Friends play a vital role in our lives, providing support, companionship, and a sense of belonging. However, in an era dominated by technology and virtual interactions, building a truly deep connection has turned into a challenging endeavor. We are facing an epidemic of loneliness and isolation in the world. In this article, we will explore the importance of friendship for our overall well-being and offer science-based tips on how to make new friends.
Why do we need friends?
Multiple types of research showed that friendship is an important factor in well-being, while loneliness and social isolation are associated with an increased risk for conditions like depression and anxiety or heart disease and stroke.
Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, claimed that loneliness is as harmful to physical health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
On the contrary, according to a multigenerational Harvard study, known as the longest study on happiness, good relationships are the key to a long, healthy life.
“The clearest message,” says Robert J. Waldinger, the head of the study, “that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
The decline in friendship
There is bad news. In recent years, there has been a noticeable decline in the number and quality of friendships. Among young people, ages 15 to 24, time spent in person with friends has reduced by nearly 70% over almost two decades, from roughly 150 minutes per day in 2003 to 40 minutes per day in 2020, said Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General and the author of «Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World».
Some of the significant factors to contribute to this phenomenon are the coronavirus disease pandemic and the consequential spread of remote work.
For example, in the USA l, three decades ago, only 3% of people said they had no close friends; in 2021, an online poll put it at 12%. About a year into the pandemic, 13% of women and 8% of men aged 30 to 49 said they’d lost touch with most of their friends.
Moreover, technology has made loneliness worse. Social media platforms, while offering connectivity, often create shallow connections that lack depth and authenticity. People who used social media for two hours or more daily were more than twice as likely to report feeling socially isolated than those who used such technology for less than 30 minutes a day, according to Vivek Murthy.
How can we develop deep connections?
So, we know that we are in need of friendships, and at the same time, we are struggling with making friends. What can we do about this?
As a mentor of Cumorah Academy, Brian Hill explained during leadership classes the foundation for sincere, true friendship is shared experiences, both positive and negative. We can develop connections with others via:
- Novelty — doing something new together, like playing a game for the first time, traveling to a new city, visiting a new place, etc.;
- Challenge — going through hardships together, like working on a complicated project, hiking, difficult sports activities, etc.;
- Self-Disclosure — having deep, sincere conversations and taking risks to reveal emotions and weaknesses.
No matter how small, shared experiences create feelings of belonging as well as give the opportunity to make our relationships more trustful and intimate.
All in all, if we want to make friends, we need to actively seek shared experiences. We can join clubs by interests, local communities or organizations, and attend events and social gatherings, including participating as a volunteer.
True friends can be found at any stage of life. The first essential step to making them is to admit that we all need friends; they enrich our lives and make us healthier and happier.
If you want to make friends from all over the world and learn more about connection and communication, you can join the next semesters at the Cumorah Academy. We share many experiences together, like trips, teamwork, social projects, volunteering, and more!