There’s no question: When life gets complicated, it’s harder to keep up with your crew (beyond liking each others’ pics on Instagram). With a little creativity, however, it is possible to stay close no matter how far apart you live, or how little time you have. Here, relationship experts offer a few simple ways to connect IRL.
Chat on your commute
Schedule a (hands-free) phone catch-up with a friend for your trip home, suggests Suzanne Degges-White, PhD, a counseling professor at Northern Illinois University—and make it a weekly date.
Make big announcements one-on-one
Pregnant? Got a new job? Before you post the news on Facebook, tell your inner circle. “There is nothing more devastating to a friendship than learning about your friend’s life at the same time as everyone else,” says Karla Ivankovich, PhD, a clinical counselor at OnePatient Global Health Initiative in Chicago.
Watch the same TV shows
If you and your squad love The Bachelor but can’t get together for watch parties, dish about the drama via group text.
Put a group outing on the calendar
We’re all short on time, but most people can set aside one day every few months to spend with friends, says Degges-White. “Go day-tripping for kicks,” she says. “Choose the date and make a plan to drive two hours north, east, south, or west. See where you end up.”
Recruit a wellness buddy
Choose a healthy challenge (say, a sugar detox) and commit to regular check-ins to celebrate your progress, and cheer each other on when motivation wanes.
Check out Glide
The phone app lets you send video messages (worth 1,000 texts!) back and forth. Hearing your bestie laugh may be enough to brighten your whole day.
Include the kiddos
If you have friends with kids who live nearby, sign your little ones up for the same activity or sports team, suggests Degges-White. “Then you can get whole families together before or after practice for a quick meal,” she says.
Don’t forget about snail mail
Once in a while, send a reminder you care. “It can be a postcard, or a pair of funny socks, whatever,” says Ivankovich. That simple surprise can mean a lot.