Sometimes, we get to the point in our lives where we feel as if our circle of friends and support is shrinking. Our children are grown and either away at school or married and starting families of their own. We retire and often lose the everyday camaraderie and socializing from having a full-time job, and we get stuck in our ways, not comfortable with branching out and meeting new people.

All of these factors can create a weakened support system, but don’t worry, there are ways to improve that.

Focus on Quality Over Quantity

While social media allows you to add dozens of “friends” to your online networks with just a few clicks, these types of social media friendships don’t deliver the same satisfaction that real-life connections do. Social media isn’t always an ideal place to share deep vulnerabilities or have intimate conversations.
A human connection where information can be shared in confidence allows for more meaningful revelations, more opportunities to discover the roots of troubling issues, and more chances to actually engage in enjoyable hobbies, such as outdoor biking or savoring a meal at a new restaurant. If you feel a connection with someone, value that bond and work to make it stronger, rather than adding five new acquaintances you only feel comfortable talking to about frivolous topics.

Find Connections with Shared Interests

To start finding friends you can really count on, cast wider nets by attending networking events focused on activities you enjoy. MeetUp.com offers social groups for a diverse array of interests based on area, including outdoor fitness groups, art clubs, and gaming organizations. Peruse the calendar at your neighborhood community center to find events that resonate with you. If you’re introverted and hesitant to join a big group setting, keep in mind you’ll at least be able to enjoy the activity you’re doing. Pledge to head to an event for at least 15 minutes, and if you hate it, leave. Chances are that you’ll be glad you came and will meet someone you relate to.

Other ways you can meet new people while having fun and boosting your health include:

  • Volunteering for a cause you care about
  • Taking a class
  • Making an effort to connect with an online social contact offline
  • Connecting with an alumni association or a faith-based community
  • Telling current contacts you’d love to meet new people, and being open to invitations to group get-togethers

Nurture current and new friendships by making the effort to engage with them face-to-face at least once a month. If you live in different cities, a free video conferencing tool such as Skype or Google Hangout allows you to chat and connect from miles away. Focus on the positive aspects you can contribute to a friendship, and hone your listening skills so that your friends feel valued and are more likely to reciprocate. Friendship is all about a delicate balance of give and take, and making substantial social connections can provide a sense of purpose and bring you numerous health benefits.