08/08/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Resolving the Friendship-Deficit

In 1935, the United States Congress proclaimed the first Sunday in August as Friendship Day, which falls on August 3d this year. Put simply: It's a day to recognize the vital role that friendships play in our lives. You can celebrate the day by getting together with a friend -- or by phoning, emailing or texting one who lives far away.

But even the clueless among us know that close friendships aren't made or celebrated on a single day. They're nurtured by repeated contacts over time when we share our real selves with others.

A landmark study published in the American Sociological Review (June 2006) reported that the circle of close friends held by Americans over the past two decades has shrunk markedly. During the 20-year period, the researchers found that the number of people who said that had no close confidants at all had doubled.

So if Friendship Day is approaching and you feel like you are experiencing a friendship deficit, you aren't alone. Here are some of the reasons why this happens:

1) Focusing on career to the exclusion of friends: You may be a high-achiever who has come to find that it is very lonely at the top of your game.

2) Focusing on family to the exclusion of friends: You may be immersed (or drowning) in caregiving responsibilities for young children, older parents, or be sandwiched in between the two.

3) Forging acquaintances rather than friendships: You may be caught up in a social whirl but never take the time to develop more meaningful relationships.

4) Thinking you prefer the life of a hermit: Given the opportunity, you may choose more solitary pursuits and spend too much time alone.

5) Thinking that just one is sufficient: One friend may have satiated all your needs for friendship but that one friendship may have disappeared, dealing you a terrible blow.

If you feel lonely and don't have the number of quality of female friendships you want, use the day to reclaim old friendships, nurture the ones you have, and develop new ones, one day at a time. Need some inspiration?

-Use the internet to track down an old friend that got away (e.g. an old roommate or former neighbor).

-Create a ritual to bring you together regularly with a friend (e.g. lunch on Friday, gym on Wednesday nights)

-Commit to calling at least one or two friends a week just to stay in touch.

-Take a current friendship one step farther (invite that person you connect to at the office to take a walk on a weekend or meet for drinks after work).

-Plan a weekend away with a small group that would be comfortable together.

-Use Friendship Day as an excuse to rethink and realign your friendship priorities

Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author who blogs about female friendships at HuffPo and She is a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and is working on a book about female friendships, Best Friends Forever, which will be published by Overlook Press.