We worry about our kids making and keeping friends, and encourage them to engage with their peers often. But, as adults, we sometimes lose sight of the need to have friends. We get caught up in work and family life and put friendships on the back burner. We find it hard to make and keep friends. Sometimes it feels like finding a friend is comparable to dating, which can be daunting to say the least.
Belonging and Purpose
Friendship is important, even as an adult. Having a few good friends means extra support, especially during times of crisis. It contributes to a sense of belonging and purpose. Having friends to laugh and go out with increases happiness levels and decreases stress. A good friend will encourage you to be the best version of yourself, they will push you to take the healthy road and to make good choices. Friends make great sounding boards when we are stressed and overwhelmed and they provide extra TLC when we need it most. Studies, according to the Mayo Clinic, show that older adults with a rich social life are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections.
Now the question is — how do we make those connections? It was easy when we were in school or sports and interacting with our peers on an almost daily basis but now we are more secluded. We are in the daily grind of work and life and it’s hard to make meaningful connections. The key is vulnerability. It takes some guts but once you allow yourself to open up and be vulnerable you can establish real bonds with those around you.
Take advantage of the opportunities given to you to meet people. Interact with your children’s friends parents, talk to the moms at soccer practice, get involved in the community, attend events of interest to meet like-minded people, find a hobby, engage.
We have become so accustomed to hiding behind our phones and other electronic devices that we aren’t communicating in the ways we used to. We are protecting ourselves by building walls and forming surface-based acquaintances rather than deep, meaningful relationships. When we allow ourselves to knock down those walls and share stuff that really matters to us, like personal feelings and experiences, regrets, fears, and ambitions, then we create real friendships. Our vulnerability also allows those with us to feel more comfortable opening up.
Life is busy and it can feel overwhelming to add another thing to your list but friends help to ease that stress, they provide a personal refuge, a safe place.
Author: Alison Pidgeon, LPC
Alison is the Founder and CEO of Move Forward Counseling, a boutique private practice for women with three locations in Lancaster County, PA. She is passionate about reducing the stigma related to accessing mental health services. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.