The Importance of Connecting with Old Friends 

Shandra Martinez

| 4 min read

Happy woman embracing her friend on the street.
Maybe this has happened to you: You’re out somewhere for dinner and bump into an old friend you haven’t seen in ages. Sure, you’ve kept up with each other on social media and maybe even exchanged holiday cards. But it’s been a long time since you’ve enjoyed some face-to-face company. The brief, unexpected exchange instantly makes you feel better. There’s an important reason for that, one that has big benefits for you and the other person as well. Let’s take a look at how to reconnect with old friends – and why we should be doing it more often.
Nostalgia and shared history are two things that go hand-in-hand when we’re talking about old friends. The memories depend on what era of your life that friendship was cemented. It might be someone you were buddies with way back in high school. It could be a college friend, or someone you were young parents with at the same time. It could be a friend you leaned on during those first empty-nest years. Whatever time period this friendship was rooted in, there’s a list of mental health benefits that come with reconnecting.

The impact of reaching out

A recent study published by the American Psychological Association showed that people often underestimate how an unexpected connection can positively impact the person on the receiving end. And this does not even have to be an in-person connection. It could be a text, email, phone call or just a note dropped in the mail. For most people on the receiving end, this connection is seen as a good surprise that brings about feelings of affection and good memories. Hearing that their contact sparked this good reaction makes the sender feel good, too.

Why social connections are important

The benefits of social connection were made obvious during the recent COVID-19 pandemic years, when many people limited their interactions with others to protect their own health, and that of others. The first year of the pandemic saw reported cases of depression and anxiety spike by 25% worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Social isolation was part of this. Young people and women saw the highest increases in deteriorating mental health during that time.
We know from other research just how important social connections are to us. They make us feel appreciated, heard, and that we have a group of friends and family who will emotionally support us when we need it. Yet about a quarter of people in the United States over the age of 65 are considered to be socially isolated, which is considered a public health risk. And people 50 and older have a higher likelihood of risk factors that can make them feel isolated or alone, studies have shown. These risk factors include:
  • Chronic illness
  • Sensory impairments
  • Loss of family
  • Loss of friends
  • Living alone
How to reconnect:
  • If you’re unsure how to reconnect with old friends, one way might be to gather a few people you’d like to try this with first instead of trying to accomplish it with a long list of people at once. Some tips:
  • Select people to contact that you were on good terms with during your friendship, and that you still interact with via social media or occasional letters or cards.
  • Leave off your list the relationships that had a lot of drama or negative feelings. Stirring those up won’t make either of you feel good.
  • Reach out via email or give them a call if you have their number. If they don’t pick up, leave a short but friendly message letting them know you were thinking about them.
  • Think about what your expectations are for reconnecting with this old friend. Do you hope it will be a casual friendship or a deeper relationship?
  • Mentally prepare yourself for someone not responding to you. And have another few old friends on a list to reach out to in case that happens, or if you’re ready to widen your circle even more.
Photo credit: Getty Images

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