People who have many solid friendships have been shown to live healthier and longer lives. Yet, as we age, we typically see a decline in the number of friends we have in our circle. If we are to receive the benefits of friendship, we must make new ones. But how?
Elizabeth Bernstein, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, recently wrote The Science of Making Friends because she was noticing that downward trend in her own life. Friendships tend to decline during life transitions, she noted, with typical triggers including career changes, divorce and the death of a spouse.
Irene S. Levine, a clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine (and a Next Avenue contributor) told Bernstein that “as an adult, we think that everyone has their friends and we are the only ones seeking them. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Bernstein’s article also pointed out a 2015 study published in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences which said that, on average, we lose two friends when we gain a romantic partner. But, take heart, there is hope for building new friendships.
How to Make Lasting Friendships
Bernstein offered these seven solid suggestions to help you successfully meet more people, and hopefully gain some lasting friendships in the process:
1. Don’t expect too much too soon. Start with being acquaintances and go from there.
2. Look broadly. Try to meet people in places you might not have thought of checking out.
3. Share something of yourself emotionally. If you open yourself up to another person, it gives them the freedom to do the same.
5. Be consistent. If you attend activities on a regular basis, it allows you to naturally connect with those people over time.
6. Consider rekindling an old friendship. Circumstances change with age — now might be the time to check in with a friend who didn’t have the time before.
7. Be a friend when someone needs one. If someone you know is sick or going through a tough time, try to reach out and help.
For more insights on friendship, read Bernstein’s article here.