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It’s January 2nd, and I have yet to settle on all of my New Year’s resolutions. I know—I’ve had weeks and weeks to think about what my goals could or should be. But for whatever reason, I didn’t feel particularly pressed on the issue until 2018 officially overtook us. I’m happy to report, however, that I’ve officially finalized one very important goal for the new year: and that’s to foster strong friendships, new and old.

My friends have always meant a lot to me—but just recently, upon graduating college, I’ve learned to really appreciate those friendships that have remained strong and true. And I understand now more than ever before just what it takes to maintain meaningful friendships. That being said, I find this to be a fitting and important resolution of mine. Now, the following are guidelines I’ve found to be effective in creating and maintaining strong relationships, which I plan to prioritize in the days that come. And the cherry on top of accomplishing that goal of mine is if they help you to foster strong friendships too. Put the following six tips to the test:

    1) Create and capitalize on time together.

    Of course it’s nice to have those friendships that don’t require a lot of time or upkeep—especially when the two of you are miles and miles apart or on complete opposite schedules. That being said, however, strong relationships do require staying in touch and spending meaningful time together. So, at the very least, check in with your friend when you can: agree on weekly phone dates; text them here and there to let them know you’re thinking of them; and if possible, schedule some time to simply hang out!

    2) Be honest with each other.

    Another key to strengthening your friendships is being open and honest with your friends. “When conflict arises in healthy relationships, both people are able to listen intently to each other as they express the way they feel,” says Psychotherapist Dena Alalfey. You need to be able to express how you feel—even those negative feelings like disappointment and discomfort—so as to keep that bond from weakening. If you instead keep those feelings bottled up, you’re likely to foster some ill will towards your friends, and your relationships will suffer. So instead of brushing how you feel under the rug, confront your emotions openly. Then, you can work out the issue together.

    3) Show them that you care.

    If you hope to create strong, lasting friendships, you should continue to show your friend that you care about them. This doesn’t require you take drastic measures, but simply find ways to express your love and appreciation for the other person: treat them to pizza on their birthday; tag them in cheesy memes on Facebook; and bluntly tell them that your friendship means the world to you. You might assume that they already know you care for them, but even if they do, it’s always nice to be reminded.

    4) Embark on new experiences together.

    Licensed Psychologist Dr. Wyatt Fisher says, “an essential ingredient to a strong relationship is having fun with the person.” Relationships are strengthened by meaningful experiences and unforgettable memories. So make the effort to spice up your friendships by embarking on new adventures side-by-side: sign up for an intimidating exercise or cooking class together; plan a trip to a new town or even new country; or simply switch up your typical weekend outings. This variation will revive your friendships and create an even stronger bond.

    5) Provide support and encouragement.

    Friendships aren’t all fun and games—they do require you put in some work, such as when your friend is having a horrible, no-good day. Say they’ve just broken up with their boyfriend or girlfriend or were fired from their job. It’s your job to be there for them and provide them with whatever they need, starting with support and comfort. Additionally, it’s your duty to give them encouragement as needed. Encourage them to do what you know will make them happy, like taking that job or moving to a new city. Whatever the case, make it apparent that you’re rooting for them.

    6) Treasure the little things.

    Real, strong friendships aren’t extravagant—they’re built simply on connectedness, kindness, and love for each other. That being said, it’s important you remember to embrace and rejoice in the little things. Appreciate those phone dates we talked about earlier. Enjoy every second you get to spend with them, even if you’re simply meeting for coffee. Treasure every little piece of your friendship—the extraordinary love, the undying support, and the irreplaceable memories.

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