One Tip For A Happier New Year: Make More Friends
Finding love is hard enough, but finding your new BFF? It's arguably more difficult!
Finding love is hard enough, but finding your new BFF? It's arguably more difficult, but close friendships are crucial to our biology, our health and can sometimes save our lives.
I regularly receive emails from women living in places with “very few” lesbians, very little gay community, and little to no support from friends or family. That’s very sad.
"Friends help you face adverse events," says Dr. Cohen of WebMD. "They provide emotional support, information that helps you deal with stressors, and often encourage us to take better care of ourselves.“
But how do we make friends when we live in remote places or our lifestyles don’t permit it?
Our western culture doesn’t support making new friends: We’re raised to think of ourselves as independent and immune to those around us, and to relentlessly pursue our own agenda, without asking for “help.”
A 2014 study in the UK found that 1 in 10 people admitted to not having one friend. That's 4.7 million people in the UK potentially living a very lonely existence. Clearly, this cultural construct isn't working.
Making new friends is the same as pursuing any other “new” activity: We must make it a priority and put time and energy into it.
For example, when we’re looking for a new job, we spend a lot of time browsing job boards, researching LinkedIn to see how we’re connected, and reading articles on the company to see if we are a right fit.
Similarly, if we’re learning a new language, we might download an app, practice with it while commuting, or listen to it while making dinner. We make it a priority and we put time and energy into it.
It is the same with making new friends.
We meet people we have things in common with, by doing things we like to do. It sounds deceptively simple and it is: Do things you like to do and you will meet kindred spirits.
HERE ARE SOME WAYS TO MAKE NEW FRIENDS:
Take a Class
ANY class. Learn a new language, a new computer program or something that has always interested you (flower arranging, basket weaving, or feng shui anyone?). Your local community college or Learning Annex usually has a variety of options. Or, maybe you’re feeling ambitious: go to graduate school! Nothing is quite as bonding as having to write the same 25 page paper in 7 days….
Search Eventbrite, the newspaper or your local bar for events that you might like to attend. Maybe there’s a post derby game at your local gay bar? Or maybe you love International Films? Go to their launch party or their red carpet party. Strike up a conversation with the woman standing in front of you at the bathroom break. Talking about a film is always a good conversation starter…
Get/Borrow a dog
People with dogs start the best conversations. If you don’t own a dog, volunteering to walk a friend’s (and she might pay you) and go to the dog park. Dog lovers are good people and after you go for a while, they’ll start to recognize you…
Join an exercise group – ANY exercise group. It could be a morning boot camp, training for a marathon or just a “fun and fitness” group. You will be “forced” to meet new people and since you’re all working towards a common goal, you’ll have something to bond over.
Join a Hobby Group
Like to knit? Prefer to craft your Halloween costumes? Join a group of others who share your passion. Not only will you learn new tricks to your hobby, you’ll be sitting around getting to know each other and slowly making new friends…
Join a professional Org
Professional Organizations exist for two reasons: meet new people (aka, “networking”) and learning new skills. For example, maybe you’re new to social media and want to learn something new while meeting new people? Join your local chapter of the social media club. Because professional orgs are focused on getting members together, the pressure to introduce yourself to a stranger is a little lower because it’s expected. You are encouraged to just walk up to people and introduce yourself.
Meet Up Groups
Meetup is the world’s largest network of local groups – connecting people face-to-face is the whole reason they exist. People in your neighborhood create all kinds of groups and they schedule group events so you can meet each other. If you can’t find a group you want to join, you can start your own!
Every nonprofit, film festival and special event in town YEARNS for volunteer help. From taking tickets, to taking out the trash, there’s always room for a helping hand. Find an event that you like and volunteer. It could be a film festival, an at show, a kids event or a drag show – find out who is in charge and volunteer your time. You’ll always meet someone new and then when you’re done volunteering, invite him/her out for coffee afterwards to chat about the experience!
All of these examples take time and energy. None of these examples happen overnight. Like any relationship, friendships need time to grow, take shape and develop. Sometimes you’ll meet someone, think you had a connection and then she never calls you back about that movie date.
That’s ok. Sometimes these things ebb and flow. Sometimes people DO lose numbers. It happens. There are a lot of lonely people out there who want to make new friends just like you do.
If you continue to prioritize seeing strangers as friends you haven’t met yet, your new friends will come.
PS. There's a really useful, practical guide for How to Make (and Keep) New Friends created by the good folks at Greatist. Combine my tips with their tips and you're bound to get some new smiles in your life in 2016.
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