectory, or simply just want to meet new people, it takes effort to create and maintain relationships—especially without the friendship-creating structures of our youth (school, sports teams, summer camps, etc.). Because we constantly have people around us—online—it can also be hard to recognize that there’s even a challenge when it comes to deep meaningful friendships in our lives. But the numbers don’t lie. A 2021 report by Harvard suggests that 36% of all Americans—including 61% of young adults—feel “serious loneliness”. Because loneliness has been found to be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, it’s important that these lonely feelings don’t go ignored. You can make friends as an adult, you just have to try.  

“The fundamental theme of how people navigate the world is the sense of tribe that they’re surrounded [by]. Friendships, connections, deep meaningful relationships, they impact every aspect of our life from our health to our happiness. Every area of our life is touched by friendships—but just like stress, because it’s not always obvious—it goes overlooked. Most people don’t realize that they have a friendship and disconnection problem.” 

Dhru Purohit

While it can be hard to admit you’re lonely, awareness is the first step. Once you’ve crossed that bridge, you can find solace in the fact that you’re not alone in feeling lonely. There are hundreds of thousands of people that feel the same way. But even when you find someone on the same page, making the effort to actually become friends is hard. It requires repeated effort on both sides. In this guide, we hope to make the process a little easier by breaking down the 7 best pieces of advice for making friends as an adult.

Making Friends As An Adult

Making friends as an adult
  • Be the person you want to be friends with
  • Write out clear goals for your future
  • Practice self-care and build confidence
  • Find a group that interests you
  • Avoid the bottom third (people that bring you down)
  • Make the first move in a new friendship
  • Put the time in (90 hours)

Be the Person You Want to be Friends With.

The law of attraction states that you’ll attract into your life whatever you choose to focus on.  For example, when you focus on how many good things you’ve got going on in your life, you automatically attract more positive things into your life. But if you focus on negative aspects or what you lack in life, then you’ll end up attracting more negativity into your life and your goals will continue to elude you. 

Applied to the context of making friends as an adult, like attracts like. So it’s important to become the type of person you want to be friends with. For example if you want to be friends with a kind, energetic, and fun loving person, then you need to embody that energy and send positive vibes out into the universe. That positive energy will attract people operating on the same energetic wavelength. 

On the other hand, if you often feel bored, anxious, stressed out, or resentful, you’re giving off negative energy. That negative energy will repel positive people and attract pessimistic people and events into your life. 

Practice being the kind of person you want to be friends with, and they just might appear when you least expect it. 

Write Out Clear Goals for Your Future

Friendship goals

“Goals allow you to control the direction of change in your favor”

Brian Tracy

Every moment of every day, you’re actively creating your reality. With every thought, either consciously or subconsciously, you’re creating your future.  Therefore, it’s important to take some time to get clear on what you want your future reality to look like. The easiest way to do this is by writing down what you want your life to look like in 5,10, and 20 years. 

Once you have a clear vision, get more specific on what goals you will have reached in each timeframe.  Then think of the major events and tasks you have to accomplish to achieve these goals. Write them down and assign specific timeframes. Lastly, break down these mid-term goals into short-term tasks that you can start executing on today. 

Make sure that you’re including relationship goals in your plans. If you don’t prioritize creating and maintaining friendships, they may pass you by.  

Practice Self Care and Build Confidence

Self-care isn’t limited to buying wellness products online. It can also mean prioritizing the daily actions that help you live the way you aspire to. Making friends as an adult is a lot easier if you feel good about yourself. For example, if you want to feel like you have more time in your day, wake up 30 minutes early and do nothing while you watch the sunrise and sip tea. If you want to become fit and healthy, workout and make a healthy breakfast before you open your email.

In our hyper-connected world, oftentimes not doing something (E.g. not checking your email first thing, not going on social media 5 times a day, not comparing yourself to people that aren’t you) is an act of self-care. Making a point to prioritize time for yourself can go a long way towards feeling like the kind of person you want to be. The more you stick to your schedule, the more confidence you build with yourself and the more confidence you’ll have around other people. 

Avoid the Bottom Third & Negativity

How to avoid toxic people

On a recent episode of We Can Do Hard Things, host Glennon Doyle sat down with Reese Witherspoon and asked how she makes friends as an adult. Specifically, how she identifies people she wants to be friends with. Reese shared some advice that a coach shared with her, and that she now shares with her kids: 

“You’re going to meet three different kinds of people in life. A third of the people are going to lift you up. They’re going to believe in your dreams, they’re going to encourage you, you’re going to encourage them. And a third of the people are going to be totally neutral. You don’t care about them, they don’t care about you—no harm, no foul. And the other third are going to try to drag you down—actively—whether they know it consciously or unconsciously, they are here to pull people down. Avoid the bottom third.”

Reese Witherspoon

Making Friends As An Adult Means Making the First Move

On the pod, Reese explained that she is often the first one to approach and start a conversation with a new friend. She acknowledges that making the first move in a friendship requires bravery and uses a metaphor to overcome the initial fear of “diving in”. Reese relates the process of going up to someone and saying “Hi” to being a little kid jumping feet first into a cold pool. She notes that once you’re in the pool, you realize it’s not as cold as you thought it was. 

Find a Group That Interests You

Friendship groups

Whether it’s book club, run club, art club, entrepreneurship club, or language club, find a group that suits your interests and join in on their weekly meetings. Using apps like Meetup can be a great way to meet like-minded people in a group setting. Bumble BFF is a good app for meeting people that share general interests. If you’re athletically-inclined, you can meet new people and schedule workouts together on the klubb app

Put the Time in for Friendship

When we’re kids, proximity and consistency (generally via school or sports) make it easy to make friends. Similarly, to make friends as an adult, you have to put the time in. Studies show that it takes:

  • 40-60 hours of time spent together to form a casual friendship.
  • 80-100 hours of together time to form an actual friendship, and;
  • 200 + hours to become good or best friends.

One of the best ways to put the time in? Find an activity you both enjoy, such as running, hiking, or walking and do it regularly, together. Just like you’re putting “money in the bank” when you exercise, you’re putting money in the bank of your friendship when you spend time together that you can withdrawal later.

On the pod, Reese noted that “friendship is a deposit and a withdrawal system, you can’t make a withdrawal if you haven’t made a deposit.” She followed that there’s a lot of people who just want to withdrawal, but you have to make sure someone is putting a deposit into your friendship. She also noted that it’s important to re-evaluate your friendships from time to time to make sure the right balance is there. 

Maintaining Friends As An Adult

  • Text them with random check ins. I.e. “You’re on my mind, what’s going on, how are you? 
  • Leave them voice memos if you’re thinking of them. 
  • Invite them to coffee.
  • Invite them on a walk or run.