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What to Do if You Have No Friends

Can't make friends as a grown-up? Take this author's advice.

I hate being lonely. And I would know. Because of the work-and-travel lifestyle I recently adopted, in the past two-and-a-half years I have moved, alone, to five new cities, two new countries, and travelled solo through dozens of communities around the world.

While travel brings much richness to my life overall, those first weeks by myself in a new place are still so hard on me. I’ve had to learn to build community quickly and to be patient with the process of forming friendships. Sometimes this “learning-how-to-make-friends” journey feels like being in preschool all over again.

Here are my best tips on how to make friends as a grown-up.

Move into a community-minded home

Communal living arrangements have been my most significant source of connection while moving frequently. I would never move to a new city and live by myself — I know that it would exacerbate my loneliness.

Regardless of whether you’re new in town, consider how your current living situation impacts your sense of belonging. Is living solo making you feel lonelier?

It is possible to feel lonely while living with roommates, too. If your current shared house feels more like a group of strangers than a community, maybe it’s time to move. Use Craigslist’s housing listings or Facebook share-house groups to find co-op housing or intentional communities. Many such settings involve group dinners and weekly house meetings, all of which can build friendships over time.

Do what you love

Anything that involves an activity that you love and a group of new people is a great place to start building connections. These groups will connect you to like-minded people. That’s how friendships start.

Join a community garden. Play for a weekly social sports team league. Attend your church’s young adult group or a Bible study. Show off your useless facts during bar trivia nights at the local pub. Regularly attend a meaningful volunteering opportunity. Audition for a community band, orchestra, or chorus. Join an improv comedy class. Cheer on your alma mater at a game watch party with the local chapter of your university’s young alumni group.

And don’t forget to check out the events that your local library hosts — from book discussion groups to language-learning conversation sessions to coding lessons, libraries often host a rich array of community events.

Use Meetup and Facebook groups

Our generation is so lucky to have the internet as a resource to build connections! The website Meetup has been an incredible resource for me. Meetup is a worldwide database of locally-led clubs that gather folks with similar interests together to do shared activities. I’ve mainly used it to attend group hikes, but Meetup includes affinity groups ranging from knitting circles to bird watching sessions to LGBTQ+ frisbee leagues. Facebook groups are great for niche group activities, as well.

You may even find that these group events lead you to further social connections. This happened to me recently when I attended a Meetup hike in my new city. Someone on the hike invited me to join a beach day trip the following weekend, which led to an invite to a social soccer league. Stay open-minded and keep putting yourself out there.

Use dating apps to make friends

It might sound odd, but I’ve found dating apps to be a decent place to meet friends. People looking to date are already open to new connections. I met two of my closest friends by using dating apps when I was new to town.

I’ve got some advice, though, if you’re looking to make friends on dating apps. Write a clearly-stated “only looking for friends” intention in your profile. Once you start chatting with anyone, be up-front about your intentions for a friendship to prevent misconceptions that the friendship may lead to dating. Or even better — avoid misunderstandings by using the app BumbleBFF, a friends-only offshoot of the dating app Bumble.

Create your own events

Start your own events to attract the people you want to befriend. Wish you had friends to share a love of literature with? Create your own book club. Post fliers at the local cafe, bookstore, library, or wherever your future book club buddies might be hanging out. Wish you had friends to go to concerts with? There’s probably a Facebook group for that, too.

I got my first taste of this go-getter, create-your-own-group attitude last year when I first moved to Colorado. I sorely missed having friends to join for meditation, yoga, and dance. These were some of my favorite activities where I’d lived before, but I did nothing to change my situation.

A new co-worker of mine had a different approach. Seeing the void in spirituality groups in our area, he started a weekly dance and meditation group that became quite popular. This group became my greatest source of friendship and community when I lived in that Colorado town. It really inspired me to take initiative next time I’m longing for a particular group.

Shore up your mental health

Finally, take care of your mental health while looking to make friends. Being lonely can feel depressing and stressful. It’s tough to feel those emotions without a good social support system. Consider working with a therapist, life coach, priest, or a spiritual advisor. These individuals are trained to hold space for people to untangle challenging areas of life, such as loneliness and relationships. These individuals may even help you to resolve patterns that have prevented you from forming friendships thus far.

Keep with it

Quality friendships take time to blossom and grow. Not everyone you meet with on your friend-making quest will be right for you, but that’s okay. These interactions still teach you about yourself and the types of people you connect with. Keep putting yourself out there until you find the people you click with — you’ll know when you find them. And always remember your inner worth and value, which your future new friends will be lucky to know.

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