We know making new friends gets harder as we get older — we have less time, less energy, and fewer opportunities. It gets easy to let your friendships cruise on autopilot. But a ton of Instagram likes, Facebook comments, and flaky promises for drinks do not a solid friendship make. Recently, a study revealed that our crews are the sliced bread of life (even more important than family!). So you may want to take stock of your true blues and do your part to keep them close. Age comes with a million responsibilities that may seem more urgent than calling a pal or planning a ladies’ trip, but it also comes with the realization that it’s the people in our lives that make this whole thing worth the ride. Want to show your soul sisters you care? It doesn’t take much, and the reward is major.

Two friends laugh together in a restaurant

1. Pick up the phone. And we don’t just mean to text or scroll. We mean a real-life phone call. Who knows if they’ll answer; but even a voicemail will brighten their day and show your friend that you genuinely enjoy talking to them.

2. Be consistent. Your pack loves you, so they may be chill when you cancel last-minute or fail to follow through on plans. They may even laugh it off. Deep down, though, it stings. Any way you spin it, when you skip out on your girls for work or an S.O., it send a message about your priorities. It’s true that sometimes we can’t help it; things come up. But if it happens more often than not, reassess and be realistic when you make plans. And know that sometimes you just have put your super-urgent deadlines aside and go chill with your girls. You’ll be glad you did.

3. Show some effort. If your BFF is far away, treat the situation like any other long-distance relationship. Text each other random updates so you still feel like you are part of each others’ lives; send a care package; plan trips to see each other; and never, ever miss a birthday, engagement, graduation, or any other milestone. Cards are nice too, and apps like Postable make it way easy to send a personal one.

Two women laugh together in a cafe

4. Do the little things together. Friendships are built in the small, day-to-day moments: going on a coffee run after a tough meeting with your work wife, running errands on a Saturday with your pal who lives nearby, meeting up every morning before the sun comes up to bond. If you have the luxury of spending time with your pals, don’t pass it up. That’s when rapport and trust are built and reinforced.

5. But plan for big things too. In college, you shared study-abroad trips, classes that opened your mind to new worlds, and all-night study (or party) benders that bonded you through shared experiences. As you settle into adulthood, build in opportunities for life-altering, unforgettable adventures with your crew. Take a language class or plan an all-girls backpacking trip. The further you get out of your comfort zone, the more you’ll rely on and learn about each other (AKA bonding).

6. Be real. You may feel that you have to play a part within your friend group, but what people long for most is to have a meaningful connection. That can only happen when everyone keeps it real. Be that no-judgement zone your friends can count on to be as serious or silly as they want or need. Anything other than being 100-percent authentic with your inner circle is downright exhausting — for you *and* them.

Three friends pose with silly glasses

7. Just show up. Things get heavy real fast as we start adulting — parents get sick, marriages fall apart, depression hits, bad habits turn into addictions. You won’t always know the right thing to say, but that’s not the point. All you have to do is be there. Most of the time, people don’t want to talk or do anything when they’re in the thick of it; they just want to feel supported and loved. You’d better believe these are the times when your friend will learn who is really on their side.

8. Give them space. On the flip side, we have to give people room to breathe — and to mess up. Yes, it’s annoying when a friend doesn’t return a call or takes three days to respond to a text. It’s downright hurtful when they won’t make an effort to see you. But you don’t know what could be going on. Maybe they’re going through a depressive slump, are overloaded with work, or are sorting through other personal stuff. Be the bigger person, let your friend know you are there, check in from time to time, and then let them come to you.

9. Be a cheerleader. Jealousy happens; we can’t always help it. Whether it’s your bestie who is kicking ass at their career or your entire friend group that’s pairing off, it’s hard not to compare ourselves to the people around us. Keep those feelings in check, and don’t ever let what you want for yourself take away from being happy for your girls. Everyone has their own journey, and you can just be glad to be able to surround yourself with such awesome people who will keep pushing you. Celebrate your friends’ wins like they’re your own, and leave all snark and passive-aggression at the door (nothing good ever came from it).

10. Let things flow. You’re going to evolve, so are your friends. Only you know when it’s time to move on and when it’s worth putting in the effort. Does the relationship fuel or drain you? If it’s the latter, consider investing your energy into making new friendships. Don’t expect things to stay the same either. Just because you only see each other once every couple years or haven’t talked on the phone in months doesn’t mean you don’t still have each other’s backs.

How do you stay connected to your friends? Tweet us suggestions @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)