New to Town? 3 Strategies for Making New Friends

Making friends, that’s hard work. And it can be harder if you’re among the 11% of Americans who have relocated during the pandemic. If you find yourself in a new environment, struggling to make friends, and battling loneliness, you’re not alone.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans report feeling lonely. So you might not be too shocked to hear that the average person hasn’t made a new friend in the last five years. You can have thousands of followers or “friends” on social media and still feel isolated. That’s because loneliness is subjective. — it’s based on your perception of how connected you are to others. The quality of your relationships determines how lonely or connected you feel to others, not the quantity.

Loneliness and mental health

Loneliness isn’t something to ignore. Research suggests that feelings of “loneliness directly impacts our mental health and contributes to symptoms of anxiety and depression.” As loneliness rates increase, so have rates of anxiety and depression. Nearly 40% of adults in the U.S. report symptoms of anxiety or depression disorder, up from 10% in 2019. 

Chronic loneliness is also linked to:

  • Lowered immune response and cognitive functioning
  • Increased risk of chronic health conditions, including high blood pressure 

Some researchers state that loneliness can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

On the flip side, studies show that the more socially connected you feel, the greater your well-being and longevity. “If we cultivate healthy connections, the research promises a longer, happier, and more prosperous life,” according to the Greater Good Science Center.

Tips for making friends as an adult 

Now you might be wondering, how do I make new friends in a new place? Here are a few tips from friendship experts.

  • Look for people with similar interests. Most adults find their social circles at work and places of worship. If you happen to work remotely, which is more common than in pre-pandemic days, psychologists like Robin Dunbar recommend looking for people with similar interests and hobbies. Dunbar is an Emeritus Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at Oxford University and was featured on an episode of the 10 Percent Happier podcast.

He noted that more joy is found when people share an experience in a group setting, like outdoor recreation and going out for drinks. Consider joining a group that shares a common interest, like mountain biking, or visiting your favorite craft brewery with other beer aficionados.

As someone that recently started organizing a monthly happy hour with new friends, I can vouch for this—drinking with a group of friends is more fun than drinking with just one other person. If you feel uncomfortable organizing a group outing with new acquaintances, join the next monthly happy hour at The Haven.

  • Be honest. Dr. Miriam Kirmayer, a clinical psychologist and friendship expert, recommends being up front about your desire to make new friends. You may feel vulnerable and scared, but letting someone know you’re looking to make new friends can allow them to open up and be vulnerable as well. And if you hit it off, they’re more likely to extend an invitation for a future get together.

Being honest at the get-go is also a way to not waste time on people that don’t share similar interests and narrow in on people that are more likely to become a friend. When you meet someone new, therapist Kathleen Smith recommends skipping superficial chatter and going straight to topics that you’re passionate about. Ask yourself, “what’s worth sharing about yourself, and what’s worth knowing about others. Then get right to it.”

  • Making friends takes time and effort. Think about your good friends. How long have you known them? Probably known for many years, even decades. Don’t feel discouraged when you’re in a new space and don’t meet new people overnight.

The reason most adults make friends at work and places of worship is because those places make it easy for you to see the same people over and over. When it comes to building social connections, repetition is important. And if you’re not going into an office or place of worship to see the same people on a regular basis, you have to make an effort to do so.

Whether that’s scheduling a weekly pickleball outing, trail run, or coffee date, schedule in time for regular get togethers with people that share similar interests. That’s building a friendship.

Making new friends in Bend

Here are a few Facebook and Meetup groups to help you find people in Bend that share similar interests. 

Meet the author

Headshot of Kasey Yanna

Kasey Yanna

Haven Ambassador, Communications Specialist

Kasey is a Haven member, freelance communications specialist, and proud mom. An entrepreneur at heart, she dabbles in many ventures, including food blogging and leading local coffee shop tours. With a deep appreciation for good food and gatherings, Kasey is your go-to person for tips on the best food and drink spots in Bend.

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