Spending time with friends is important for your health and happiness. A vibrant social life may protect your brain as you age, a Global Council on Brain Health report found, yet in an AARP survey, nearly 40 percent of adults over age 40 said they sometimes or often lacked companionship. That’s concerning because loneliness can be as dangerous as smoking and obesity: It increases your risk of heart attack, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and other illnesses, research shows.
Want to make more friends? Try these five tips.
- Be patient and persistent. Making friends takes time, so don’t be discouraged if things don’t click immediately. Research shows that we befriend people we’re around the most, so frequent your favorite restaurants, shops, classes and parks.
- Open up. We build friendships by letting people in. Share your musical tastes, fears, likes, dislikes. And, when you need to, ask for help. “If you never ask your friends for favors, they don’t get that satisfaction of feeling needed by you,” says Carlin Flora, author of Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are.
- Make time. Getting to know someone is an emotional investment. Make space in your schedule for others, and when you make a commitment, protect that time. A major source of tension among friends is either backing out on commitments or not giving enough time, notes Daniel Hruschka, author of Friendship: Development, Ecology and Evolution of a Social Relationship.
- Go play. Look for activities you enjoy — a book club, an art class, a sports team, a political group. Check out social websites like Meetup to find like-minded folks. Doing things together is the part of friendship that makes us happiest, according to Meliksah Demir, a professor focusing on happiness at Sacramento State.
- Smile. People are attracted to positive emotions, and a smiling face pulls us in and holds our attention, studies show. Plus, happiness is contagious. If you spend time with an upbeat person, you’re 25 percent more likely to become happier yourself. And that’s what friendship is all about.
Learn more on AARP® Staying Sharp®.
This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any expert, professional or specialty advice or recommendations. Readers are urged to consult with their medical providers for all questions.