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I was heading into a new decade of my life feeling strong about my career, my life accomplishments and my relationship with my partner. But when he asked me who I wanted to invite to my birthday party, my mouth opened and I let out a long trail of "ummms".


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We can be great friends to each other, despite the distance, if we choose to make the effort. If we remember to make the time, we can have those types of meaningful, fulfilling conversations that make us feel seen, understood, appreciated, and supported. I compiled some of the ideas that resonated strongly with me some of them paraphrased or slightly altered for ease of reading. Be kind and listen. Be fun and light. Be serious when needed, love extensively, and forgive always.

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As the COVID pandemic drags on for many of us, making and maintaining friendships has become even more important.

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For specific help at this difficult time, see our Coronavirus Mental Health Toolkit. Our society tends to place an emphasis on romantic relationships.

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We think that just finding that right person will make us happy and fulfilled. But research shows that friends are actually even more important to our psychological welfare. Friends bring more happiness into our lives than virtually anything else. Friendships have a huge impact on your mental health and happiness. Good friends relieve stress, provide comfort and joy, and prevent loneliness and isolation.

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Developing close friendships can also have a powerful impact on your physical health. Lack of social connection may pose as much of a risk as smoking, drinking too much, or leading a sedentary lifestyle. Friends are even tied to longevity. One Swedish study found that, along with physical activity, maintaining a rich network of friends can add ificant years to your life. Many of us struggle to meet people and develop quality connections. Improve your mood. Spending time with happy and positive friends can elevate your mood and boost your outlook. Help you to reach your goals.

Reduce your stress and depression.

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Having an active social life can bolster your immune system and help reduce isolation, a major contributing factor to depression. Support you through tough times. Support you as you age. As you age, retirement, illness, and the death of loved ones can often leave you isolated. Knowing there are people you can turn to for company and support can provide purpose as you age and serve as a buffer against depression, disability, hardship and loss. Boost your self-worth. Being there for your friends makes you feel needed and adds purpose to your life.

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Technology has shifted the definition of friendship in recent years. With the click of a button, we can add a friend or make a new connection. But having hundreds of online friends is not the same as having a close friend you can spend time with in person. So make it a priority to stay in touch in the real world, not just online. A friend is someone you trust and with whom you share a deep level of understanding and communication.

A good friend will:.

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As friendship works both ways, a friend is also someone you feel comfortable supporting and accepting, and someone with whom you share a bond of trust and loyalty. The most important quality in a friendship is the way the relationship makes you feel—not how it looks on paper, how alike you seem on the surface, or what others think. Ask yourself:. The bottom line: if the friendship feels good, it is good. A good friend does not require you to compromise your values, always agree with them, or disregard your own needs.

If you are introverted or shyit can feel uncomfortable to put yourself out there socially. Focus on others, not yourself. The key to connecting to other people is by showing interest in them. Pay attention.

1. realize your fear is in your head

Switch off your smartphone, avoid other distractions, and make an effort to truly listen to the other person. We tend to make friends with people we cross paths with regularly: people we go to school with, work with, or live close to. The more we see someone, the more likely a friendship is to develop. So, look at the places you frequent as you start your search for potential friends. Another big factor in friendship is common interests.

We tend to be drawn to people who are similar, with a shared hobby, cultural background, career path, or kids the same age. Think about activities you enjoy or the causes you care about. Where can you meet people who share the same interests?

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When looking to meet new people, try to open yourself up to new experiences. Not everything you try will lead to success but you can always learn from the experience and hopefully have some fun.

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Volunteering can be a great way to help others while also meeting new people. Volunteering also gives you the opportunity to regularly practice and develop your social skills.

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Take a class or a club to meet people with common interests, such as a book group, dinner club, or sports team. Websites such as Meetup. Connect with your alumni association. Many colleges have alumni associations that meet regularly. You already have the college experience in common; bringing up old times makes for an easy conversation starter.

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Some associations also sponsor community service events or workshops where you can meet more people. Walk a dog. Dog owners often stop and chat while their dogs sniff or play with each other. Attend art gallery openings, book readings, lectures, music recitals, or other community events where you can meet people with similar interests. Check with your library or local paper for events near you. Behave like someone new to the area. Cheer on your team. Going to a bar alone can seem intimidating, but if you support a sports team, find out where other fans go to watch the games.

You automatically have a shared interest—your team—which makes it natural to start up a conversation. Making eye contact and exchanging small talk with strangers is great practice for making connections—and you never know where it may lead!

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We all have acquaintances in our life—people we exchange small talk with as we go about our day or trade jokes or insights with online. While these relationships can fulfill you in their own right, with some effort, you can turn a casual acquaintance into a true friend.

The first step is to open up a little about yourself.

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Friendships are characterized by intimacy. So, try sharing something a little bit more personal than you would normally. Do they seem interested?

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Do they reciprocate by disclosing something about themselves? Invite a casual acquaintance out for a drink or to a movie. Lots of other people feel just as uncomfortable about reaching out and making new friends as you do. Be the one to break the ice. Take the first step and reach out to a neighbor or work colleague, for example—they will thank you later.

Challenge #1: tap into your friends of friends network

Carpool to work. Many companies offer carpool programs. Spending regular time together is a great way to get to know others better and offers the opportunity for uninterrupted and deeper conversation. Track down old friends via social media.

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Here are some common obstacles—and how you can overcome them. Developing and maintaining friendships takes time and effort, but even with a packed schedule, you can find ways to make the time for friends. Put it on your calendar.