Making and keeping friends as an adult
Five years ago, that title alone might have scared me off. When you’re younger, your whole life seems to revolve around your social life and your friendships are easy to maintain when you see them every day at school or university. As we age, things get busier, commitments grow and soon it’s been months or years since you last caught up. You may also find that the friends you once had, no longer share your interests or worldview. I believe celebrity divorce lawyers refer to this as ‘irreconcilable differences’.
It’s no surprise that having a few good friends is beneficial to your mental health, but spending quality time with them is often easier said than done. With conflicting schedules, families to care for and general global pandemic exhaustion, many of us would like to spend any spare moments melting into our couch watching Netflix. However, prioritising time to spend with friends that metaphorically fill your cup should provide you with increased energy and the support necessary to navigate life’s demands.
There is one friend I keep a weekly date with, we meet at the same place each weekend, equidistant from our homes and it now requires little planning. Humans only have a finite capacity to make decisions each day, so the more mental space you can free up for important decisions, the better. In saying this, if the same old routine is boring you, this is the perfect opportunity to try something new – there’s no better confidence booster than the moral support of a trusted bestie. I’ve been to dance classes and experienced fitness fads, but I’d love to try my hand at something more artistic like pottery or painting. The best part is if it goes terribly wrong, at least you can return to your regular coffee spot and laugh about it.
Some weeks you just can’t fathom squeezing in another activity. This is where I choose to invite a friend to something I already do. For you, this could be yoga, the kids’ sports game, or your local farmers market, just put the offer out and see what sticks. Equally, you can ask to go with your friend to their activities, being invited along to an already established group is a great way to ease into creating new friendships. And who knows, you may find your next favourite hobby in the process.
Reading some of these options may fill you with dread – maybe you’re feeling depleted after spending time with your friends. In my experience, if it’s happening frequently, this can be a serious sign it’s time to get some new ones! The thought of finding new friends can seem daunting, but once you find your crew, you’ll wonder why you ever waited so long. I’m not here to sugar coat it, it’s going to take a little more bravery than going with the buffer of an established friend. But signing yourself up to something new in the community is a great way to increase confidence and build authentic connection.
If you’ve returned to the office, work can be a great place to practise striking up conversations. Try viewing people with fresh eyes – take notice of what they’re reading at lunch, or compliment a great outfit. My work friends often organise family-friendly social events such as ice-skating or bowling, inviting all departments. Going to these has helped me see people outside of the confines of their roles and responsibilities within the workplace, developing some unlikely bonds. There’s simply no reason why Friday night office drinks can’t be a Friday night learn to rollerskate class.
Finally, I think it’s important to let people know that you’re looking – there’s no shame in it. Just like dating or job hunting, it always goes more smoothly if someone can recommend you. You’ll be surprised how many people are in a similar situation, but we are all so focused on having it all together that being vulnerable can seem unthinkable! Creating and strengthening friendships is just as much about your needs as it is about others, so consider it another commitment to your wellbeing, no different from hitting your daily step target or increasing your water intake.
Chanelle is a vegan, amateur athlete, social advocate, environmental enthusiast and blogger at mynameischanelle.com.