When you think about your golden years, is your vision filled with dear friends from various stages of life: childhood friends, college roommates, work pals, parents of your children’s playmates, neighbors, friends from church, book club, dance club, and friends found while traveling?
Goal: Making and Keeping Great Friends
Having positive personal relationships and social connections are shown to be a factor for leading a long, vibrant life. While not discounting the value of romantic relationships and strong marriages, friends bring much happiness into your life. Solid friends are there to celebrate good times and for support during the difficult days.
While you have to start childhood friendships in childhood, wonderful friends can be found at any stage of your life. Surrounding yourself with positive influences and trusted friends is tied to better health. According to the Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health, individuals with poor social engagement in later life are at higher risk for depression (and other mental health challenges), heart disease, decreased immune function, and overall earlier death.
Friendships can start because of proximity (living next door), proximity and shared experiences (college roommates), shared life stage (becoming a new parent), common interests (taking exercise classes, listening to opera, or traveling the world) or shared values (church or PTA members).
When you were a kid, friends could be found everywhere: at the park, in school, on the baseball diamond or football field. As you entered middle and high school, navigating the changing social rules could be challenging. If you were lucky, the childhood friends who you trusted with your secrets, hopes, and dreams remained friends beyond high school graduation.
One hard lesson of childhood is that not every friend will be one for a lifetime. A move to a different school can cause connections to fade. While some people manage to keep close friends, despite living miles apart and through the many stages of life, many of us struggle to meet new people and establish close connections. Close friendships do not just happen, but they are worth the effort.
5 Benefits of Friendship
Increase your happiness and improve your mood
Whether it is sharing an inside joke, trying a new restaurant, or calling to celebrate a victory, friends increase your happiness by sharing experiences, creating memories and just having fun together.
Support during challenging times and reduce your stress
A friend in need is a friend indeed. A confidante who will listen to you vent about a toxic co-worker, take your kids off of your hands when an emergency strikes, and may even bail you out of jail, should the need arise.
Boost your self-confidence
How could having someone, who likes you exactly as you are in your life, not help you feel more comfortable in your own skin?
Help you reach your goals
A friend can act as an accountability partner to help you reach your dreams, be it saving for a new house, learning a new skill, or starting an exercise habit.
Improve your health
Friends can help you improve your health at every stage of life, from helping you keep your healthy diet and exercise goals to keeping you socially engaged when older.
How To Make Friends
Making friends starts with meeting new people. Just like love at first sight, there can be friendships created at the first meeting, but most friendships develop over time. True friendships are based on a level of intimacy, so consider how you feel after spending time with someone. Do you feel energized or drained? Did they listen to you or talk the whole time? Do you feel accepted as you are? Have they proven to be trustworthy?
To make good friends, you will want to be a good friend. Listen without judgment. Be genuinely interested in what they have to say. Accept them for who they are. Be loyal and kind. Be supportive and trustworthy. Friendship is a two-way street. Be the friend you would like to have.
With technology today, it is possible to make friends with people who you meet online and rarely or never see in person. Maybe you have found people who share your interests in a Facebook group and developed friendships based on common interests.
Many people use technology to maintain a connection with friends, especially during these times of having to be physically distancing. Life can be busy with work obligations, family responsibilities, and need to sleep a few hours each day. Maintaining your social circle and friends can take time and effort, but with all of its benefits, it is worth the effort.
To your health.
Dianne Hinton NP, PA, IFM-C