We don't talk about loneliness enough. It affects everything. When you're lonely, you feel more depressed and anxious. It's often harder to concentrate on your work, which affects your career. And it's really bad for your health; it's equally as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Fortunately the opposite is also true. When you feel connected, you tend to relax physiologically. Your heart rate goes down. Laughing is ridiculously good for your health, whether with coworkers or friends.
I've lived in at least five cities over the course of ten years; as a Millennial, that's about par for the course. The majority of American adults will make several moves during the course of their lives, and every time you do it's a transition. It's an adjustment. And one of the most profound parts of that adjustment is making new friends.
Whether you've just moved to a new city or several of your friends have gotten married or had babies and you're suddenly finding yourself alone a lot more, making new friends as an adult is critically important.
Here are seven ways to make it easier:
1. Take a class
Last year I started taking an improv class on Thursday evenings. Some people were there to strengthen public speaking skills; some just wanted more fun in their lives (me).
It was a blast. Once a week, I got to feel silly and creative. And it was easy to make friends, especially since the studio put on shows about once a month, after which everyone grabbed drinks. I gained a whole new community just by attending that one class.
One of the best ways to make friends is through a class or some other community that meets regularly. When you see people over and over, it's easier to bond, to know and be known.
2. Join a Meetup
Same idea. There are hiking Meetups, golf Meetups, Meetups on learning how to DJ, even competitive Cards Against Humanity Meetups (yes, really).
Again, when looking to make new friends, prioritize ones that meet regularly (like ones where members go on a hike every Saturday morning).
3. Tell people you're looking
Don't be afraid to let people know you're looking for friends and social events. "Hey, I just moved here and I'm looking to get involved in stuff, and meet new people--so if you hear of anything, let me know."
People are kind. They'll invite you to a Labor Day BBQ, or tell you about another group you could join. For example, if on Friday afternoon you let your coworkers know you're looking for things to do, they'll want to help, and they'll think of things to do that weekend.
4. Hit up your alumni network
When I was in my early 20s, I ended up in Barcelona. I knew I wanted to stay there, which meant I needed connections. So I posted on a college alumni board, "Hey, does anyone know anyone in Barcelona?"
Within six hours, I had an email connection to a fellow alumna. She ended up letting me crash on her floor (saving me the cost of a hostel), helping me in my job hunt to become an English teacher, and introducing me to her hilarious trio of Italian roommates.
To this day, she's one of my closest friends.
You can also just hit up Facebook. Tell your network you're looking to make some good friends in your area, and do they know anyone cool in [St. Louis]? Then just follow the leads. You'd be surprised how well this works.
5. Take a class at General Assembly
When you learn something stimulating, your dopamine levels spike. Again, favor ongoing classes over one-off ones. And take a class you're interested in; you might even end up becoming friends with the teacher.
6. Start social dancing
You really go wrong with this one. If you start picking up swing, blues, or salsa dancing, you're setting yourself up for a fun social situation, and you'll also be listening to fun music, which boosts your mood. Plus it's more active than just watching Netflix at home.
Most cities have a weekly swing dance with a lesson beforehand; ditto for salsa.
7. Join a kickball league
Or any adult sports league. You don't have to be good; you just have to be enthusiastic. The added advantage of this is that it gets you outside regularly, which, again, is a mood-booster.
The most important thing to keep in mind when you're making friends as an adult is that it's possible, and that there's nothing wrong with you. There's something about loneliness that can affect your self-esteem.
And remember that you're not alone. There are people out there right now who are looking for friends in your area, and just like you, they feel nervous or unsure.
We're all on this ride together.
"Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It's not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything." - Muhammad Ali