As we get older, it gets harder and harder to make friends. All throughout our childhoods, opportunities for friendship are practically thrown in our faces. From the playground to the dorm room, we're constantly put together with people who we're likely to find some common ground with, even if it's just that we're close in age.
But after we leave college, those opportunities become fewer and farther between. Of course, you'll meet people through work and perhaps through some hobby or the occasional community activity, but as the daily grind sets in it's difficult to cultivate the kind of close relationship that you used to take for granted.
We really have to treasure the friendships that we have, and it's important to nurture these relationships so that they don't disappear. We're all busy, but good friends are vital to a happy, fulfilling life. They get you through the hard times, and they are there to celebrate when things are going well. During big moments and small ones, your friends are the people that are there with you, making your life rich and wonderful and meaningful.
I have many great friends, but I am especially grateful for my best friend, Stephanie. She is my rock, and I can always count on her to be there for me when I'm having a hard time. She loves me unconditionally, and I feel the same way about her. I know that I can tell her anything, and although she never hesitates to let me know when I'm not living up to my potential, I can be sure that she will still support me, even if I've really messed up. She is the first person I want to talk to about any big news in my life, and the time I spend chatting with her every day is special to me.
Stephanie is so great, and I want to be as good a friend to her (and to all of my friends!) as I possibly can. Usually, I can accomplish this by doing small things like being available to listen when she needs me, or doing my best to be on time when we have plans, since I know she values punctuality. But sometimes I wonder if there are other ways for me to express how much I value my relationship with her.
If you're looking for ways to strengthen your friendships and reaffirm your relationships, check out this list of 20 ways to be a better friend. All of them are low-cost or free ways to make someone feel special, and they are worth the extra effort. Your friends will certainly thank you, and your life will be richer as a result of the wonderful relationships you are developing.
1. Drive to their house early on a snowy morning and clear off their car for them. There's nothing quite like walking outside and realizing that you've got a few extra minutes to enjoy your morning instead of having to scrape ice off your windshield.
2. Surprise them at work with their favorite coffee drink or brunch food. If you find yourself free for a few minutes in the morning, this is a nice way to brighten up someone's entire day.
3. Bring them some soup, tissues, and a copy of their favorite magazine when they're feeling under the weather. Just be sure to use hand sanitizer after your visit, or they'll be returning the favor soon!
4. Write them a letter and tell them how much they mean to you. Hopefully, this is implied by the way you treat them every day, but it can be so nice to hear it explicitly. Writing it down will give you the time to adequately express everything their friendship brings to your life.
5. Ask them what you can do for them this week. Our lives can get overwhelming sometimes, and it's difficult to ask for help. Give them some suggestions if they're resistant - perhaps you can bring them dinner one night, clean their bathroom, or pick up their prescriptions for them. Even something small can make a big difference during a hard time.
6. When you're at the store, grab their favorite candy or treat for them. When you see them next, they'll be touched that you remembered them in this way.
7. Treat them to lunch. You don't have to go anywhere fancy. Even a meal at Taco Bell is fun when you're with your best friend, and they'll feel so nice when you pick up the tab.
8. Plan a weekend hike with them. Pack up some lunch and hit the trail with your friend. Nature has a way of clearing your head - why not share this awesome experience with your someone you care about? They'll love getting away for a few hours.
9. Mail them a care package. Remember how fun it was to get these from your parents in college? A box filled with edible treats and small gifts will surprise and delight your friend - maybe they'll even invite you over so you can enjoy the treats together.
10. Give them a hug. In our busy lives, it's easy to forget what it feels like to be touched by another person - especially if we're not in a romantic relationship. Even a platonic hug from a friend can feel really nice, especially if their love language is physical touch.
11. Let them vent. It's not often that we get the opportunity to complain all evening, with no concern for monopolizing the conversation. But sometimes we need an opportunity to get it all out of our system. Give your friend a sounding board and let them vent without judging them or giving them advice.
12. Keep their secrets. When you have a close friendship with someone, you're bound to see and hear things they'd prefer that the world not know. Don't divulge these confidences to anyone else, and they'll know they always have a safe place to land.
13. Say something nice about them to someone else. This may never get back to them, and that's okay. Elevating their position in someone else's mind can be a meaningful way to improve your friend's life. And if they do find out you were singing their praises, they'll be flattered that you did so.
14. Is your friend considering joining a club, or are they interested in participating in a new activity? If so, offer to go to the first few meetings with them. Walking into a room full of strangers is difficult even for extroverts, and your friend will appreciate having you there as their wing-man until she is more comfortable going on their own.
15. Text them a silly picture of the two of you, or just an internet meme that made you smile. It's a little way to brighten their day, and they'll be glad you were thinking of them.
16. Help them prepare for something that's important to them. Is she giving a speech or leading a meeting at work? Offer to be her sounding board. Maybe he's learning a new language. Run through his flashcards with him a few times. Whatever it is, this small time investment will mean a lot to your friend.
17. Write them a song or a poem, and present it on a special occasion. If you're creative, this is a great way to make your friend feel special on their birthday, or at their rehearsal dinner. They won't believe you went to the effort of creating something just for them.
18. Spend a day practicing acts of kindness for others with your friend. It's no secret that doing nice things usually gives you the warm-fuzzies, too. Spread that joy to your friend by teaming up to make someone else's day. Whether you choose friends or strangers to spoil, you'll both feel great by the time you're finished.
19. Leave them a note. If you're going through their neighborhood when you know they won't be home, stop by anyway. Drop a note near the front door letting them know that you were thinking of them.
20. Let them be a friend to you. One of the best parts about being part of a strong friendship is feeling like a valued part of the relationship. Be sure you're always including your friend as a part of your life, letting them step up and play the role they're good at. Although you may think you're doing them a favor by not "burdening" them with your problems, going to them for advice or asking them to take you out on the town when you've had a rough day is a great way to let them know that you're glad to have them around.
Tell me about your best friend. What are your favorite ways to make them feel special?