According to a study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, more than 35% of Americans over the age of 45 report feeling lonely with a deficit in friendship. Loneliness negatively impacts your mental and physical health, increasing depression and feelings of isolation, but making new friends can be challenging as you age and life becomes more complicated and busy.
Putting yourself out there is difficult for many, especially if you feel as if you don’t have anything worthwhile to offer. However, engaging with friends is an essential component of self-care. Self-care is a necessity, not an option, and the negative thoughts that stop you from engaging with new people likely stem from your inner critic who is harsher than others you meet.
Challenge yourself this week to practice getting yourself out there by engaging in one or two of the following suggestions for finding like-minded people who just might turn into your BFF.
1. Host a friend-of-a-friend meet and greet. Relying upon a single friend to meet your social needs can be daunting on a friendship, which is why it’s important to attend social gatherings and neighborhood parties to extend your social network. Invite two friends for a friend-of-a-friend meet and greet, asking each of them to bring another friend/acquaintance. This is a safe way to get to know others because you’ll know that even the strangers you meet are friends of your friends.
2. Take time to talk with the parents of your children’s friends. Do your children attend school? If so, get to know the parents of your children’s friends. You may find numerous things in common and share interests such as your child’s education and their extracurricular activities. School parents are often the best friends you’ll ever make. If your child has relocated to a new school, become involved with helping at their school as soon as possible.
3. Spark conversation with fellow travelers on your next adventure. If you enjoy traveling, use this opportunity to connect and make friends. You share an interest, a wonderful conversation booster. Plus, when you build a friendship with a fellow traveler, it’s fun to talk with them about upcoming trips! Many childhood memories are built around friends that the parents met while traveling, and those friendships have survived the test of time.
4. Enroll in a new class or join an interest group. Joining a group or trying a new class offers you a chance to share an experience with others, and when you enjoy the activity you are more relaxed and fun to be around. Seek opportunities such as women’s hiking groups, men’s tennis, or cooking classes. To connect with others in a spiritual setting that can deepen your faith and friendships, join one of the numerous Bible classes in the city.
5. Give back and meet friends through volunteer work. Volunteering is a great way to connect with new people, make friends, and give back. When you find volunteer opportunities that engage and interest you, you’ll meet others who share your values. Where you volunteer doesn’t matter, and studies show that volunteering promotes brain function and improves life satisfaction.
Friends add meaning to our lives. They act as a buffer against the hard realities of daily life. In fact, longevity studies suggest that people live longer, happier, and healthier lives when they are connected to good friends. Two of the main deterrents to making friends over 40 is feeling you have nothing to offer another, and fear of rejection. Challenge yourself to find new friends by being brave and taking the first step. Your next best friend may be the person you meet because you took a risk for someone else to get to know you. That risk may turn out to be the greatest gift you or your new friend ever received.