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One of the most common complaints of the average adult is that they can't find authentic friendships. According to a 2018 study, half of Americans feel lonely. Another 40% say they feel isolated from others. Between all the normal responsibilities of adulthood like work, kids, and family obligations; fitting in time to build genuine relationships feels virtually impossible. It's hard to make friends.

However, the reality is friendships are an essential component of your overall health. In her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, Australian nurse Bronnie Ware listed "not maintaining friendships" as one of people’s biggest death-bed regrets. Studies show adults with social support have a reduced risk of depression, high blood pressure and maintain lower BMIs. Older adults with a rich social life are even more likely to live longer than their peers!

Deepening Your Relationships

So what gives? Everyone struggles with building adult relationships, but there's plenty of evidence to tell us how important they are. The good news is you really don't need dozens of friends to be happy. 3-5 close personal relationships is all the average person needs to feel satisfied within their circle. But even still, maybe struggle to stay connected in the day to day bustle of life. Here are some easy ways to strengthen connections with people you already know.

  • Send a text. This seems too simple and may feel impersonal, but a simple text to ask someone how they're doing can go a long way. A text shows you thought of them without dramatically disturbing either of your schedules. 
  • Make a phone date. Finding time to have a genuine phone conversation can be challenging, but a preplanned phone date can be an excellent way to maintain a connection. Due to multiple recent moves, most of my friends are out of state. Scheduling monthly phone dates keeps our lives connected and ensures its time when we both focus on authentic conversation. 
  • Social Media. Social media is often criticized as a shallow excuse for friendship, but it's truly what you make of it. Make a point to engage with the people you care about. Social media can be an excellent way to enrich your friendships and keep up with people but don't be the silent stalker. Push yourself to comment or tag people when you see a post that makes you think of them. 

Starting From scratch

Maybe you read this and think "That's great, but I'm not even sure if I have people I would feel comfortable texting!" Sometimes breaking the ice is the most difficult part. Just remember that almost everyone is seeking deeper friendships so it's likely that your attempt won't go unnoticed. Even if it's the person you've only made small talk around the office with, push yourself to take the next step. Invite them to lunch. 

In life beyond college, friendships can feel nearly impossible to build. Remember you aren't flying solo in feeling lonely and many people are in the same boat. Be the person who makes the first move. Start engaging with acquaintances or neglected friendships more consistently. Pretty soon you'll find that you have a happy little groups of friends. 

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