Keep Your Friendships Strong

by Valerie Demetros

For most people, friendships play a supporting role to work, family and romance. But in reality, close friendships can make your life happier.

Research shows that friendships are critical to maintaining physical and emotional health, and strong social ties can boost the immune system and increase longevity.

One study by AARP found that about 42 million Americans over the age of 45 suffer from chronic loneliness, which raises the risk of premature death. Other studies linked a lack of human connection to depression and anxiety, poor sleep quality, high blood pressure and dementia.

If you’re interested in building stronger friendships, try these easy steps:

Get creative

If you always meet for coffee, switch it up and meet at a museum or a botanical garden. Plan a trip to go kayaking or whale watching. Shared experiences build the friendship bond.

Show up

Attend major events like birthdays or baby showers. If your friend needs help, go out of your way to be there. Show your friend that he/she is a priority.

Create special, small gestures

Personalized, thoughtful texts cultivate connections. Share things they couldn’t find on Instagram or Facebook to make it special.

Be honest

Express how you feel, negatively or positively, to keep your friendship strong. Nobody’s perfect, so if you mess up — apologize quickly, be honest and repair the bond.

Be vulnerable

The best way to connect with someone is to open yourself up. Your vulnerability gives others permission to be vulnerable, which strengthens the relationship.

Stop saying “I’m busy”

The phrase, “I’m busy” can feel like avoidance. Instead, clarify why you’re busy and plan a future date or phone call. If you have time for Facebook or Instagram, you have time for a quick chat.

Listen

Finally, all relationships require work. Just as romantic relationships require patience and conflict resolution, friendships demand communication, listening and compassion to thrive. You’ll be rewarded with a long, fulfilling friendship.