Restrictions have been lifted and we’re inching towards normality. We emerge from our lockdown caves like prisoners stepping into the light, still in our pyjamas and trying to remember how normal conversation works.
But our hope for things going back to normal can take a serious hit when we think about our relationships.
Maybe you’ve been through a breakup, moved to a new city, or changed jobs. ‘Where are all my friends?’ I hear you ask. ‘I last saw them here, two years ago. Where have they gone?’
Adjusting to post-lockdown life is hard enough, so to suddenly feel like you have no friends to help you through it is tough. It can feel shameful and embarrassing, but it’s more common than you think.
30% of Millennials say they always or often feel lonely. And it’s no surprise, given the fact that making friends actually gets harder the older we get. Think about it. It’s easy to stick two kids in a sandbox and find them five minutes later declaring an undying brotherhood that will endure the ages (or until they both want the same spade). But making friends as an adult? Where do you even start?
Psychologist and friendship expert Dr Miriam Kirmayar understands why this gets harder as we age. She says:
“As we transition out of emerging adulthood (ages 18-25), we’re no longer surrounded by a group of same-age peers who happen to be in a similar life stage and with whom we have things in common. Our life paths begin to diverge more and more from those of our friends, and we can end up in very different places — both geographically and emotionally.”
But just because it’s harder to make friends as a grown-up doesn’t mean it’s impossible! If you feel a bit lonely and could benefit from an injection of much-needed friendship, we have some tried and tested tips for how to get started.
Don’t expect your current friends to change
Maybe you have that one pal who’s just got a boyfriend and never texts you back. Or all your mates just had pandemic pregnancies and you only see them when you’re babysitting. Perhaps your friends are introverted and always cancel at the last minute. That’s okay. You don’t have to ask these people to change, and you should keep hanging out with them in the ways you can – but it might be time to meet some new people who share the same interests as you.
Work on your existing connections
That friend-of-a-friend who’s always at Zumba? Invite yourself to her class. Your cousin who goes to awesome parties? Ask him to bring you along. That colleague you always promise to go to the pub with? Why not actually go to the pub? You can rework your acquaintances into something closer, and ask existing friends to introduce you to more people.
Take up a (sociable) hobby
Book clubs, amateur theatre, dance classes, five-a-side – hell, even chess will do. There’s no shortage of ways to meet fun people with similar interests to you. The hardest part is turning up to the first class on your own – scary, I know, but remind yourself that everyone there was once the new kid. If you find yourself enjoying it every week, perhaps suggest staying for a drink afterwards and getting to know your future BFFs.
Try an app
I promise these aren’t dating apps! Well, except for Bumble – that’s definitely a dating app – but you can find friends on BumbleBFF. Meetup is the holy grail of these kinds of apps – there are interest-specific groups covering everything from sword fitness to lucid dreaming, not to mention speed friending and new-to-the-city introduction events. HEY! VINA has been dubbed Tinder for (girl) friends to meet your new brunch crew. And of course let’s not forget BorrowMyDoggy, where you can find a furry BFF to babysit, which will no doubt make you one popular lady.
Be the person you need right now
Are you frustrated, wondering why no one at work has invited you for a coffee? Are you wishing someone at the dance class would come over to chat to you? Spoiler alert: they might be thinking that too. You’re not the only person feeling shy here!
There’s nothing more gutting than two potential friends being too scared to be the first to reach out. Like that poem about people with blue skin, someone has got to make the first move. If you offer to show the newbie around, or suggest getting some pizza, the other person will probably be glad you asked them. I mean, you’re a really cool person, right? Right.
Remember you’re not alone
Struggling to make friends can be isolating. There’s a lot of stigma and shame tied to not having friends, which makes it hard to speak about. And when everyone’s posting their cocktail nights and girls holidays on Instagram, it can really amp up the FOMO. It’s important to remember that these people are human – they get lonely and have bad days as well.
In fact, there are tonnes of people online who have talked about dealing with loneliness and how they found new mates. Here’s YouTuber Ingrid Nelson’s best advice for making new friends:
Ready to brave the great outdoors and find your new squad? Give our tips a go and you’ll be brunching, bowling, and bingeing Downton Abbey together in no time. You’ve got this.
Article by Jenna Adams.