I have several important friends in my life who help me through all the dark and scary places, celebrate with me, grieve with me, and help me to be my best self. I couldn't wish anything better for you than a wonderful supportive group of friends.

The importance of the people you know begins at an early age. All children learn some of their behaviors from mimicking those around them. You can easily see this in young children as they play house, or play teacher, and imitate exactly the adults they know. If your family wasn’t perfect (and whose is?) you may have learned some problematic attitudes from the role models your parents and others provided you.

It also works the other way around: by being around people who are modeling the kinds of friendship you want, you can absorb healthier and more functional attitudes and behavior. Twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous know this: one of the most powerful aspects of the twelve step model of recovery is attending meetings, where members not only benefit from being rewarded for sobriety, but also by seeing how others deal with addiction and recovery. The role models in support groups can be a very beneficial in the healing process. Conversely, dysfunctional role models can set you back or slow healing.

You can put the power of role models to work to help you change many of your own behavior patterns and replace them with more healthy ways of relating with others by surrounding yourself with people who interact in healthy ways, providing positive role models for each other. A group of friends who provide healthy interaction models is a powerful influence for good.           

We have all heard that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. To a large extent it’s true. Once established, a group of friends can give you a social support group that’s big enough to meet all your social needs; serve as a resource for business, educational and personal connections that will enhance your life in all these areas; provide a number of role models, mentors and teachers; and surround you with a peer group who will understand and support whatever you want to accomplish.

A network of friends is a group for people who enjoy each other. It consists of people who care about you and treat you with kindness and respect, and for whom you also care and treat with the same regard. In such an environment, you can experience the new attitudes with all your senses, seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting the atmosphere as the people around you interact. You can learn how to find, choose, and establish friends of your own who will provide you with the support and encouragement you need to grow and change. The sensory experiences of being surrounded by healthy, loving, supportive friends will also support your childlike mind in maintaining healthy, new ways of thinking.

Getting together with friends you can count on, and meeting new friends or introducing your friends to each other, can build a group with whom you can share holidays, good times, bad times and information. A solid network of friends provides a cushion and a shield in life’s difficult times and someone to talk to when you need support or advice. The same network will also make the good times better by celebrating with you and congratulating you.    Nothing feels as good in life as being surrounded by a trusted and trustworthy group of friends.

Once you have learned how to form a support group and keep it going, you can use it as a prototype for all your future networks. By following these steps, you can change any problematic relationships patterns and begin to develop a healthy new model which will support you in reaching new goals.

There are several groups who may already be in your life who can become your friends:

Supportive Family: There is no better support network than a large, loving family.  Unfortunately, in reality, your family may be too small, too far away or too difficult to deal with. If you don’t have a large extended family, or if your family does not know how to be supportive, or if there are not enough family members who are compatible with you, you can simply choose the one or two people who are supportive and understand what you want to accomplish.

New friends: Frequently, old friends are part of our old habits,and we have to let go; and as we get older or move around, familiar friends may begin to disappear; so meeting new people and developing new friendships is a great strategy. If you haven't made new friends in a while, updating your definition of friendship and increasing your skills at meeting people will be worth your while.

To begin, consider what being a friend means to you. Who are your best friends? What qualities do they have? Once you have a clear idea of the kinds of friendships you would enjoy, you can decide to create more of them in your life.  This can be done in two ways:

• Make changes in your current relationships—ask your friends to participate in activities you enjoy, and spend more time with the friends whose style of friendship best complements your own.

• Create new friendships: Reach out to coworkers, your neighbors or church members and invite them to accompany you in a favorite activity or for coffee. As an alternative, you may want to join a discussion group focused on literature, film, or painting, or take a class in yoga, or cooking. If you spend time with people who have similar interests, you will soon create new friends. Any group activity is a great resource for new friends.

If you find that you don't have enough friends, here are some guidelines for making new ones. Of course, you can tailor these suggestions to your personal tastes.

Guidelines for Making Friends
1. Get a life: If you want to meet people with whom you have something in common, do things on a regular basis that involve others. Activities can range from taking classes, joining hobby clubs, volunteering, playing a sport or game, hiking, or any pursuit that meets regularly. The people you meet will share your interest, and you'll have something to talk about and enjoy together.

2. Find interesting, fun people: Being involved in an ongoing activity, and meeting with the same people on a regular basis gives you a chance to get to know them before you decide to pursue a more personal relationship. When you find someone you think is particularly pleasant, spend a little time talking with him or her during or after your activity. Ask questions about the project you are working on, or share experiences and advice. If you both enjoy the conversation, goes well, you can offer to meet before or after the session for coffee. From there, you can offer to meet before or after the session for coffee. From there, you can begin  do more things together, until you've established a pattern of friendship. 

3: Don't overlook people you know. While you’re making new friends, don't forget the people you already know. Is there a favorite family member you’d like to see more often? Call him or her and suggest going for a walk, or to lunch. Are there acquaintances at work, at church, in your neighborhood, involved in your child’s (or your own) school, or elsewhere with whom you could develop a friendship? Consider reaching out to them. Let these people know that you’d like to share events and activities.

Spending quality time with friends is beneficial to  your emotional, mental and physical health. If you follow the above steps, you'll find that it isn't as difficult as you think to make friends.

Author Bio: Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 35 years’ experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, Dr. Romance’s Guide to Dating in the Digital Age; The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty; Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences and her newest, The Real 13th Step.  She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.

Dr. Tessina has been CRO (Chief Romance Officer) for Love Forever. Online, she’s known as “Dr. Romance” Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, TV, video and podcasts.

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