It’s possible to make friends as an adult, but it may require a bit of effort and dedication.
Adulting can bring its own challenges, and making new friends can be one of them.
Time constraints, juggling many responsibilities, and structured routines can make it hard to meet people or even nurture relationships you already have.
But friendships are essential for your emotional and mental well-being. A
- feelings of loneliness
- social isolation
“Adult friendships are important to help people feel a sense of community in whatever stage of life they are going through,” says Gauri Khurana, MD, a psychiatrist in New York City.
So, how do you make friends as an adult? Consider these steps to improve your social circle:
One way to grow your network is by tapping into your existing one. You may already have acquaintances that are potential close friendships in the works. Maybe you haven’t had the chance or time to explore those connections yet.
Consider the people you encounter regularly at your fitness classes, place of worship, book clubs, school, workplace, or favorite coffee shop. Those casual encounters may be one meaningful conversation away from a closer friendship.
Some of the ways you could help the transition include:
- inviting them for a cup of coffee
- starting casual conversations that may slowly become longer and more meaningful
- offering to share your unique experiences or even recent events
- making a plan to meet outside your usual meeting place
Khurana says that tapping into your friends’ circles of friends is also a great way to meet new people.
Many friends spend time talking about commonalities and engaging in activities they both enjoy.
Shared interests can make for effective conversation starters and solid friendships in the long run. There’s likely someone out there who shares your hobbies and interests.
To find people who share your interests and beliefs and who can potentially become friends, try the following:
- join local groups on Facebook, MeetUp, and other platforms that take social activities offline
- start or join a club or organization that revolves around a specific hobby or interest
- share about your interests on social media and check who engages
- participate in local events, such as signing up for a 5k race or volunteering at a local animal shelter
- take group classes for cooking, dancing, kickboxing, or gardening
You may already do some of the above. That means you could have many potential friends around you and could move to transitioning them into closer connections.
Meeting new people isn’t easy for everyone. Maybe you’re shy or don’t have a lot of opportunities to socialize.
But what about the way you think of yourself and others? Exploring what you tell yourself about making new friends could help you discover any thinking patterns that could be preventing you from originating new connections.
- Are you concerned about what others think of you?
- Do you fear rejection?
- Do you have difficulty expressing your emotions?
Exploring these questions might be helpful.
Shyness, personality disorders, and living with depression could be making it harder for you to make new friends as an adult.
Cognitive distortions can also filter how you see yourself and others. But negative thinking can be challenged.
If you need support to work on these potential roadblocks, reaching out to a mental health professional could help.
If you live with mental health conditions, particularly social anxiety, you’re not alone.
“Anxiety and other mental health issues often present in adulthood, and social anxiety can make it harder for adults to feel like they can connect with others,” says Khurana.
But social anxiety can be managed. If you need support, consider talking with a mental health professional who can help you develop coping skills and find alternative ways to make new friends.
Adults who spend most of their waking hours at their jobs may find it difficult to blur the lines between their professional and personal lives. While friendships may develop at the office, they often take more time to establish.
It’s important, then, to set realistic expectations when you try to make adult friends. Research says it could take around 200 hours of spending time together to make a new friend. So, it’s OK if you don’t establish a close bond right away. Try giving things time to flow.
Quality over quantity applies to many things, including friendships. You may need fewer friends than you might think.
According to Khurana, one to three close friends can offer you many rewarding benefits of adult friendships.
It may be a satisfying experience to spend more time and energy on those few quality connections than making new friends.
Friendships may not always work out. Inviting the possibility of making new friends can be opening yourself up to rejection and disappointment. Though it may not be a pleasant experience, rejection is part of life and is often inevitable.
“A friend break up can be more traumatizing than a romantic relationship that ends because the level of support and understanding that you had with a friend is usually more than one had in a relationship,” explains Khurana.
Understanding why a friendship ends can help you gain tools to strengthen future relationships.
Coping with rejection or dealing with the end of an adult friendship may be hard. It’s natural to feel hurt, but it doesn’t mean you can’t develop a great bond with someone else.
How adults make friends depends on many factors, including opportunity and personality.
Adult friendships offer great benefits to mental and emotional health. It doesn’t mean finding friends as an adult is easy or effortless.
Giving it some time to flow naturally, turning acquaintances into friends, and exploring your insecurities could make it easier when you decide to form new connections.
If your feel lonely or are having a hard time establishing new relationships, a mental health professional could offer the support you need.