Friendships are some of the trickiest relationships to start, cultivate, and maintain. Romantic relationships have the reputation to be the hardest to keep up with, but it can be even more difficult to find new friends while keeping in touch with old ones. Don’t let the fear of the hard work keep you isolated, because friendship is so important for our happiness and even our health!

Even though we are constantly connected to so many people on social media, studies have found that our generation is actually becoming lonelier. We have fewer friends than our parents’ generation, and the relationships we have on social media are not satisfying our need for friendship. A lot of us feel like we don’t know how to make new friends or feel left out or forgotten by our old ones. Here are some tips on how to cultivate new friendships and strengthen existing ones.

Finding the new:

One great way to make new friends is to have a friend introduce you to their group. Ask if you can join the next time you hear they are going out with their posse. You may strike up a new connection or two! Also, whenever meeting new friends, always be your genuine self and try not to put on some sort of front. You will find that you have things in common with people that you never would have imagined! Another great way to find new friends is to go and pursue your hobbies and meet people that way. If you like cooking, take a cooking class and be open to making new friends there. Love hiking or running? Go do a group run or hike. When you are doing things you love, you are bound to find people who share the same interests. After you make contact with a new friend, follow up with them and invite them to coffee or send a follow up text saying it was great to meet them. If the friendship doesn’t work out, and if they turn down an invite to hang, don’t take it personally.

Maintaining the old:

These are the friends who have known you since your days of bad hairdos and braces. These are the friends who, even though you don’t see or talk to them much anymore, you still want them in your life. When maintaining an old friendship, the first tip I have is to go easy on them. Maybe they forgot your last birthday or missed your bachelorette party. Instead of assuming they just don’t want to be part of your life anymore, remember how busy your life is and how overwhelmed you can be. They are probably in the same boat! You both have tons of adult responsibilities, so cut them some slack. Another tip is to be virtually present, even when you can’t physically be, and this is as easy as liking their Instagram post or commenting on a picture of theirs on Facebook. It is a great way to simply remind them that you are here and still keep up with what they do. If they like to talk on the phone, maybe give them a call and catch up every once in a while. If they prefer text, shoot them one every so often just checking in with them.

Friendship is work, but the payoff is priceless.