As a young adult, it often feels like the world is your oyster when it comes to making new friends. You’ve got college classes full of peers to attend, a seemingly never-ending social calendar, and have never found it difficult to strike up a conversation with a stranger in a bar. Fast forward a few decades, however, and things aren’t quite so simple.
“It’s more of a challenge to make friends as an adult because this group of people is often in the prime of their lives building their career and families,” says life coach Dr. Jaime Kulaga, Ph.D, LMCH. “It can be tough working around various schedules, trying to find a time that is good for everyone to meet up. Adults work around children’s schools and sports schedules, plus have their own work schedules, and some adults in their later 40s take on caregiver roles for their parents. Managing the day-to-day family unit is tough enough, let alone trying to find time to actually squeeze in a much-needed social life. And, when you do find time to meet up, it is often for shorter periods of time and not frequently.”
In fact, according to researchers at Duke University and the University of Arizona, American adults reported having approximately one less friend in 2004 than the same demographic had just two decades earlier. Worse yet, the results of a Gallup poll reveal that 16 percent of American adults have just one or two friends—and a shocking two percent admit to having none at all. Fortunately, just because you’re witnessing your social circle getting smaller in real time doesn’t mean that friendlessness is in your future. With these simple tips for making friends over 40, a wider social circle is within your reach. And if you feel like your fear of flying solo is occupying too much of your time, you’ll definitely relate to these 20 Signs You’re Afraid of Being Alone.
Lead with a smile.
One of the easiest ways to make yourself seem kinder and more approachable is to simply put a smile on your face. As UCLA neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni revealed in an interview with Scientific American, smiling at someone else can actually activate brain activity in the other person, prompting a similar response.
So, when you’re trying to make new friends, make an effort to keep a pleasant expression on your face—it might just make you more attractive to other people seeking new friends. And for more reasons to start smiling, discover these 20 Crazy Health Benefits of Laughter—No Joke!
Join a trivia team.
For an easy way to make new friends, try joining a trivia team at your favorite bar. “Joining a local trivia team is a great idea because often these groups are made up of people who are laughing and having fun. Adding humor to your life is good for your soul!” says Kulaga. Better yet, “Trivia teams are often scheduled in advance and on a specific day of the week. This helps you to better plan when socials are on a consistent day. One caution: when you join a team of any kind, they depend on you, so be sure to take this on only if you can truly commit.”
Reach out to friends you’ve lost touch with.
If you feel like your friendships have waned over the years, it stands to reason that your former friends have had the same, or at least similar, experiences. On top of trying to build new friendships from scratch, do your best to reconnect with members of your social circle with whom you’ve fallen out of touch—with people you were once close with, you can more or less pick up where you left off. And if you want to make things easier on yourself, discover these 12 Genius Ways to Happily Fly Solo As a Single Person.
Join local groups on social media.
According to a study from the Pew Research Center, 65 percent of American adults use social media, with older adults nearly tripling their numbers on social media in the last decade. With so many people turning to social media, it’s easier to make friends with just the click of a button. One of the easiest ways to do so is by joining local Facebook groups—you’ll not only get to know people in your immediate area, you’ll also get a good idea of what kind of fun stuff is happening right in your back yard.
Conquer your fears.
One of the biggest reasons people have a hard time making friends after 40 is the stigma attached to putting yourself out there, especially when you’re over a certain age. However, instead of indulging those thoughts telling you that trying to meet new people makes you seem lonely or sad, remind yourself that millions, if not billions of people are looking for the same thing—and, in many cases, would be happy to find someone like you to commiserate with.
Strike up a conversation in a fitness class.
Whether your preference is cycling, cardio hip-hop dance, or yoga, fitness classes are a great way to meet new people. Simply strike up a conversation with a fellow participant—you already know that you share at least one interest with them, after all.
Volunteering is good for more than just your conscience—it’s also a terrific way to meet new friends. “Volunteering is a great way to give back and to socialize. When you volunteer you are around people with a similar mission and value system in mind about giving to the community. This puts you around like-minded people, which is always a great foundation to a friendship.”
Volunteer your time at a local food pantry, mentor a child with an organization like Big Brothers, Big Sisters, or join a local park cleanup to get the ball rolling. And to discover how you’re already making the world a better place, check out these 30 Ways You’re Making People Happy Without Realizing It.
Join a book club.
If you’re a bibliophile, joining a book club is a simple way to find your people. Book clubs not only give you a new opportunity to socialize, they give you an opportunity to flex the most important muscle in your body—your brain. In fact, research suggests that reading can not only reduce anxiety (potentially making it easier to make new friends in the long run), but can also lower your risk of developing dementia later in life.
