friends 3 compressed

Friendships Enrich Our Lives

A study carried out in 2006 on breast cancer survivors found that people with close friends were four times more likely to outlive those without a social circle. Living alone and feeling lonely increases our risk of death by 32%. And friendship protects us against depression.

Yet, despite our awareness of how important friendships are, many people these days are struggling to make new friends. So, before we start looking at ways to make more friends let’s become clear on what makes a friendship good.

  • Friendships imply a level of reciprocity, rather than being one person constantly listening to, or supporting another.
  • Friendships, while they can be supportive during tough times, need to be about the pleasure you gain from being in each other’s company.
  • A friend needs to have time to spend with you. If a friend can never find time to do something with you, then the friendship is unlikely to have much depth or be fulfilling.
  • Friendships need to be voluntary. That means that you want to be in this relationship, because you like being with the other person and not for what you can gain from the relationship.
  • Friendships need to be based on mutual respect in order to flourish.

How to build more social connections

Last year I decided that I needed more friends. Some of my friends had moved away, there was one friend I really didn’t have much in common with, and another had died. This is all part of life and as people leave our lives new friends usually come in, but for me, and I suspect many others too, I’d become too caught up with my family and work that friendships had been placed on the backburner for quite a long time.

Rather than just go out and join a social group, which I had done before and didn’t really enjoy, I reflected on what I really wanted from friendships. I wanted to be a part of a community, where I could go out in my local area and run into people I know and stop and chat with them. I wanted one or two friends that I had a closer relationship with who lived near me and had time to socialise. So, with this in mind I set my intention, then before going to sleep each night, I asked the Universe for guidance on how to create these relationships.

I set standards as to what I was prepared to give and accept in a relationship, and this resulted in the ending of a long-term friendship, which really needed to happen.  

I looked at myself and how I acted when I was always meeting new people. I realised that I was more guarded than I used to be so I chose to be open, warm and friendly to everyone I met. I started contacting people and extending invitations.

I tried volunteering but I didn’t find I enjoyed it, so I let that go.

Persistence paid off

Then I became active on the NextDoor app, which links people in your local neighbourhood. You get to choose how many surrounding suburbs you want to connect with. In my area it is incredibly active. The app has several common interest groups which you can join, or you can start a group of your own. I joined a garden group, and set a date for people to see my garden and have coffee. Sixteen women turned up and out of that meeting I met two lovely local ladies that I connected with, the three of us now meet up weekly. I have also been asked by others in the group to their place for coffee and there are now monthly come and see my garden days. I also regularly give and receive plant cuttings, as a gardener this is something I am very grateful for.

I decided to start a local meditation group, thinking it would be nice if I got six people and ran a group from home. I set up a group on the Nextdoor app called Meditation in Pittwater and 34 people joined the group, and as it was too large to run at home, it has since moved to a local hall. Just about everyone in this group walks to our local cafe afterwards for coffee and a chat.

So, in the space of just a few weeks I met over 40 locals I wouldn’t normally meet. I run into someone I know every time I go for a walk, I meet friends regularly, and I am often invited out. Now you could say all of this is because of the NextDoor app, but I don’t believe it would have happened if I hadn’t been clear as to what I wanted, and had the courage to step outside my comfort zone. I have also found that for me I prefer to meet people that I share a common interest with, rather than just attending a coffee group.

To change your life takes courage. If what you are doing is not working then do something different. If it doesn’t work no-one is going to know about it. Be clear on what you want and ask for it and then get ready to allow it into your life. Often what we want doesn’t come in the way we imagine so stay open, and say ‘yes’ more often.

Making time for and investing in friendships in an investment in your long term health and happiness.