Friendship is one of those universally loved parts of life. Good friends can make hard times easier, and the good times all the better. It's why figuring out if you're in need of more friends, or perhaps more importantly, in need of better quality friendships, is so incredibly important.
According to Dr. Debra Umberson, a sociologist at the University of Texas, in a piece for Time, "Strong social relationships support mental health, and that ties into better immune function, reduced stress and less cardiovascular activation." The same article also sites a study that found that friendship can do as much for our health as quitting smoking and exercise. Basically, friendship doesn't just help make us happy; it helps make us healthy.
However, a study published in The American Sociological Review has shown that the number of Americans who say they don't have any one close to them in their lives with whom to share important issues (i.e.: good friendships) has drastically increased in the last several decades. This unfortunately means there's a lot of lonely people out there who could benefit from more quality friendships.
If you're worried you don't have a strong and reliable enough social network in your life, here are nine signs you could need more friends, as well as what you can do about it.
1. You're Always Doing The Initiation
In a piece for Psychology Today, clinical psychologist Susan Heitler noted that you may not have enough friends — or at the very least not have enough healthy friendships — if you're the one constantly doing the initiating. A healthy friendship should have a good balance of effort.
2. You Feel Like Your Friendship Is An Emotional Roller Coaster
Heitler also said that feeling like your friendship or friendships have very dramatic and exhausting emotional ups and downs can be a big red flag. Remember — your friends are for the most part supposed to lift you up and make you feel good — not bring you down.
3. Your "Friends" Only Reach Out When They Need Something
In another Psychology Today piece on friendship, professor and licensed counselor Dr. Suzanne Degges-White said that a big sign of a poor friendship is when the "friend" only reaches out when they need something from you. If all your friendships seem to be based on what you can provide for others, you may not have enough of the good kind.
4. You Constantly Make Excuses For Them
Degges-White also stressed the significance of always making excuses for supposed friends. If you find yourself constantly rationalizing behavior that hurt your feelings or negatively affected you, it may be time to really evaluate if this is a person you want in your life and who values you in the same way you value them.
5. You're Often Lonely
This one may seem obvious, but I still think it's worth mentioning. If you often feel lonely — like you don't have someone to call at the end of a hard day, or someone to text a funny story to just because — you may not have enough meaningful people in your life. And this can happen even we technically "know" a lot of people on a surface level.
6. You Feel Like Your Friends Are Unreliable
According to psychologist and friendship expert Irene Levine, Ph.D, a telltale mark of a bad friend is when they can't be depended upon. If you don't feel as though you have anyone in your life that you can count on, it's likely a sign you're in need of more true friends.
7. You Feel Like Your Friendships Are One-Sided
Dr. Levine also said that a friendship should feel balanced. You should feel like you get back as much as you give, as opposed to being an endless well of support, attention, and energy for someone else.
8. You Don't Look Forward To Time With Them
Degges-White also said that in general, we should look forward to time with friends, but if you generally find yourself trying to avoid spending time with them, or try to get out of social obligations with them, it could mean it's not a very good friendship to begin with.
9. You Don't Feel Like You Have Someone To Depend On
This last one is another personal tip. I've always felt that the mark of a great friend is someone you can call when you're really in trouble (like, I think my appendix just burst kind of trouble), and they will drop everything to be there for you. If you don't have at least one friend in your life who you think fits the bill, it could be an indicator you're short on meaningful friendships.
If you have read the above and feel like a lot of it resonates, don't worry — there are actually a lot of steps you can take to grow your friend base. According to consultant Margaret Manning in a piece for The Huffington Post, you should start making friends by "chasing your passions, not people." This means you should sign up for classes and activities that interest you, and a lot of the time, friendships will follow.
She also said that it's important to be open to inviting new people into your life. So be proactive about getting their contact information and following through with plans. Get comfortable with the idea of being the initiator at first.
Not feeling as though we have enough friends can be extremely isolating, but the good news is there are absolutely steps you can take to broaden you social network — you just have to want it!