health

Making new friends can improve your health and life.

I recently had a conversation with an older man who was thriving in an adult senior community near my home. “Why does everyone live so long and so vivaciously here?” I asked. “Easy,” he said. “We can’t die or our bridge partners will kill us!” He threw back his head and laughed, then waved goodbye as he and his girlfriend left for a social club meeting. That’s how I want to live.

Having strong social relationships can actually help you live longer. Scientists found that people with good social ties had a 50% higher chance of survival over time — similar to the health benefit of quitting cigarettes.

Having great friends is an easy sell, but some people are better at making those connections than others. If putting yourself out there isn’t really your cup of tea, here are a few ideas that might help you make some new friends.

“You may be out of practice when it comes to making new friends, but it is important to make the effort,” says Deanna Hill, administrator at English Oaks Convalescent and Rehabilitation. “Having strong social connections can not only boost your mental health, but your physical health as well.”

Join a support group

When you’re going through something difficult, you need good relationships more than ever. Support groups can be an excellent way to make lasting connections. You can find people who know exactly what you’re going through and can give you support during hard times. And if you think you should only find a support group when you’ve gone through a life-changing event, look closer. There are lots of support groups for all kinds of needs, so reach out and find one that has what you need.

Get a pet

If going out and meeting new people scares you to death, this option could be perfect for you. Pets are excellent companions on their own — a dog is called “man’s best friend” for a reason. But, along with the bond you can form with your pet, your animal can help you to meet new people as well. Head to the dog park and meet fellow owners, or go for a walk with your pet and let it help you bridge the gap between you and others.

Volunteer

Volunteering is good for your soul in a lot of ways — and not just because you are doing good. It can actually help you be a more social person. If you are an introverted person, volunteering might give you an opportunity to do something outside of your comfort zone, with other people. It naturally gives you a connection to your community and the people you are helping. Volunteering with other people gives you a chance to connect with new people or enrich existing relationships.

Making friends is good for your health, so you shouldn’t be content to be a homebody. Whether you have one good friend or a whole gaggle, having a connection with somebody is important. Find a way that works for you and have fun putting yourself out there.

Dr. Amy Osmond Cook is a health care technology consultant and VP of marketing at Simplus, a platinum Salesforce partner.