“In fact, a weak social circle is bad for your health, adds Barker. According to research from Brigham Young University, not having enough friends is the same risk factor as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”
As a kid I was the most open, approachable person you’ll ever meet. I had no trouble making friends, I cornered even the shy ones.
Some experiences have led me to be more wary about people, so making new friends doesn’t come as naturally as it used to. It’s propably a mix of poor self-esteem and getting attached to people quite strongly – which always opens up a possibility to getting hurt.
Luckily despite all my issues, I have been blessed when it comes to friendships.
Laws of attraction
I don’t know that in my current life situation (work, two kids, marriage) I intentionally try to seek out people to bond with. But some just stumble on my path, whether I try to look for them or not – and I’m certainly not complaining.
Some of my friends I’ve known for so long (one friend 33 years out of 36!), I have no idea how we initially met, or how long it took for us to get a thing going.
What I do know, is that a certain chemistry, attraction is present in all my friendships. It doesn’t necessarily mean we were best buddies the second we met. Just that there was something that made us (or at least me!) want to swap more than a mere hello.
Sometimes the attraction is so present, it’s almost tangible. In those situations I’m very adamant that a person belongs in my life.
Almost twenty years ago a black haired girl walked into our classroom. I can’t remember how she was introduced or anything – but I do remember thinking “She intrigues me.” When we finally hooked up through a mutual friend, we were an instant hit. And we really are like the sun and the moon, but I could never imagine my life without her.
Some friends feel more like family, even when they live further away. (I love the fact that whatsapp exists.)
Some friends you don’t see in years, and still, when you bump into them, you chat like you had just seen them yesterday.
There are those friends that have stood by you every step of the way, helping, giving much needed love when you had none to give. And they still keep on giving. Advice, laughter, experiences…
There’s even a friend who held my hand in childbirth and saw a baby come out of me – and it all felt perfectly natural. She’d make a perfect midwife by the way, even though she might not think so.
All friends so different, all contributing to my happiness in one way or another.
How to find friends
I’ve managed somehow apparently! But I never had any kind of calculated tactic. Mostly I just try to keep an open mind.
I’ve met friends through work, studies, hobbies… All quite natural places to meet people. I’m not picky about age or gender either – you never know who you hit it off with.
I’ve met some really intriguing characters through friends of friends – so if I’m asked to join a party or a dinner for example, I try to go. Even if it scares the shit out of me (honestly, I’m no social butterfly…)
What if people feel like the scariest thing ever
If you feel like you need a bigger social circle, but you suffer from e.g. anxiety or depression or you’re just shy, meeting new people is propably going to feel daunting. I must confess I was lurking at home for quite some time.
But then I realized I could use our kid as a clever cover-up. I shamelessly used him as an excuse to meet people. Even then I didn’t join a moms group, but rather found out if any of our neighbours were home with a baby too. I just function better when there’s not too many people to talk to at the same time.
And as luck would have it, I found someone.
The importance of having friends
It’s that age old wisdom about sharing. Share your sorrows and they will seem lesser. Share your joy and it’ll multiply.
When my friends succeed, have happy events in their lives, are trying new things… I’m there to share the excitement. With a pure heart. I can be many things, but I’m not jealous. I feel their butterflies, their smiles and I’ll feel an instant lift myself.
Admittedly, while not so strong myself, I propably haven’t been the best consoler to all those around me. I am there to listen though. Most of the time that’s really all any of us need.
Doing different things with different friends – all a bit depending on our life situations, history (or taste in music!) – just gives me so much.
Friends, who know you like the back of their hand, friends who share your passion for books and writing, friends who understand your work life, friends who have that similar stage in life, friends who made it through school with you and those who will party with you all night long and have the courage to laugh at your ridiculous hangover. Then there are those new beginnings where you are cautiously figuring the rules of that particular friendship out.
What it takes to be a friend
You have to work on your relationship. You can be insanely blessed, like I was, and get your friends back after a long silent period (because of a relationship by the way, not mental health issues) – but it doesn’t always work like that.
Like I said, I get attached to people, which also means that I’m fiercely on my friends’ side.
My only fear is that I don’t always know how to show my appreciation well enough, remember to stay in touch often enough, or I leave something unsaid in fear of conflict, which may lead to weird situations.
Let opportunity knock
Seeing as how I’ve managed to quit smoking six years ago, I would think it a bad policy to let my social circle shrivel.
So that in mind, being more open to people, and opportunities to meet people, is something I’m trying to embrace as part of my happiness project. I actually quite enjoy my me-time, but I would go nuts without my friends!