We, social beings by nature, depend on friends to be a touchstone for our lives, says Eliane Zelley, PhD, a professor of communcation at La Salle University in Philadelphia, who has studied female friendships. "Friends provide a social network, companionship and emotional support," she says, which is why even when the friendship pool seems shallow or there's just not enough time to swim, it's important to get out there and reconnect. Here are a few ways to work them into your schedule, and your schedule into them.
Take advantage of kids' classes Are your and your pal's daughters in the same dance class? Instead of dropping off the kids and heading home, suggest that you two have coffee or go shoe shopping for that hour. Or, meet a friend at her kid's soccer practice.
Share chores If you both have a yardful of leaves to rake or a garden to weed, spend an hour or so at her house, then yours.
Use technology to your advantage Borrow a page from your tween and send a text: "going 2 storeŚneed anything?" "see Idol last nite?" And tech can go beyond texting and e-mailing. If you have a friend in another state who's started a blog or has a photo-sharing account, ask for the address and bookmark it; reading her news and seeing photos of her kids will help you feel closer.
Call, with a purpose "I have a friend I've known for 15 years who moved away. We see each other during the summer, but that's not enough, so we set a weekly date for a sort of book club over the phone," says Dianne Murphy, 44, from Leesburg, Virginia. "We find ourselves talking much more than ever before." Borrow the book club idea, or just set a phone date. And get over guilt if you've let time drag between calls. Instead of making excuses, just say, "I'm so bad at remembering to call, but I want you to know that I'm thinking about you."
Double up to work out "My friend Susan and I take a power walk every Saturday at 8 a.m., and have since 2001," says Janet Falk, a 55-year-old Manhattanite. "I walk to her house, and we head to a nearby park. We walk at a quick pace and discuss our week, our jobs, our daughters," she says. "We figure out how to solve the world's problems, then we're done by 9."
Send snail mail Everyone likes a piece of mail that's not a bill or a credit card solicitation. Keep a couple of stamped envelopes and blank cards in your bag, and jot a note to a faraway friend while you're in line at the bank or sitting in a doctor's waiting room.