Some people make friends easily, while others find it more difficult. Leaving home and starting at university can mean leaving friends behind, leaving a gap in your life.

Research shows a peak in the number of friends during our early 20s, followed by a steady decline as we move into our late 20s. Some friendships do last a lifetime, but people do change and friendships don’t always last.

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to meet new people and establish new friendships. For most of us, that’s easier said than done. So how do you make new friends when you need and want them?

  1. Recognize that it’s normal and even healthy to want to make new friends.
    1. Remember making new connections does not have to mean that you are being disloyal to your old friends.
  2. Realise it’s not your fault you aren’t making friends.
    1. Nobody taught you how to make friends as an adult and how difficult it can be. Most advice (‘just be yourself’) isn’t practical and you need clear advice, which is hard to find.
  3. Find like-minded people.
    1. Find a society or group on a subject you enjoy or have an interest in. If you can’t think of one, just look at the Student Union website and pick one that seems interesting.
  4. Take a look at some of the connections that already exist in your life.
    1. Find something in common. One great way to meet new people is to think of something that you enjoy. Whether it’s looking after animals, reading books, cooking, playing videogames, or collecting something, someone else out there will enjoy it too. The good thing about meeting people because of shared interest is that there is always a topic of conversation.
  5. If it’s not easy for you to make new connections, don’t give up right away.
    1. The idea of leaving the house or being surrounded by people might make you anxious. This is completely normal. To reduce anxiety, keep trying, setting new challenges each time. For example, at a first society meeting, you might want to just ‘drop-in’ for 30 minutes. Next time, try an hour. Then, try introducing yourself.
    2. Remember that there is no “one-size-fits-all” for making new friends. It might be as simple as just talking to other people. When making friends take the initiative you don’t wait for your friend to message you. If they don’t reply right away, don’t give up on them. Having a good friend means being a good friend too. Being there for someone and listening to them when they need you are just as important as them doing the same for you.

There is no doubt that making and maintaining friendships is important and takes emotional investment. In the long run, it is well worth the effort.

This guest post is written by the First Aid Training Co-Operative, as part of their campaign to raise awareness of the need for mental health first aid in academia and the workplace