Why friends are important
When we're young children, many of us seem to have little trouble making new friends. Kids tend to bond quickly but as we age friendships grow and develop differently. As adults, we tend to become more guarded with new people and have less time to devote to friendships. Consequently, most of us find it much harder to make new friends. If you've never experienced a close friendship, even as a child, you may find it even harder as an adult. But we all need and want good friends, even those of us who may sometimes pretend otherwise.
The need for friends is instinctual. Our survival once depended on having friends to hunt and find food with, to help us build shelter and keep our families safe, and for companionship. Today, good friends are just as important. They add a special meaning to life. They help you enjoy the good times and overcome the difficult ones. While strong relationships with friends can be a huge source of fun and pleasure, they are also important for your physical and emotional health.
Good friends can:
Improve your mood. Happiness can be infectious. Spending time with happy and positive friends can elevate your mood and boost your outlook.
Help you to reach your goals. Whether you're trying to get fit, give up smoking, or otherwise improve your life, encouragement from a friend can really boost your willpower and increase your chances of success.
Reduce your stress and depression. Having an active social life can bolster your immune system and help reduce isolation, a major contributing factor for depression.
Support you through tough times. Even if it's just having someone to share your problems with, friends can help you cope with serious illness, the loss of a job or loved one, the breakup of a relationship, or any other challenge in life.
Support you as you age. As you age, retirement, illness, and the death of loved ones can often leave you isolated. Having people you can turn to for company and support can provide a purpose as you age and be a buffer against depression, disability, hardship, and loss. Staying socially engaged as you age keeps you feeling positive and boosts your happiness.
Of course, friendship is a two-way street. Being a good friend to someone brings them all of the above benefits, and boosts your own happiness and sense of self-worth in the process. It also makes you feel needed and adds purpose to your life. While developing and maintaining a friendship takes time and effort, the many benefits of having a close friend make it a valuable investment.
Why you might need to make new friends
Commitments such as work, romantic relationships, and family may cause you to neglect existing friends or not prioritize social engagements. Or friendships may simply fade over time as interests and circumstances in your life change. Thus, one often has to make new friends throughout his or her life.
You may need to make new friends if:
You've recently moved to a new area.
You've retired, or changed or lost your job.
You've recently divorced or finished a long-term relationship.
You are an older adult and friends have died or moved away, or you've lost mobility and maintaining a social network has become more challenging.
You're shy or suffer from social anxiety and feel that it's impossible for you to meet new people and develop friendships.
You've rarely or never experienced close friendships before in your life and are unsure what to look for.