Studies claim networks of friends can affect your health
Wilkinson and Marmot’s famous Social Determinants of Health study was a turning point for social science. On Social Support they say:
“Friendship, good social relations and strong supportive networks improve health at home, at work and the community.”
They go on to say that “People who get less social support from others are more likely to experience less well-being, more depression, a greater risk or pregnancy complication and higher levels of disability form chronic diseases.”
How easily do you make friends?
Some people fall into friendships with ease, building instant rapport and finding commonalities that bond them. Others take their time to figure people out, and perhaps keep a distance or from a casual friendship that has no obligations. Whichever you fall into, there are recognised benefits to having a good circle of friends. Whether friendships come easily, or you find it a bit tough, here are some tips for making new friends.
Tips for forming new friendships
Young, old, poor, rich, or socially squeamish, potential friends are everywhere. Here are some tips to making friends.
- The workplace: Participate in social evenings, group lunches or staff birthdays. Show interest in what they do outside of work too so see if friendships could flourish outside the office walls.
- Time on your side: If you don’t work or have retired, consider volunteering or joining a group of likeminded people.
- No place like home: Your family might seem like a well-trodden path on the search for friends, but how many cousins, aunts or uncles could open up new possibilities?
- Just do it: Without trying to borrow a slogan, this one is pretty simple – if you receive a social invitation, say yes before overthinking it.
- When you’re too shy for words: Shyness is a huge obstacle, but with practice it can be managed and even overcome: below are 4 tips to manage being shy.
- You can observe gregarious people try to emulate them.
- Practise listening carefully
- Ask questions
- Find the person who looks the least socially comfortable, and approach them with a smile.
If you’re still struggling: Some people have chronic social problems that stem from a deeper place. If you can’t form or maintain friendships, you may wish to seek out some advice and assistance from a professional. The Australian Psychological Society provides good online resources and can help you locate an appropriate clinical psychologist in your area.
Holding onto friendships
Once you’ve made new friends, the task is now to keep them. Here are a few things you can do to make sure they stick around for the long-haul:
- Give your time and attention. Every friendship, like any significant relationship you’ll have, needs to be nurtured.
- Show your understanding. No-one is perfect. Your friend may make a choice or hold a personal view that you find distasteful or offensive. Decide what is and isn’t worth forgiveness or understanding before you hastily condemn your friend.
- Trust cannot be breached. If you’re prone to gossip, or like to share things that perhaps are no-one else’s business, consider the damage this could do, and how you might react if you discovered your friend was sharing similar private information about you.
- Sharing is caring. Chances are you won’t be the only friend of anyone – so if you find yourself left out of the picture or missed out on a social invitation, try not to take offence.
Are you a good friend?
Psychology Today’s Friendship Doctor blogger, Dr Irene Levine, recommends giving a friendship time to deepen, like a slow burn. Even if you’re madly busy with everyday life, and assume the other person is as well, inviting someone out for coffee or an evening drink after work is a small gesture, but it sets a precedent – you’re willing to make the effort, and maybe it will be reciprocated.
The Friendship Doctor recommends thinking about the kind of friend you’d like to have, and emulating those characteristics.