Back to School for Grown-ups
If you loved: MAKING NEW PALS
Now try: BROADENING YOUR CIRCLE OF FRIENDS
It was always exciting to meet new classmates, and school made it easy to grow those relationships in school plays, sports teams and recess. “As kids, we’re always growing and socializing, but as adults, that evolution can stall if we don’t purposely support it,” says Amy Johnson, Ph.D., a social psychologist in Chicago. Bringing people into our lives exposes us to new ideas. Friends also stave off loneliness and offer support and advice (and new friends often offer a fresh take on stuff you’ve been analyzing with your old pals for years). No wonder studies show that having friends helps fight the blues, inhibit chronic disease and increase longevity and late-life mental acuity.
Research suggests we “catch” the moods of others, so bolstering our social circle with new faces also directly affects our happiness, generosity and kindness, says Caroline Adams Miller, MAPP, author of Creating Your Best Life (Sterling). She notes that the best time to meet new pals is when you’re feeling upbeat, optimistic and inspired. To that end, Miller suggests figuring out when you shine, and then finding groups and settings that let you do this. “You’ll naturally attract like-minded people to you when you’re at your happiest and most authentic,” says Miller. Concerts, yoga retreats and knitting stores all tap specific interests and offer a chance to connect.
To build a bond, Johnson says you should first get over preconceived notions of how friends should act, and replace them with stuff known to make relationships strong—things like listening and talking. A 2010 University of Michigan study found that talking to other people, the way you do when making friends, can also improve memory, self-monitoring and the ability to suppress external and internal distractions—all of which are essential in solving common life problems.