Around eight billion people live on the planet. Yet, despite the vast numbers of human beings adults come across during their lifetimes, creating friendships and meaningful connections is not something that just happens.

Research shows that having friends and healthy, close relationships improves overall well-being. On average, however, most people have not made a new friend in five years. Making friends is easiest for people in their 20s, say researchers, but studies suggest creating new friendships throughout life is essential to overall wellness. So, how does an adult go about making a new friend?

Expand Social Circles

In 2018, health insurer Cigna released a study focusing on loneliness in the U.S.. Around half of the 20,000 respondents reported that they either always felt alone or sometimes did.

Shared interests can help people develop new connections, but expanding to new activities expands social circles. Joining a book club, volunteering, participating in a cultural event, and attending social gatherings open up opportunities for meeting potential friends.


Devote Time to Create Meaningful Connections

Friendships take time to cultivate, and studies show that spending time together is a necessary step in friendship development. Yet, the U.S. Department of Labor found that Americans spend only 41 minutes each day socializing, in comparison to an entire third of their day watching television or commuting.

Research shows that most adults need to spend an average of 164 hours together to transition a casual friendship into a closer, more intimate one.


Move Beyond Superficial Conversation

Although coming on too strong can push a potential new friend away, researchers discovered that slowly moving toward less superficial conversation over 45 minutes created a connection between strangers.

A simple question-and-answer session is a good start to getting to know someone better. Opening up and revealing a bit about yourself and being a sincere, attentive listener will help create a solid base for a blossoming friendship.


Self-Esteem is Key

A 2020 study showed a person’s relationships and their self-esteem influenced each other throughout their life. Using constructive strategies to resolve interpersonal conflicts, showing physical affection, and other positive behaviors tend to improve self-esteem by also improving relationship satisfaction.

People with high self-esteem are more likely to handle the developmental stages of building healthy friendships.


Consider Limiting Social Media

A study from the University of Pennsylvania uncovered a link between decreased well-being, social media use, and isolation. Users tend to make social comparisons with those they follow and conclude that their own life is less interesting or successful.

The study did not suggest doing away with social media. Instead, researchers suggest limiting regular use, which could improve self-image and provide a motivating factor for seeking friendships in the real world.


Oversleeping Leads to Loneliness

The Cigna study found that people who slept just the right amount scored higher when it came to making friends. These individuals reported feeling more outgoing and friendly, which made it easier to find companionship.

People who overslept were more likely to isolate themselves from others and feel left out or shy. Health experts recommend that adults get between seven and eight hours of quality sleep each night.


First Impressions Matter

People are more likely to strike up a friendship with those who have shared interests or histories. But first impressions are also a strong indicator for finding new friendships. According to one study, when an individual meets someone they like, they smile more, relax, and nod often. They find it easier to engage in conversation.

The other person picks up on this behavior and responds in the same ways, creating a new dynamic that could lead to additional interactions, and eventually, a friendship.


Pets Can Help Create Friendships

Behavioral experts note that one of the most common ways adults create friendships is through pet ownership. Research suggests that people who own pets are 60% more likely than non-pet owners to get to know the people in their neighborhood.

The research shows that people who walk their dogs are more likely to befriend another pet owner. Dog parks are not only excellent places to socialize pets — they seem to work well for their humans as well.


Don’t Avoid Workplace Friendships

Many people make friends in the workplace, but others feel reluctant to mix their social life with their professional one. Although studies show that friendships formed outside of the workplace may last longer, work friendships are based on shared circumstances and casual interactions. The friendship builds more slowly, day by day.

Studies show that these relationships not only provide workers a sense of belonging, but they also feel more passionate about their work and have a stronger connection to their employer and increased productivity.


Children, Adolescents, and Friendships

Peer relationships are critical for children and adolescents. Multiple studies have found that children who make friends in early adolescence tend to be healthier and more well-adjusted adults.

One study suggested that children learn a series of 36 questions when they are attempting to establish new friendships at school. Researchers say the questions not only reduce prejudice and build closeness, but they also help bridge gaps between children from different backgrounds.


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