‘A friend is someone who helps you up when you’re down, and if they can’t, they lay down beside you and listen’ – Winnie the Pooh
We’ve talked before about being your own best friend and that is so important, but it’s great to also have other people in your life that you can share anything with and who you know will always be there for you. If you have at least two of these people in your life then you are in a good place! But what if you haven’t? What’s the best way to make new friends? Is it worth the effort?! Or what about if you’ve got friends but you wouldn’t want them to know certain things about you or they annoy you after an hour or two? Should you hold onto them? Can you have too many friends?
Making new friends
Children naturally make new friends all the time but as adults, it can feel pretty scary or even impossible to deliberately set out to make a new friend. You might even think you don’t have time with work and family commitments. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
To start with we can get to know people without consciously thinking about whether they could be a friend or not. By saying hello to our neighbours, the person next to you at the bus stop, chatting to the security guard on our way in to work or the checkout person at the supermarket, we are practicing the skills we need to make friends. By taking every opportunity to speak and smile we are developing our social skills and any one of these people could become a friend! Who knows?
Joining a group or taking a class can be great ways to meet new people with similar interests. Or there’s Meet Up which has events all over the world and whose members actively welcome newbies. Pre-Covid I joined a local Meet Up group to do a fortnightly pub quiz. It was great fun and I found some new theatre buddies from it!
When a conversation does start up, we need to really listen to what the other person is saying, rather than thinking about what we are going to say. Then we can respond with something that shows we have listened and that we care about them and their views. Asking someone about themselves or their day is always a good conversation starter and remember to always give something of yourself too. Good conversation is a two-way thing and good friendships are too. Remember ‘The best way to make a friend is to be one’.
What defines a close friend and can you have too many?
Psychologists say that a close friend will fulfil at least 2 of the following 3 roles:
Emotional support – such as being there for you in the middle of the night when you’ve broken up with your partner and need a shoulder to cry on or spending time just sitting with you as you reel from a medical diagnosis;
Instrumental support – practical things like helping you move house, attacking the weeds in your garden with you, taking you to an appointment or bringing round a home cooked meal when you’re unwell;
Companionate support – maybe watching a film or going for a walk or to a class together.
Surprisingly the answer to whether you can have too many close friends is yes. It can cause us to feel overwhelmed when trying to keep in contact with them all and we can end up suffering with anxiety or feeling drained rather than happy. The quality of our relationships can suffer as we don’t have the time to properly invest in so many friendships. We might even neglect ourselves because we are so busy thinking about and spending time with others. There’s no ideal number, it depends on us as individuals, but if you are beginning to feel guilt about how little time you spend with some of your circle, it might be that you have too many friends.
What about social acquaintances?
A smaller number of close friends is proven to be more beneficial to happiness than having lots of casual acquaintances. As we age, most people tend to have a smaller number of friends and that’s absolutely fine. However, having lots of social acquaintances, maybe through social media, can be great as well, particularly if that is in addition to your close friends. Casual acquaintances can boost and encourage you and help you feel like you have a place in the world. Although if these friends make you feel inadequate for any reason, maybe through their instagram or Facebook posts, then don’t feel bad about unfollowing them or hiding their stories. The idea is for us to feel better about ourselves not worse!
Why do I need friends? I’m happy on my own and with my family!
In studies, people who spend time socialising with friends are generally happier and healthier than those who prefer their own company or who only socialise with their own family. Friendships provide social support and give a sense of belonging. Talking over problems or worries with someone else is almost always helpful and sharing good times gives us the opportunity to relive the happiness all over again.
What if seeing my friends doesn’t make me happier?
We all know the friend who makes us feel worse than we did before we spoke to them, the one who only ever talks about their own problems and worries and who doesn’t listen to us. We need to ask ourselves whether this person really is a good friend? Maybe in some circumstances they are great fun to be around or there’s a joint interest in something that not many other people understand. In this case, maybe we can limit the amount of time we spend with them to those times when we know we will have a good time? Friends should build us up and bring out the best in us, they should be loyal, honest and caring. If one of our friends is never there for us, maybe it’s time to rethink the friendship. There’s no need to stop seeing them, although there is nothing wrong with that if we choose to do that, but we can rethink how, where and when we see them.
So the tiny tweak this week is to think about our friendships and begin to prioritise the ones which really mean something and whose company we enjoy. To spend more time with the people who really matter and to limit time with the ones who don’t build us up. Spending time with a friend should always leave us feeling happier than we were before we saw them!
Until next time xx
If you’ve enjoyed this post, you might like my posts on friendship quotes. If you missed them, you can find them here: https://wordpress.com/post/happyhealthymeajourney.com/617 and https://wordpress.com/post/happyhealthymeajourney.com/1399
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