6 ways to build and strengthen friendships

by Kaiser Permanente |
Group of friends laughing

Stressful days are inevitable. Maybe you missed a deadline at work. Or you got stuck in traffic on the way to an appointment. Or the garbage disposal backed up. Again. When you’re having one of those days, a quick phone call from a friend can turn it all around.

The bad days don’t seem quite so bad when you have a friend listening to you and supporting you. It's important to remember how much our relationships can affect how we feel. When you're tired and overwhelmed, getting a nice text message from a friend can really make your day better. Whether you have lots of friends or just a few close ones, what matters most is that you're there for each other. It’s vital to feel supported and valued by the people around you.

In fact, spending too much time alone can be bad for your health. According to the American Heart Association, social isolation can be dangerous, especially for older adults.1 Feeling lonely can increase your chances of heart problems or even an early death.

Studies have shown that people with good, stable friendships are less likely to feel sad and tend to be happier overall.2 Not only are friends good for your mental health, they can help you stay physically healthy, too. People with strong social connections are less likely to have health issues like high blood pressure or being overweight.3

How to make new friends

It’s not unusual to have fewer friends as an adult. Maybe you’ve moved away or grown apart — or just been busy with life. Fortunately, it’s always possible to make new friends no matter how old you are. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some tips to help you expand your social circle:

  • Be open: Friendships can be found anywhere. You just have to put yourself out there. Strike up a conversation with your neighbor. Say hello to the regular customers at your local coffee shop. If you have a dog, head to the dog park and chat with the other dog owners you meet there. Say yes when you’re invited to something — and then return the favor by offering your own invitation. The more people you meet, the more likely you are to make a new friend.
  • Join clubs or groups: Sign up for a cooking class at a community center. Or take a Pilates class at your local gym. You can even join a recreational sports league. There are also meet-up groups organized around activities or hobbies like hiking or board games. When you share common interests, it’s easier to bond and form a friendship. Plus, hobbies can be good for your health.
  • Volunteer: Help others in your community by offering your time and talents at a community center, place of worship, hospital, museum, or local food bank. Animal shelters are always looking for people to help walk dogs or play with cats. Wherever you choose to volunteer, you’ll meet people who care about the same things you do, and that can lead to great friendships.

How to keep friends

Friendships are like flowers — strong healthy relationships take time and energy to grow. Without that commitment, you can drift apart. Maintaining a friendship takes a lot of work on both your parts, but it’s worth the effort. Strong friendships can make you happier and healthier, but to have good friends you need to be one. Here are some ways to make your relationships stronger:

  • Practice open communication: Share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences with your friends. Let them know they can be vulnerable with you, too. Open and honest conversations build trust and make your relationships stronger.
  • Be a good listener: Giving support is just as important as getting support. When you’re a good listener to your friends, you’re showing genuine interest in their lives. Avoid distractions and give them your full attention. Being a good listener shows you care.
  • Spend quality time together: Building a close friendship takes time from both sides. Schedule regular get-togethers or activities and check in with each other when you’re not hanging out. Doing fun things together strengthens your bond and deepens your friendship.

It can be tough to maintain friendships but it’s also rewarding. Strong social connections are a key part of your overall health. No matter how busy life gets, it’s important to take time to make new friends or catch up with old ones. Investing time in your friendships can help you feel healthier and happier overall.

For programs and services that can help you connect with others, explore community resources in your area.

1Crystal W. Cene et al., “Effects of Objective and Perceived Social Isolation on Cardiovascular and Brain Health: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association,” Journal of the American Heart Association, August 4, 2022.

2Karmel W. Choi et al., “An Exposure-Wide and Mendelian Randomization Approach to Identifying Modifiable Factors for the Prevention of Depression,” The American Journal of Psychiatry, August 14, 2020.

3Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health,” Mayo Clinic, January 24, 2024.