by Sharon Liao
You can't imagine life without your friends. They share in your happiness, lift you up you when you're down and make every day more joyful. But that's not all: They also help you stay healthy. According to Australian researchers, people with more good pals lived 22 percent longer than those with few friends.
But with our increasing busy lives, many of us are falling out of touch and letting these close bonds unravel. Case in point: Over the past three decades, the number of people the average American calls a close friend has shrunk by a third, reveals a Duke University study.
To keep your relationships stronger than ever, it's important to take time to remind your friends how much they mean to you. Consider one of these suggestions:
1. Write a heartfelt letter or card.
Even if you often tell your pal you love her, there's something about putting it on paper. Jot down three favorite memories of your time together or list three of her best qualities -- and how much you value them. Just remember to keep the facial tissues on hand when you present her with your note.
2. Plan a special "date."
Your coffee chats and walks are meaningful, but try surprising your pal with an afternoon or evening centered on her. Do something she's always wanted to do, whether it's visiting downtown art galleries or going on a country bike ride. You can trade off months so you'll have a fun day to look forward to planning (and attending!).
3. Compile a CD.
Who says mixed tapes are a thing of the past? As a fun token, create a CD with all of your favorite tunes, past and present -- from your favorite jam in college to the boy-band song you tease her about liking now.
4. Schedule a video chat.
Whether you haven't seen a friend in ages because she's out of town or you're both swamped with family duties, it's still important to catch up face to face. Log onto Skype or Facetime to catch up as you do an activity together, whether it's baking a batch of cookies or creating a craft.
5. Create a photo album.
Bring the scrapbook into modern day with a crafted photo album. Use a photo publishing site, like Shutterfly.com or PinholePress.com, to create a gorgeous bound book of your favorite snapshots and memories. You'll both be crying tears of laughter and joy -- and reaching for those facial tissues!