We’re more connected than ever, right? It might look that way, but our modern lives are a breeding ground for loneliness. Many people suffer from it, and according to this article from Time, feeling lonely can increase the risk of dying early by 26%. Not having a social support network can make the trials of life seem heavier and can actually translate to higher blood pressure! That’s why it is so important to foster and maintain friendships, but many people find it is a lot more difficult to hang onto friendships now than it was when they were younger.

1. Misconceptions Can Keep You Stuck in Loneliness

There are several misconceptions that get in the way of building friendships as an adult. One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves is, “As an adult, I should already know how to make and keep friends. If I struggle with it, it’s something to be ashamed of.” The fact is, friendship evolves as we move through different stages in life, so the skills we need also change. Not being open about our struggles keeps us stuck in the same place! Read this article from Psychology Today to find out about some common misconceptions surrounding adult friendships that keep us from building fulfilling friendships!

2. Transitioning to Adult Friendships after Graduation

The nature of friendship changes when we move into adulthood, as we no longer see the same classmates every day, and many of our friends move into different stages of life: one gets married and no longer has as much time for friendships, one moves to a new city for a job, or not having the same things in common causes you to just grow apart. This continues throughout adulthood as each of us forges his or her own path, so it can feel like there is very little stability in our friendships and we’re constantly looking for new ones. This article from the Grit and Grace project has some helpful suggestions for how to adjust.

3. Putting in the Effort to Make New Friends

With increasingly busy schedules, it can be tempting to let making friends slide to the back burner. However, the benefit of a few close friends far outweighs the effort required – few things have more implications for longevity and resilience to stress than having a circle of friends! This post from Psychology Today has a few tips for how to break out of the patterns that keep us isolated. One of the most important is to look for new friends in the places you frequent. You can also ask your Facebook friends to introduce you to people they know who live in your city or are in a similar stage of life as you. It can be uncomfortable to meet new people, and most people don’t like the awkward early stages of building friendships, but your long-term health is worth it!

4. Keeping and Building on those Connections

Unless we continually nurture the connections we’ve made, most friendships will starve to death! Meeting with friends doesn’t have to be complicated. The most important thing is that it happens regularly. One interesting way to build and maintain friendships mentioned in this article on HuffPost is to get together for a biweekly “interactive TED Talk”. Pick a topic ahead of time and bring your own lunch or dinner so nobody has to cook for the group. This can help you skip the boring and awkward small talk and really get to know each other better.

5. More Fun Ways to Connect with Friends

It is so easy to get stuck in a rut with our friendships. If we always just meet for a drink or coffee, it can get boring! Get together for a painting class, go on a long drive together, host a clothing swap, or even run errands together and kill two birds with one stone. Check out this post from Yes and Yes for more fresh ways to catch up with friends!

Building your social support network can translate to better health, more professional prospects, and an overall happier life. Keep putting yourself out there in the same way you might if you were dating. Your tribe is waiting for you!

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