Making friends as a kid seems like a no-brainer. Fast-forward to adulthood—and making new friends (while keeping the old ones) is, well, hard. You no longer live in a dorm where you can socialize nightly. You’ve most likely moved to a new city with no roots. Piles of laundry, meals to cook, and an apartment to keep clean are all part of the balancing act. Fit in a significant other, family obligations, and working overtime, and it's no wonder your social life may slack.
You are not alone if you've felt difficulty (and frustration) when it comes to making friends. How do you even begin? Friendships, like any relationship, take time, effort, and investment you might not have. But forming friendships is an integral part of human existence and identity. In fact, our biology makes it easy for us! Our brains are hardwired for empathy and friendship, and our identity as humans is largely based on who we know and feel close to.
More good news: All that day-to-day stress actually helps your friendships. Stress triggers a higher release of oxytocin (the bonding hormone) in women than men, and it triggers them to draw nearer to other women rather than a flight-or-fight response. You can thank your primal ancestors for this coping mechanism.
While making friends in the adult world is difficult, it is not impossible. Try these tips and strategies to help you connect with your girlfriends, old and new alike.
01. Connect with old friends—in new ways.
Spending time in person just might not be an option for you (or her) these days. Distance or dating may be to blame, but that doesn't mean your friendship can't evolve, says Irene Levine, Ph.D., the "friendship doctor" for Psychology Today. (She also runs a popular blog on female friendships called The Friendship Blog.) Moving can be detrimental, if you let it. Develop rituals with your friends utilizing technology, like G-chat or a quick FaceTime while you’re both watching "Say Yes to the Dress." Or try online shopping together, especially if it's an activity you would do in person: Talk on the phone while spending time on the same site, and send links to each other before you buy anything.
02. Friends at work, works.
Office friendships can be tricky, but if you spend more than eight hours a day with your coworkers, there are benefits to befriending some of them. One in three American adults have met one of their closest friends at work. And this correlates with job satisfaction. A 2012 Gallup poll found that 50 percent of respondents who said to have a best friend at work felt more connected to their company, compared to only 10 percent who claimed to not have a best friend.
03. Go on a double date.
In a relationship? Utilize date night to strengthen your romantic relationship as well as your friendships. A new study from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology found that being on a double date—whether it's dinner out or at home—allows for more intimate conversation. An added bonus: Couples reported an increase in passion in their relationship because they learned more about each other.
04. Be positive.
Attraction and friendship go hand in hand. You have to get someone interested in you to develop a relationship, says Judith Orloff, MD, author ofEmotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life. Positive people attract positive people. So what does it mean to be positive? According to Orloff, these traits include:
-Commitment to developing compassion towards themselves and others, and having an open heart
-Courage about following their dreams
-Authenticity and believing in themselves, even when externals are crumbling
-Awareness of their flaws and trying to work on them
-Willing to learn from mistakes
So take heart! With a little time and extra effort, you can make new—and lasting—friendships, no matter your age.
Photo by Shannon Lee Miller