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Friendship: How to Make and Keep Friends (and Boost Your Health)

By February 20, 2018Self-Improvement
Reading Time: 5 minutes
The next Whole Life Challenge starts in:

Making friends as a kid is easy. When you’re young, you see your friends every day at school or at after-school activities. No full-time job or adult responsibilities means kids can spend endless hours of playing, laughing, and talking with friends.

Then adulthood hits, and with it work and family responsibilities.

At some point you realize friendship takes work, and overwhelmed with just getting through the day, you wonder: is it all worthwhile? This is especially true if you have a spouse and kids at home. Isn’t that enough human interaction for any person?

It’s not.

Friends are good for your health. Studies have shown adults with a strong social support network have a reduced risk of depression, high blood pressure, and obesity. Friends can help you celebrate your successes and provide support when you’re struggling. People who share your interest in healthy living can also help you have a healthier lifestyle. If your friends are always going to gym and eating well, you are more likely to exercise and eat well, too.

So how can you, as a busy adult with work and family pulling you in every direction, develop and maintain quality, long-lasting friendships? Here are some tips for making and keeping these important relationships.

Friendship: How to Make and Keep Friends (and Boost Your Health)

1. Making Friends

It can be surprisingly difficult to make friends as an adult. When we’re kids and young adults, we are thrown into repeated interactions with people of the same age with similar interests: in the classroom, on teams, and in activities.

The trick to making friends as an adult is to replicate these repeated interactions with people who share an interest. This might mean taking a class, joining an organization, or volunteering. If you see the same people every week, it’s much easier to naturally develop a relationship that blossoms into a friendship than trying to connect with someone at a one-time event. A shared experience that involves a challenge, like training for a marathon or doing the Whole Life Challenge together, is another way to form a friendship.

So, let’s say you’ve met someone you think would be a good friend, and you see this person every week at your tap-dancing class. How do you take the next step and make a friend before the class ends?

  • One of the best ways to connect with someone is to simply show an interest in them. Pay attention, ask questions, and remember the details.
  • The next step is sharing something vulnerable about yourself. Friendship is characterized by intimacy, so open up and share a problem you are experiencing. It doesn’t have to be your darkest secret, just something personal you wouldn’t share with an acquaintance.

2. Deepening Friendships

Once you’ve made a friend, how do you deepen the relationship into something meaningful? First, make plans that foster communication. If you go to a movie together, make time to get coffee or a meal afterward.

Going for a walk is a wonderful way to connect — conversation seems to flow better when we’re moving, and there’s usually something interesting to look at and discuss along the way. When the conversation moves into deep, personal topics, don’t shy away. If your new friend says, “This week has been really difficult,” ask why. Then, share what you’ve been struggling with as well.

Another way to deepen a friendship is to ask for a favor. Asking for something makes you vulnerable, and you’d be surprised how eager people are to help. Don’t ask for money, of course, but a ride to the airport, assistance planning a party, or help with a pet or a child are all great favors to request.

Friendship: How to Make and Keep Friends (and Boost Your Health)

3. Resolving Conflict

It’s bound to happen: at some point, you and your friend will have a disagreement. When this happens, it’s sometimes tempting to let the friendship die, rather than face the conflict head-on. This is a mistake. Remember how long it took to develop your friendship and recognize that working through these issues is part of a deep, meaningful relationship.

The first thing to do when you have a conflict with a friend is to talk face-to-face. Don’t attempt to resolve the problem through text or email. If you live far away from your friend, a phone call is the next best thing.

When talking about the problem, don’t attack or assign blame. A good technique is to use “I” instead of “you.” So, you would say, “I feel like we haven’t been spending much time together,” rather than “You’ve been avoiding me.”

Be honest and open with your friend. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, for example more of your friend’s time, but be willing to compromise. It could be your friend is going through a difficult time and can’t spend more time with you. If so, work with your friend to think of ways you can maintain your relationship that doesn’t cause stress for your friend.

Above all, be understanding. Nobody is perfect, and there are some things you might need to put up with, like the fact your friend is always late, if you want to continue the relationship.

Friendship: How to Make and Keep Friends (and Boost Your Health)

4. Maintaining Friendships

Friendships take work. The good news is if you like the person — which you should because you are friends — the work involved is enjoyable. So keep the following in mind:

  • Be generous and assume the best of your friend. This means you shouldn’t keep track of how many times you reach out to plan activities or jump to conclusions about why you haven’t heard from your friend. Just call your friend and say, “I miss you. Let’s hang out.”
  • Stay interested in your friend’s life. Ask about things that matter to your friend, and really listen when she answers. A good friend will return the favor.
  • Be honest, both about your friend and yourself. If a friend asks your opinion, give it. There’s nothing more valuable than a friend who gives it to you straight. In return, tell your friend when things are rough. Ask for advice and always ask for help when you need it. Nobody should suffer alone.

While a good friendship does require some work, a friendship should never be abusive or toxic. Be generous, but expect respect and kindness in return. Friendships should enrich your lives and reduce stress, not cause anxiety and pain.

Boost Your Health with Friendship

Along with your health resolutions for the year, resolve to work on your friendships. If you wish you had more friends, try some new activities and reach out to like-minded people. If you’ve been letting a friendship languish, call your friend and say, “I miss you. Let’s go for a walk.”

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Hilary Achauer
Hilary Achauer is a freelance health and fitness writer. Her work has appeared in the Huffington Post, Greatist, Racked, Men's Health, Today's Parent, San Diego Magazine, and the CrossFit Journal.

A former children's books editor, Hilary once competed as an amateur boxer, but now spends her free time in a CrossFit gym or surfing. Find out more about her at