9 – Building Your Support System

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If you have found that the older you get the harder it is to make new friends, you are not alone. All the ways in which we made friends when we were younger don’t apply to our current stage of life. Some of our old friends have either drifted away or become ill; perhaps we have drifted away as well without realizing it. Staying in touch with people who are no longer part of our lives takes a lot of energy and motivation.

We need friends all our lives but never more than in our later years. A Journal of Health and Social Behavior report notes that having strong social bonds helps us live longer. It boosts our immune system and allows us to enjoy a more meaningful life. It helps reduce stress, chronic pain, the risk of heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Life is unpredictable, especially as we grow older. When we hit a rough patch, we need those who will understand what we are going through or at least be able to listen to us as we try to explain. We need a support system because giving and receiving support from others is a basic human need. We need it because it leads to higher levels of well-being, better coping skills, and a longer and healthier life. We need it because it reduces depression and anxiety.

If you want to develop a support network, start by looking around you. Who is in your life? Have an open mind. Expose yourself to new situations, new opportunities, and new people. Being open to new opportunities often means stepping outside your comfort zone. When a new friend invites you to go somewhere you have never been or do something you have never done, and you’re tempted to say no thank you, pause a few seconds to reconsider. You might actually have fun, but if you refuse too often, the invitations may stop coming.

Another way to meet new people who share your values is to volunteer for a cause you care about, such as a charity, a civic organization, or a political campaign. There are also many benefits to working out with others: building strength and endurance, meeting new people, and having someone to compete with besides yourself. For those who are computer savvy, check out friendship apps that will allow you to meet new people from across the street, across the country, and across the world. If you approach it with the right attitude, the effort can lead you to some great friendships that might last a lifetime.

Make reach out and touch someone your new mantra. It will pay off in surprising ways.