From your best childhood pals to your buds at work, keeping up with friends can be tough when your to-do and should-do lists are a mile long—but it’s essential. Maintaining active friendships is vital to our happiness and health, offering emotional and physical benefits that are different than the ones we get from connections with family members.
“Having good friendships prolongs your life and is associated with lower stress, a boosted immune system, and decreased risk of depression,” says Andrea Bonior, a clinical psychologist and author of The Friendship Fix: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Losing, and Keeping Up with Your Friends.
That’s all we needed to hear. Bonior isn’t short on ideas for fostering strong ties to others, but she did pull out four simple tips that just about everyone can easily try. Use one or all of them to give your friendships the boost they need to stay strong for years to come.
Rather than spending time coordinating your schedules each time you want to get together, develop a standing date with your friend (lunch on the third Thursday of every month) so that it becomes part of your regular routine.
If you don’t have time to write lengthy emails or talk for hours, simply keeping in short contact will help vitalize a friendship. A five-minute phone call or a series of texts is all you need to keep up-to-date on important life events.
Send a funny postcard in the mail, bring soup when they’re sick, or just pick up their favorite candy at the store when you see it. “You’ll be amazed by how much even a small thing can really make a friend feel special and how much it can strengthen the bond,” says Bonior.
Whether it’s taking pottery classes or starting a new exercise routine, trying something new together can bring you closer. Bonior also says that coming up with something unique to experience together can give a friendship a boost if it’s in a rut.