She’s always there for you when somebody breaks your heart or you’re just having a bad day. You know the buddy we mean, the one who will take your kids when you need a day off from being “mommy,” the dear friend who always takes your call.

Spend quality time with  close girlfriends, without your partner or children. It's good for your health. (Photo: Garry Wade/Getty Images)

Spend quality time with close girlfriends, without your partner or children. It’s good for your health. (Photo: Garry Wade/Getty Images)

One of the great things about close friends is that they are like family, which also means it’s easy to take them for granted. Protecting your bonds with the people who offer you support is not only an important part of a happy life, but it also helps you stay healthy. Research shows that people with good friends have lower stress levels, and they are almost 50 percent less likely to have a heart attack.

The thing to remember is that friendships need to be nurtured, just like other relationships. Here are a few ways to reach out to close friends this weekend and in the coming days.

  1. Don’t forget “girls night (or day) out.” When the demands of career, kids, and romantic partners pile up, many women neglect their girlfriends assuming they will understand and be there when they finally get some free time. But friendships thrive on shared good times and special moments together. Find some time to have fun with your girlfriends, without your partner and definitely without your kids. Try to carve out a small part of your week or weekend to bond with your buddy over a cup of tea of glass of wine.
  2. Forgive and forget. Everyone makes mistakes. If a friend occasionally fudges plans or lets you down, try forgiveness. It’s something everyone needs in her life. No one is suggesting you be a doormat, but don’t make a big deal out of the time she kept you waiting 20 minutes for dinner. Instead of holding a grudge, try making her laugh.
  3. Don’t use her as a dumping ground. Sure, offering a sympathetic ear to a friend going through hard times is what friendship is all about to a point, but make sure you’re not unloading your depression and anger on your buddies on a regular basis. A recent study found that when friends dwell on negative topics, it can raise stress levels for both people in the relationship. It may also send your friends running in the other direction. At a certain point, it’s time to call a therapist and give your buddies a break.
  4. Celebrate and support. Be genuinely happy for her when her dreams come true (jealousy and envy poison relationships), and be there to lend a hand when her world is coming apart. A good buddy sticks with you through good times and bad.
  5. Treat your friends the way you want to be treated. If you hate being gossiped about and want someone in your life who is honest, patient and willing to listen to you, realize that’s just what your friends need too. Remember, friendships are supposed to be mutually satisfying, so make sure it’s an enjoyable experience for both of you.

About Fierce Fridays — Tips for Weekend Well-Being

We each cherish those precious days off at the end of the week, but increasingly those of us who are charter members of the sisterhood of the stressed and overworked are losing our Saturday and Sunday leisure time to weekend work and domestic duties.

To make sure that you do something every weekend that’s just for you, we’ll be sharing a little advice to make those 48 hours a great time to recharge your batteries, bring a little good news into your life, or discover a quick and easy way to improve your health.