Fast forward several years, and I’m extremely fortunate to be blessed with a small group of women whom I’ve known since grade school and who are my “people” — supporting me through life’s challenges, celebrating life’s wins and making me laugh until … well, you don’t really need to know the rest.
However, I know that not everyone is as lucky as our little circle. And with half of these lifelong BFFs living out of town, I’ve faced the grim reality that making new adult friends in town can be difficult, especially after a recent move to a new neighborhood.
The importance of friends
Friendships — which you would think should come naturally because all people desire love and companionship — have become a challenge for many adults. A recent study out of UC San Diego found that 3 out of 4 Americans over 18 report feeling lonely, which can lead to a variety of health concerns. In fact, experts say that loneliness is at epidemic levels and has been linked to diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, and is as harmful to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
A formula for friendship
If so many of us wish we had more friends, why haven’t we figured out a simple way to get them? Well, it seems as if making friends isn’t a simple endeavor. A report from experts at the University of Kansas found that it takes adults hundreds — yes, hundreds — of hours to move through the stages of a relationship to become true friends:
- It takes approximately 50 hours together to go from being acquaintances to “casual friends.”
- Spending 90 hours together is what it takes to become “friends.”
- More than 200 hours in each other’s company are required before you can consider one another “close friends.”
5 tips to make new friends
Unsure how to start? Here are five tips to get you moving on the road to friendship:
- Get offline and out of your house. Those 500 social media friends are not actually real friends. It’s important to get out IRL (in real life) among other people, look them in the eye and find common ground. Great spots to do this include fitness studios, meetup groups, volunteering, dog parks and classes.
- If you build it, they will come. Reach out via social media channels, your neighborhood message board or your current network of acquaintances and start something — a book club, supper club, running club, etc.
- Open yourself up. If you find someone that feels like a good fit, slowly allow yourself to be vulnerable and share a bit about yourself. We’re not talking about opening the floodgates of your darkest secrets, but a willingness to be open, trusting and deserving of another’s trust.
- Reach out. Get together. Repeat. Remember the 50 hours it’s going to take to become casual friends? Well, they’re not going to happen without some effort, and might even require you to set reminders on your calendar or smartphone. Make a point of checking in on a regular basis, be the one to suggest plans, and do it over and over until it becomes second nature.
- Just say yes. We adults are a tired people. Tucking into a good book or starting a new TV series binge can sound very appealing, but there are no real friends to be made on the page or screen. Challenge yourself to say yes to every invitation you receive — within limits, of course — and you’ll soon find that getting up the energy to go out improves your overall energy along with your health, outlook and number of good friends.
Jen Spengler is a health and wellness writer with Sharp Health News, and mom of three daughters.