I know what you’re thinking: “I know how to make friends. I’ve made friends my whole life.”
But the truth is, after we leave college, we all have trouble making friends because our lives settle into grooves of work and family, and we no longer have that giant pool of potential pals waiting just outside our dorm room door. If you’re feeling a tad lonely, here are 9 ways I’ve made friends since turning 50.
1) Follow your intuition. Two years ago I attended an all-day yoga conference. That was great in itself, and I’ve met some wonderful people through it. But the friend I want to tell you about is Carolyn. I spotted her when I first set down my yoga mat, and I was instantly drawn to her. There was just something about her, her adorable matching yoga outfit, her serene face. I kept spotting her throughout the morning, and a little voice kept telling me I needed to meet her. But how? My “grown-up” voice told me I was being weird, and gave me ten other reasons not to do anything about it. But I’ve worked hard on cultivating my intuition, so when we were forming lunch groups by calling off numbers, I watched her call out “1” and when it was my turn I called out “1”, even though I was supposed to be “4”. And sat next to her. And found a soul mate. I can’t explain it… it’s only happened to me a few times in my life. I don’t know if we were connected in another life before this one, but there is definitely a bond there that can’t be rationally explained. Of course, we spend time together, have gotten to know each other, and she’s brought more cool people into my life and I into hers. But at its core… it was love at first sight.
2) Engage in your passion. Two years ago I attended my first TEDxSanDiego event, where I met another experience consultant and blogger, Denise. Through Denise I met Jack and Michael and Mark, and joined an incredible volunteer team that puts on this phenomenal event. Through this I honed a new job skill—speaker coaching—and have met a whole series of cool people, including an Oscar winner, an Auschwitz survivor, and a poetic marine biologist. I found that I was passionate about helping create an experience for other people that could change their lives, even more so than attending the event myself. And the people on this team have become amazing friends. I got to do an equus coaching session with Lisa, ziplined across Jack’s back yard, and am heading to Palm Springs for TEDActive next month, where my roommate is another redheaded German TEDx organizer named Angela, who I’m guessing will become a friend, too.
3) Get a dog. We joke that we wouldn’t have any friends if it weren’t for Buddy Girl, and the truth is that we met most of our close friends through her. When you get a new puppy, you discover that all your dog friends have dogs too old to play with your puppy. So you have to find puppy friends. And that’s how I met Tori and Jeff; it was a puppy playdate fix-up. They are about 15 years younger than us and have two young daughters, so on the surface we might not be friends. But their dog is one week older than Daisy. So we see them every single day. And they are the most awesome family. I have great talks with Jeff at 6:15 as the sun is coming up, and Tori and I share a love of crafting, food, and home gardening. Bonus prize: I get to play auntie to their daughters.
4) Start a hobby, and meet other hobbyists.I had no idea when I started this food blog that it would change my life in such meaningful and profound ways. I did it to serve, sharing my love of healthy food to help others. It never occurred to me that I would make a whole new set of food blogger friends. I have gone on blind dates with other bloggers when I am in their cities, and have made some rich and lasting friendships that happen both on and offline.
5) Widen your age-range view. I think it’s because we spend the first 21 years of our life with people exactly our age, but our view of who is friend material tends to be pretty narrow. Once you open yourself up to befriending people decades older and younger than you, all kinds of fun people fall into your path. I’m thinking of my neighbors Amanda and Joe, 30 years younger, and Dick and Alberta, 20 years older.
6) Build a community garden. I suppose this could fall into #4, but I just had to mention Amy and Mike, my favorite couple from the community garden, twenty years younger than me and wildly tattooed. Love them. There is something about digging in the dirt that bonds you to people in a way that other activities don’t.
7) Do the work with long-term friends. I’ve known Caroline since 1984, and I used to spend every Christmas with her and her family when I lived in Chicago. That was 15 years ago, and we still make time to connect via email and Skype and see each other when we can. The same goes for Robin, pictured above.
8) Reconnect with people from your past. Sometimes you lose touch, and then Facebook connects you again. Jennifer was my intern a million years ago… she’s now the CEO of the museum where we worked, a crafter, and a lover of fashion and Downton Abbey. I adore her Facebook posts and it was fantastic to see her in real life two years ago.
9) Use the Internet. I sold some stuff on eBay last year to earn enough money to buy kitchen toys. Jessica bought a camera from me, we connected and found mutual interests through the process, and now we are Facebook friends. I have no doubt that if/when I get to her city, we will meet in real life and really like each other. Just like friends.
If I didn’t mention you by name, you know who you are and you know that I love you.
A version of this article first appeared on The Huffington Post.
Today’s post is part of our mission to help you rebuild your health through food and lifestyle choices. Look for posts on Mondays featuring gluten-free, sugar-free recipes made with healthy plant-based ingredients and Friday giveaways (when available).