Source | FastCompany : By STEPHANIE VOZZA
Friendships are more beneficial than just sharing laughs over a cup of coffee. A lack of strong relationships increases your risk of premature death from all causes by 50%, according to research from Harvard University. That’s the same mortality risk as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. If your social life is looking light, it might be time to make some new friends, but it doesn’t have to be an intimidating and awkward process.
“Get it out of your head that it’s harder to make friends when you’re older,” says sociologist Jan Yager, author of Friendshifts: The Power of Friendship and How It Shapes Our Lives. “It can actually be easier because you know who you are, and what kind of friend you would like.”
The secret to making new friends is as simple as being open to it. Here are six things you can do to fill your calendar and forge new friendships:
The first impression sets the stage on whether a person will be communicating with you or not, says psychotherapist Richard E. Toney. “The key is your facial expression,” he says. “Think about people who you’ve seen in grocery stores, airports, and even in long lines that are near you. If you see them grimacing and frowning, you more than likely will not communicate with that person because they do not appear approachable or even nice.”
An inviting smile or a courteous head nod could go a long way in allowing people to know that you are available and open to communicating, he says. And being a good listener is a big part of being approachable, adds Yager. “Too many focus on sharing with others, forgetting that they need to be there for their new relationships that might become friends,” she says.
One of the best ways to make new friends is to meet people with whom you share a common interest, says John Boese, founder of GoFindFriends.com, a website that helps New Yorkers find new friends. Turn your hobby into a social activity by joining a meetup.com group or social sport league, he suggests.
Going to places that you enjoy allows you to be around like-minded individuals, adds Toney. “It is easy to start up a conversation about things that you like,” he says. “Once you find someone who has similar interests to yours, you can exchange phone numbers or email addresses and keep in touch.”
“Feeling positive is one of the absolute requirements of friendship, and how we choose who we want to spend time with,” says Shasta Nelson, CEO of GirlFriendCircles.com, an online community that helps connect women, and author of Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness.
Figure out ways to help other people feel better for having spent time with you. Saying “thank you,” being encouraging, asking questions, validating feelings, and smiling are all ways of affirming new friends, she says.