I have been so fortunate to have had the same best friend since I was about five years old. Sheri and I practically grew up together as she lived across the street from my grandparent's house. I spent a lot of time at my grandparent's place. We both have fond memories of hanging out together, spending the night at each other's houses, laughing, playing, and crying together. I know, as she is still thankfully in my life, that she will always be there for me. Always. I know that I could call her at 2am and she would take my call and help me out if I needed it. I hope she knows that I would do the same for her.
It is so important to have friends like Sheri. If you have only one best friend or if you have several, research shows that talking to or hanging out with a true friend like that is one very effective stress reliever. Having a friend with whom you can be yourself, whether that person is a friend like Sheri, or a spouse or a sibling, is a wonderful feeling. It counteracts the stress of our everyday lives, especially since many of us struggle to be genuine in our jobs or social lives. True friends can help you get your mind off of your troubles, help you brainstorm ideas for dealing with things, or, just as importantly, validate your feelings and experiences. All of these things can have the effect of reducing stress.
I recently came across this article talking about the importance of friendships especially in midlife. As a "midlifer" now myself, I can see the benefit of my long-term friendship with Sheri. We've had so many experiences together and despite it all, the good and the bad, we've only grown closer. I can look back on our friendship and know that she's like the sister I never had. She knows me better than probably every other person on the planet and yet she accepts me for who I am and supports me no matter what. Its very life-affirming.
In my office, I have many clients that struggle with finding friendships. It is, admittedly, much more difficult to find true friends (not just superficial ones) as an adult. I believe the first thing to keep in mind, though, is that 99% of the time, that true friend isn't going to just come up and knock on your door. You have to put yourself out there first.
In order to develop new friendships, one of the first places to look, if I was affiliated with any religious institution, would be at that place of worship. If that's tapped out is it time to look for a new religious institution? If you're not religious or you just don't want a "religious" friend, then look at what things you like to do. Are you a huge rock music fan? Do you enjoy engaging in political debate? Do you like to garden? Do you like to ride bikes or go hiking? Do you have children that occupy every moment of your free time? These are all logical places to begin to look for lasting, true friendships. Thanks to the advent of the internet, finding people with whom you have a connection is far easier. There's meetup.com in which you can search for activities in your area that will be attended by people that might enjoy the same things you do. You could try to take a class through your city, community center, or junior college that is something you're interested in learning about. Many stores also offer classes at very reasonable rates. Putting yourself in one of these environments allows you the opportunity to meet some people with whom you have at least one thing in common. Another good resource, if you have young children, is your kids' school. Become involved in PTA or other volunteer opportunitites at school or in your community. Even if you don't make friends with people, you're likely to feel better overall knowing that you're contributing to something important.
The next step is where it gets really hard. Its not too hard, really, to find a class that is something you enjoy or want to learn more about. Its not even too hard to find a volunteer opportunity. The next step requires you to participate fully in that activity. If you decide to take a class or go to a meet up group, you have to actually talk to people! A really REALLY important thing to keep in mind is that you'll be SLOWLY building frienships. You may talk to several people at a class or meet up or volunteer situation and feel like none of them are potential friends. You have to keep putting yourself out there--keep taking classes or keep volunteering--so that the chance of seeing these people or others that are "potential friends" more than once increases. Each time you see the same people that you had a slight connection with before, you can talk again. Eventually, you may find that you can invite them to attend an event that you've discovered or they may invite you out, and slowly, a true friendship has the possibility of developing. The important thing is to NOT GIVE UP! It may take a long time to move past superficial friendship to true friendship. It is so worth it, though.
If you had a best friend when growing up, where is that person now? If they're still alive, can you reach out to them again? If you had an argument with them many years ago that ended the friendship, can you look back on it and see if its something you can get past now? Sometimes, in order to enjoy a true friendship, we have to apologize for our careless behavior or accept the apology of someone that wronged us. If that person is basically a good person, see if you might still enjoy some of the same things and possibly reach out to them across the internet to see if there is any interest on their part to do the same.
The old addage is true--to have a good friend, you must be a good friend. So practice being a good friend to everyone that you meet. Give a smile and get one in return, give a kind word and help another to feel uplifted, do for others (volunteer) and see others feel encouraged. Notice the positive changes all of these things make in yourself. When you do these things, you become more attractive to others and further increase the possibility that someone else will seek you out as the friend they're looking for.