Buddy up to your kids’ friends’ parents.
If you have children, they’re an invaluable resource when it comes to socializing. While parenting can be a lonely pursuit for many people, once your child is old enough for trips to the park or playdates, it’s easy to find common ground with other parents—after all, they’re logging those long hours changing diapers and helping with homework, too.
Invite your neighbors over.
The nice thing about neighbors is that it’s almost like having built-in friends right next door. If you haven’t gotten to know your neighbors yet, there’s no time like the present—try hosting a barbecue or inviting them over for drinks to make the initial introduction easier.
Join your local community garden.
Want to give back and broaden your social horizons at the same time? Join a local community garden. Research suggests that gardening can improve both mental and physical health, and community gardens are a great place to get to know local people intent on giving back to your community.
Make friends with people who you see in non-social contexts.
Think you can’t befriend your barber or hang out with your kid’s teachers? Think again! There’s no good reason that you can’t ask people you know from their workplaces to hang out socially, too. Considering how much your manicurist or personal trainer probably already knows about you, you’ve got a great place to start from.
Hang out with people who might not otherwise spark your interest.
In your teens and 20s, you might find yourself only hanging out with people you find fascinating and brilliant. However, as you get older and friends become fewer and further between, it’s wise to amend your standards slightly. While it’s never a great idea to spend time with people who have a negative effect on your life, making connections with people you might not normally socialize with can help you broaden your social circle in no time.
Say hi to strangers.
Want a quick and easy way to make new friends? Start by saying hi to people when you pass them on the street. Once you’ve gotten comfortable making those initial introductions, you’ll have an easier time meeting new people you’re eager to socialize with, too.
Attend a protest.
Political activism is a great way to meet people with similar interests in your area. There’s a serious sense of camaraderie at protests and political gatherings, and odds are, if someone’s attending the same protest as you, you know there won’t be insurmountable political beliefs standing between you.
Continue your education at a local college.
Making friends in college is easy—no matter when you end up attending. Even if you’ve been out of college for decades, signing up for a night school class will give you a built-in social circle of people to work on projects with, bounce ideas off of, and commiserate with after class. And if you’re looking for some seriously fun classes, try signing up for the 20 Most Ridiculous College Courses You Won’t Believe Are Real.
Reach out to friends of friends.
Your existing friends are a great resource when it comes to making new ones. If you’re looking for some new people to hang out with, don’t be shy about asking your friends to set you up on friend dates with people you’ve met through them.
If you get a reputation for being a person who turns down every invite, odds are they won’t keep rolling in—and sometimes, making new friends is as simple as showing up. “While I would not encourage you to RSVP to every event in town, going to events is a great way to socialize and meet new people,” says Kulaga. But there are a few guidelines to keep in mind. “Be sure to look into the event beforehand to make sure it is of interest to you to begin with. You will not be your best self, and thus attract the right people, if you attend an event you despise, don’t believe in, or couldn’t care less about.”
Get to know your significant other’s coworkers.
If you have a significant other, make an effort to get to know their coworkers in addition to your own. Not only will befriending people your spouse knows professionally expand your social circle, it might even prove to be a potential boon to their career. And when you want to strengthen your relationship, brush up on these 40 Secrets of Couples Who’ve Been Married 40 Years.
Show up at local events.
Your local community is a great resource for making new friends. Show up to enough regional fairs, concerts, and other local gatherings and you’re bound to see some of the same faces, making it easy to connect.
Try a new gym.
Need a reboot on your social life? Try hitting up a new gym. Programs like SoulCycle and CrossFit not only make it easy to meet new people; fostering a sense of community is actually part of the program.
Get a pet.
Getting a pet does more than just give you a furry companion to keep close at night: it’s also a great way to expand your human social circle, as well. In fact, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Davis, strangers are more likely to introduce themselves to someone with a pet than someone without. Better yet, this camaraderie isn’t dog-specific—the people in the study eagerly introduced themselves to turtle and rabbit owners, too. It’s just one of the 15 Amazing Benefits of Adopting a Pet.
Join a local sports team.
Kill two birds with one stone and get in some exercise while you make new friends. Joining a local sports team will give you something to bond with new people over—and those weekly post-game drinks certainly won’t hurt, either. Just don’t overdo it, or you’ll eradicate any potential fitness gains from the game.
Hit up a bar solo.
