September 18, 2019

Why Adult Friendships Matter

Mental Health & Wellbeing

In one of my previous posts, I wrote about the importance of overcoming our negative thoughts so that we can form friendships with other people. However, I did not address the reason why adult friendships are so important in the first place.

As we get older, it becomes more challenging to form meaningful relationships. Part of this problem is because so many of our friendships are decided for us as children. Before school, our friends are determined by our neighborhood or our parents and their friends. When we enter school, our friends are often determined by our classes and then our interests. As we enter middle school and high school, our friends cluster around sports and after school activities. Once we begin college, we become friends with our roommates, classmates and people involved in the same organizations.

What do we do once college is over? Life after college makes it difficult to make friends because all the rules seem to change. If we move to a new city after college, we can no longer rely on our high school and college friends to help us form meaningful relationships. For the first time in our lives, we are on our own to decide who we should spend time with. Most people understand this problem well, but they are not sure how to combat it. Over time, it becomes easier to isolate ourselves, only spend time with our coworkers, or binge TV shows in our spare time.

Why Should We Make New Friends?

The short answer is that we need friendships for our own benefit. Research has shown that our minds improve when we are in healthy relationships with other people where we feel seen and supported. We need friends to help us through our depression and anxiety. As we move away from family, we need connections to help us feel grounded and challenge our negative thoughts. We also need friends that will support us through breakups, career problems and mental health challenges.

We also need friends because of how we grow and change as we care for other people. When we support our friends, we learn how to show empathy and compassion. These are important skills to be better partners, employees, and parents. Having friendships and giving to others helps us feel a sense of purpose. It is important to ensure that we are not making friends because of a need to feel needed, because this can lead to heavy dependence on the friend or resentment when we do not care for ourselves. Instead, healthy relationships reflect a mutual benefit where each party cares for the other and supports them when needed.

How Do We Make New Friends?

Meeting new people is one of the most challenging aspects of being an adult. There may be days where the only people we interact with are our coworkers. While it is important to have good working relationships with our coworkers, it is not always beneficial to our career to make them our only friends. Here are a couple of ways to connect with people outside of our normal sphere of influence.

  1. Join lifestyle app groups that allow you to connect with people in your area. Many apps now allow you to connect with people based on common interests so that you can meet new people in your area. There are many cities that have hobby groups, like language learning, birding, crafting, sports, etc., that can help you connect with people while doing something you enjoy.
  2. Find a gym or join an intramural sports team. If your gym has fitness classes, take a break from your routine to try meeting new people. If not, is there a class you might enjoy? Meeting friends at the gym has the added bonus of keeping you accountable to your workouts and taking care of your physical health.

Sometimes, meeting new people can be nerve-wracking. It can also be difficult to assert ourselves in social situations and break the ice with new people. If you find that meeting new people makes you anxious or you struggle to form meaningful connections, a therapist can help you learn how to overcome these barriers. Call today!

Written by therapist Elise Champanhet

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