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5 Ways to Strengthen a Friendship—Even When Life Is Hectic



I’ll be running an errand, or in the middle of a jam-packed workday, when an anxious pang hits me: You owe Swati a phone call. Or, God, I have no idea how Molly’s dealing with that thing right now. In the years before my closest friends and I moved to different cities, had kids, or just got swamped with Life Stuff, we saw each other with the enviable frequency of sitcom characters who are constantly walking into one another’s apartments. These days, even with friends who still live nearby, it more often feels like we’re waving longingly to each other from across a lake (this typically takes the form of vague “let’s catch up soon!” text exchanges). 

When I do manage to connect with a good friend, I feel quantifiably better afterward—like my soul is fluffed up and a little more present inside my body. I’d like to feel that way more often. Equally important: I’d like to be a better and more attentive friend than I’ve been in recent years amid life’s many distractions. (The pandemic further tested the elasticity of my friendships; one 20-year connection that had already endured years of strain snapped entirely, resulting in a friend breakup.) 

“People have a lot of broken connections in the wake of the pandemic—a number of my clients have a whole different cast of characters in their lives now,” Hope Kelaher, LCSW, author of Here to Make Friends: How to Make Friends as an Adult, tells SELF. An upside of this, Kelaher says, is that some people are realizing the vital importance of existing friendships. “In fact, I’m seeing more and more clients bring friends into therapy sessions,” she says. 

slew of surveys suggest that I’m not the only person who’s struggling to prioritize friendship: Even before the isolating impact of the pandemic, people in the US spent way less time with friends than they did in previous decades. Not only can weaker social connections make us less happy, but this isolation is bad for our bodies, too.

“Social isolation and loneliness are two different things, but we’re seeing that both of them are leading to a host of negative consequences for physical and mental health,” Laura Whitney Sniderman, MA, founder of Kinnd, a digital platform that aims to help people forge and sustain friendships, tells SELF. For example, studies have linked a lack of human connection to depression and anxiety, poor sleep quality, high blood pressure, and even dementia. Sniderman, who has a master’s in clinical and counseling psychology, spends her days immersed in research on the science of friendship. Kinnd’s bond-building model is based on cultivating three qualities of a solid friendship: vulnerability, generosity, and reciprocity. The company’s app, launching sometime this year, will match up prospective pals.

While making new friends is wonderful (and necessary, if you’re still looking for your people), “It’s often much easier to work on a meaningful friendship that already exists,” Sniderman says, citing a 2018 study that found it takes an average of 200 hours to achieve BFF-level kinship. Whether (like me) you’re desperately seeking ways to connect with your friends more often or you simply want to grow closer to them, these expert tips can help you strengthen your relationships with your favorite people.


1. Set an intention to work on your closest friendships (for most of us, that means up to five people, tops). 

If you’re not sure how many good friends you’re “supposed” to have to enhance your life, we don’t blame you—we’re all pretty undereducated on the entire topic of being a buddy. “Friendship doesn’t command the same social respect that we’ve been giving romantic relationships, so you don’t see as many resources to support it,” Danielle Jackson, host of the podcast Friend Forward, tells SELF.

Source: Self

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