If you're wondering how to keep friends as you get older—and life gets busier—you're not alone. Between balancing work, family, and obligations, finding time in your schedule to socialize can feel like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. Unfortunately, this can make it dangerously easy to fall out of touch, even with people that you love spending time with.
Still, friendships matter a lot. Spending time with your friends is fun in the moment, and the benefits are endless. According to the Mayo Clinic, close relationships can make you feel happier and more confident, lower your stress levels, and help you cope with challenging situations. Findings even show that keeping up social ties is linked to better health and longer life spans. Here are seven things you can start doing today to make sure you stay in touch with those who matter to you:
Work Out Together
If you're going for a jog or heading to spin class, why not invite a friend to come along? You can take some time to catch up on the treadmill or between crunches. You can also go for a run around your neighborhood together, which is easier than trying to find time for dinner or drinks—not to mention better for you and less expensive.
Plan a Playdate
It's no secret that friendships change once kids enter the picture. But why not bring the little ones along for the fun? Plan weekly or monthly playdate gatherings, and take turns hosting. You can catch up with your friends while your kids play together and build their own relationships.
Start a Book Club
Whether you have a group of ten or two, books are great conversation starters—and talking about them might even give you a chance to learn something new about a friend. Start a book club where you and your friends read a book and then get together to discuss it over wine and cheese or dinner. If getting through a full-length book doesn't feel doable, try opting for a short story or even a magazine article.
Meet for Weekday Lunches
When you're juggling work and a family, meeting during a weekday is often the easiest way to get together. Meet up at a cafe that's close to both of you, or bring a bagged lunch to the park. If you live far apart, try sneaking away from your desk or closing your office door so you can have lunch over video chat.
Be Pen Pals
In a world of short, text messages, writing a letter can feel a little old-fashioned. However, it's worth trying because it gives you and your friends the opportunity to share deeper thoughts and feelings that you wouldn't bother sending a text over. (And who doesn't love receiving mail that isn't a bill?) Writing can also ease stress, and think about how cool it would be to look back on those letters years from now.
Do a Lightning-Round Hello
Take advantage of those five minutes when you're standing in line at the grocery store or waiting for your kid's karate class to wrap up. Skip looking at your social media feeds, and shoot a friend a text to check in instead. Whether your message lets your friend know that you're thinking of him or her, or asks how their day is going, it's the thought and effort that matters most when it comes to maintaining friendships.
Once or twice a year, take a personal day that's devoted to hanging out with friends. Cook a big lunch together, go get pedicures, or head to a museum or the beach. Regardless of what you end up doing, you'll have a blast. Chances are that you'll remember the outing—and the memories that were made—for a long time.
Of course, most of us don't have as much free time as we did when we were younger. That's completely normal, and you shouldn't let it discourage you. If you're worried about how to keep friends and stay in touch when life feels ridiculously busy, start with these seven tips. Before you know it, you'll feel like you're in better touch with the people who matter most to you.