One of my all time favorite singer/songwriters is Carole King–and my favorite song is “You’ve Got a Friend”. I love to sing along- usually loud and slightly off-key.
The song captures that time in my late teens and twenties in life when I had lots of friends and was busily pursuing my dreams. Friends, then and now, are very important to me–and since my early fifties, I do my best to spend as much time as possible with friends.
Friendships are Life-Savers—Literally!
Friendships are not just enjoyable, they’re essential to our health and vitality.
Several studies reveal women’s survival rates dramatically increase after a serious illness or cancer if they have a strong supportive circle of friends. And we know how important sharing laughter is to healing.
A six-year Yale University study, which focused on people age 60 and older, found both men and women were 45 percent more likely to die during that study if they reported feeling lonely, isolated, or left out. Loneliness is a leading cause of depression, substance abuse, and suicide in older people.
Trusted friends boost our immune system and reduce our stress hormone levels, as well as increase our sense of well-being. Friends not only feel good, but they’re good for our health.
Where Did Our Friends Go?
A good friend and I were talking recently, and we both agree neither of us has as many friends as we used to. And we’ve both lived in the same area for decades.
Like our lives, many of our friendships have changed over the years. I’ve seen several close friends move out of the Bay Area for a variety of reasons–cost of living, wanting to be closer to family (grandchildren are a huge tug), or desiring a quieter, less congested area. Sadly, a few good friends have passed away. Then there are those who have “drifted off” as our lives transitioned and we found little to keep us together. Friendships transition which is very common and we tend to lose more friends than we make.
If you choose to move from an area you’ve lived in for many years, starting over at this time in life is very different than when you eagerly headed off to college, got married, or made a career move. In these cases, we were younger and had a built in beginning social network. Many of us had children in school and careers to bring us together with others of similar ages and interests. When you move later in life somewhere new, you leave behind long and deep friendships in hopes you’ll make new friends.
Whether or not we stay in the same area or leave, we face many of the same challenges in making new friends.
10 Insanely Simple Ways to Make New Friends in Midlife
Making new friends takes more effort now than it did years ago when we met them at work or at our kid’s activities. We’re also pickier about who we want to spend time with. But with a little effort, some imagination and the desire to enjoy life with others, we can do it. Here are 10 insanely simple ways to make new friends:
1. Decide you want to make new friends.
It all starts with this crucial step–a decision!
2. Initiate and strengthen existing friendships.
Kick it up a notch! Initiate getting together and spend more time with people you already know and love. Often, we get busy in our daily lives and we take these cherished friends for granted. Shared experiences and good conversations over time deepen friendships.
3. Google an old good friend.
Search your “mental rolodex” from high school, college, or work. Think about someone you liked but lost touch when life took its many turns and changes.
4. “Make a date” to do something specific with an acquaintance you’d like to know better. “Someday” is not on the calendar, so if there’s someone you enjoy in one part of your life, make a commitment and do something together.
5. Take a class or join a special interest group.
Consider hiking, gardening, bridge or tennis clubs for example. Attend a meet-up event. Initiate conversation with other participants. This is particularly good for introverts, as the shared interest is built in the experience.
6. Just say hi to people you see regularly at the gym, Starbucks, or local community center.
You’ll get healthier and feel more connected by meeting and getting to know new people.
Make sure it’s an for an organization you believe in. You’ll meet like-minded people with the same level of commitment.
8. Expand on the existing activities with others.
If you have a routine activity with others already, invite them to do something outside that activity.
9. Try getting better at casual conversations.
Go to your local coffee shop, grocery story, library or other public venues and simply chat with people. (preferably when there’s not a long line behind you or it’s a quiet zone) Most people enjoy casual conversation. We’ve lost the art of conversation people because people are buried in their phones during the day. You’d be amazed what you learn, things you have in common with others, and you’ll feel good afterwards.
10. Reduce your screen time!
Wean yourself from Facebook or your phone when you’re out. Be present to enjoy the people and your surroundings.
Whether you’re the one left behind when friends move away, or you’ve relocated to a new area, we all need to replenish our friendships and seek out communities. It’s essential to our well-being. Besides, it’s much more fun to share laughter and a good glass of wine with someone you enjoy!
As Carole King says—“Ain’t it good know, you’ve got a friend?
Which of these 10 ways of making friends resonates most with you?