It's breaking your heart to see a friend going through tough times. You might not be able to "fix" things for her, but you can lift her spirits with thoughtful, personal gestures. One of the best things you can do for her sounds like a cliche, but it's important -- just be there for her. Give her a hug when you see her. Call her at an unexpected time to let her know you're thinking of her. Encourage her to get out of the house, and if she won't go on her own, go with her. Be the sympathetic voice or gentle touch that remind her she's loved.
Your friend might be reluctant to see people, but try to spend some time with him. He likely will welcome the attention from a friend, particularly if he's feeling alone or unappreciated. Stop by with a batch of his favorite cookies and stay a bit to provide a sympathetic ear. Let him talk about whatever is bothering him if he wants to -- sometimes, just being able to give voice to concerns helps ease the burden, writes licensed clinical social worker Kevin T. Navin in Everyday Health magazine. Don't try to analyze or solve his problems, just listen. Let him know you care about him and are available to help as needed.
Go beyond the periodic phone calls, "thinking of you" notes and occasional flowers by reaching out in a personally meaningful way. A whimsical cat figurine for her collection or a favorite author's latest novel says you took the time to find just the right gift for her. Send her a humorous cartoon or quote via social media each day, giving her something to look forward to. Or hide a batch of inexpensive, funny gifts around her home for her to find in a mini scavenger hunt. Figuring out the clues and finding each little gift will brighten her day and help dispel the gloom she's been feeling. Create a "just for you" book of coupons that she can redeem as needed for mood-lifters such as "a chat with a friend," "ice cream treats" or "comedy club outing."
Sitting around feeling sad is unlikely to help your friend feel better, so distract him with an activity that gets him out and about. Go for a walk in the park or a bike ride, or attend an upbeat dance or exercise class together. Exercise can be a quick mood-booster. Help him feel better about himself by trying a new outdoor challenge, such as zip-lining or rock climbing, to remind him he can be successful and have fun while trying new adventures.
Encourage your friend to get involved in a community service project. Helping the less fortunate might boost your friend's spirits, be a healthy outlet to form new social bonds and provide new perspective on her own problems, perhaps even making them seem less daunting. Offer to go with her to participate in a home-building venture or serve at a soup kitchen.