As we get older it becomes harder to make new friends. As adults, we have fewer opportunities to meet people and our responsibilities tend to take up a large portion of our time, leaving little room for new friendships. 

For many, the social circles that formed so easily when we were younger start to shrink as life pulls us in different directions and friends relocate to different cities or even other countries. Many feel isolated and lonely as a result.

While making new friends comes naturally to some, for others it is a daunting and intimidating task. But it is essential to force ourselves out of our comfort zones to forge friendships. Studies have repeatedly shown that strong social ties are the key to happiness. Friendships support and shape who we are: our friends hold us through hard times and celebrate with us through good times. 

READ MORE: Friendship woes - how secrets and jealousy can ruin your friendship, plus 5 things you should never do to your friends

Here are 10 ways you can make new friends:

1. Start with people you know

Reaching out to complete strangers might be too intimidating at first. Start by reaching out to acquaintances, colleagues and people in your immediate social circles. Make contact with friends you haven’t seen in a long time and initiate arrangements. Join your friends when they are hanging out with their friends. Invite a colleague out for lunch. 

2. Tap into communities/groups with similar interests

Once you have had a bit of practice with people connected to your social circle, start looking outwards. Identify your interests and then tap into communities or groups with similar interests. Sign up for workshops or courses or do some volunteering. Join groups on social media or online community forums that connect individuals and host events for like-minded people. 

3. Be sociable

Even though you might be a bit out of practice, force yourself out of your comfort zone and start accepting invitations to go out. Make an effort to attend parties, festivals and events. If you have not been invited, ask your friends if you can tag along. 

4. Be curious

When conversing with a stranger, show that you are interested by asking questions. Questions are good conversation starters and will help you to get to know the person. Be a good listener and engage fully in the conversation by staying present.

READ MORE: 7 things to consider before always turning to your friends for advice

5. Be respectful, warm and open-hearted

We tend to gravitate to people who give off a feeling of warmth and openness. When meeting new people be warm, kind and respectful. 

6. Be authentic

When meeting new people be yourself. Don’t try to predict what people are looking for in a friend and don’t try to be something that you are not. People can feel authenticity and the best thing you can offer someone is your true self. There are people out there who will resonate with who you are. You don’t ever need to change yourself. 

7. Be vulnerable

Foster intimacy by revealing parts of yourself that you don’t share with everyone. Sharing and being vulnerable leads to connection, every time. Don’t offer all your most intimate secrets immediately, but gradually start to reveal yourself. 

8. Be open to difference

Although it feels both rational and intuitive to seek out people who are similar to us, we often find connections in unexpected places. Be open to meeting people who are different from you. Withhold judgement and give people a chance. Differences in background, religion and politics can make for interesting and beautiful friendships that can lead to growth.

READ MORE: Your social circle can affect your mood, expert advice on why you may have to cut ties with certain people

9. Make an effort

Keep in touch with new friends: reach out and keep showing up. Set aside time for seeing and connecting with friends. The more time you spend with people, the closer you become. Friendships, like any other relationships, take work and effort. 

10. Be there for your friends

Our closest friends are the ones we can rely on. Show people early on in the friendship that you have this quality by offering to help or support them. Be available and be willing to go out of your way for them. 

What are the unique ways in which you've made your friends? Tell us your story here.

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