Who says that going to a bar has to be a joint mission? If you want to meet new people, try heading to your local watering hole solo. While you may have to endure some awkward pick-up lines or offers, you’ll likely meet some other solo fliers—and at the very worst, you’ll get a free drink or two out of the equation.
Attend your local city council meetings.
Getting politically active on a local level is an easy way to meet people who share your values. Attending local city council meetings will help you get in touch with a community of people who care about the same issues—and maybe even those willing to tackle a project you’re passionate about with you.
Exploring the world alone may be daunting at first, but it’s actually a pretty incredible way to learn about new cultures and meet new people in one fell swoop.
“When you go on a vacation to with the goal to meet new people, you will be more apt to put yourself out there and connect with people. The people you meet may not live in your hometown, but with social media you can stay connected more than ever to continue the relationship building. From there, you can plan meet ups a couple times a year, and do a vacation with them at some point,” says Kulaga. And if you’re looking for some must-see destinations, start with the 10 Stunning American Resorts Under $150-a-Night.
Sign up for a crafting group.
A little knitting is good for the soul—and the social circle, too. Find a local crafting group, of which there are thousands on Facebook and sites like Meetup, and you’ll instantly have a new group of people who share your interests to spend time with.
Make friends with your coworkers.
You likely already have a built-in social network, even if you don’t realize it: your coworkers. Suggest a weekly happy hour, invite them along to catch a new movie after work, or propose a group fitness activity that you can all enjoy together.
Ask to tag along.
There’s no shame in asking for a leg up when you want to meet new friends. When you hear a coworker or acquaintance say that they’re doing something you might be interested in over the weekend, ask to join in—just because someone hasn’t explicitly invited you to join yet doesn’t mean they’d necessarily mind the company.
Pay a stranger a compliment.
The quickest way to make a new friend? Pay a stranger a compliment. One study suggests that compliments make people as happy as getting a handful of cash, so don’t be afraid to tell someone they look nice. Start with the 20 Compliments Men Can’t Resist or the 20 Compliments Women Can’t Resist.
Host a clothing swap.
Eager to refresh your closet and make some new friends? Host a clothing swap with some of your friends and neighbors. Not only will you end up with great new pieces without spending any money, you’ll also have an excuse to socialize with a whole new crew.
Canvass for a politician
Change hearts, minds, and the size of your social circle through one easy action: canvassing for a politician. You’ll meet likeminded people, get the word out about a cause that’s important to you, and might just do some good in this world.
Say yes to friends when they invite you out.
For shy people, saying no to a casual invitation is often a reflexive response. When your friends, coworkers, acquaintances, or family members suggest that you get together on a whim, make it a habit of saying yes as much as possible—the more you go out, the more chances you have to meet new people, creating a positive cycle of social opportunities.
Join a supper club.
If you love to cook but are sick of cracking open your copy of Microwave Cooking for One, try joining a supper club instead. These social clubs give you an opportunity to share a meal with fellow gourmets, as well as a chance to practice those recipes you’ve been dying to try out.
Get to know prominent local figures.
If there’s someone in your community or circle of friends who seems to know everyone or be at every event you wish you were invited to, get to know them personally. While super-connected people may seem intimidating at first, they didn’t get that huge circle of friends from being standoffish.
Start a side hustle.
If your current coworkers aren’t the kind of people you can see yourself socializing outside of work, try adopting a side hustle. Sell your crafts at local fairs, help out at a farmers’ market, or offer music lessons to locals—not only will you pad your wallet, you’ll get an entirely new group of people to hang out with in the process. For more ideas on what to do, try out the 20 Lucrative Side Hustle Ideas for Putting Your Savings on Steroids.
Take up running.
As they say, misery loves company, which might just explain why you see so many runners hitting the pavement in pairs. Jogging with a partner can not only make your run a safer experience, it gives you and your jogging partner a chance to get to know each other.
Join a dating site for friends.
Meeting people online isn’t all about finding someone to get romantically involved with anymore. In fact, apps like Bumble BFF, Peanut, and Me3 are all geared toward fostering non-romantic connections.
Get out of the house.
Face it: you’re not going to meet your new BFF sitting in your living room. When you want to meet new people, you’ll have to get physically out of your comfort zone—and off your couch. The very act of leaving your house gives you an opportunity to branch out and discover the world behind your four walls.
Like any relationship, friendships take work to maintain. If you want to both make and keep new friends, it’s essential that you do your best to make an effort. Schedule regular game nights, invite people over for drinks once a week, or just check in via text with some frequency—the more you nurture your new relationships, the more they’ll flourish.
To discover more amazing secrets about living your best life, click here to sign up for our FREE daily newsletter!