It takes a lot to be BFF-worthy.
The gold standard of friendship isn't who's standing by someone's side at Saturday night parties -- it's who's next to them on the couch during a Tuesday night sob-fest. Simply put, sometimes your friend is going to need help getting through a challenge, and you need to rise to the occassion.
Here's what science has to say about how to help someone who is going through a tough time. Try one of these tips the next time your BFF is feeling down -- because supporting someone when they need it the most is the true hallmark of a good friend.
1. Give them a hug.
It's good for them and it's good for you. Hugs release oxytocin in the brain, which then sparks that warm and fuzzy feeling we get when we're close to someone we care about. The "feel good" hormone has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress, making it the perfect way to cheer someone up.
2. Go for a walk.
Nothing like a little sunshine to brighten someone's outlook. Research shows that group walks outdoors may help with depressive symptoms. Not only that, you both get a little exercise in the process -- another proven mood booster. Win-win? Definitely.
3. Watch "The Notebook."
Or another tear-jerker sure to bring the waterworks. A recent study published in the journal Motivation and Emotion found that people who watched emotionally-charged movies reported better moods after they watched the film and had a good cry. The results suggest that there could be some serious perks in letting the tears flow. Kick back and split the box of tissues.
4. Spread a little positivity.
Your demeanor may be contagious across your group of friends. A study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B found that friends can "spread" a healthy mood -- that is, a generally positive or neutral attitude -- amongst their social circle. Even better news? A depressive mood was not "contagious" among friends, dispelling the popular myth that you might be able to "catch" a mental illness.
5. Join a team sport.
Root, root, root for the home team (and for your friend's well-being in the process). Team sports can boost social bonding and mental health, University of California, Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center reported. Game on.
6. Share an uplifting Facebook status.
Th words you convey hold a lot of power, particularly on social media. If you know a friend is feeling low, try sharing an encouraging message online. Research shows your mood on Facebook can affect the moods of those friends who view your status, Mashable reported. The contagion effect is real.
7. Give them a meaningful compliment.
No, "I like your sweater" doesn't count. Compliment them on their big heart, their emotional depth, their great parenting skills, their creative eye -- something that's actually worthwhile to store in their memory bank. Bonus: Research also shows that receiving praise feels similar to receiving a cash reward.
8. Maintain regular contact.
Make a phone date, FaceTime date or coffee date with your BFF, stat. Not only will you feel better when you're around them, but research shows keeping regular communication with friends can increase happiness levels.
9. Share a meal together.
If your friend's feeling blue, you may want to forget the Seamless order for one and head out to a restaurant with a table for two. A study in the journal Appetite found that sharing a meal with someone increases happiness and prosocial behaviors.
10. Hang out with them.
Sometimes straightforward is best -- no games, shopping trips or other adventures necessary. According to a 2011 study, simply logging quality time with a BFF can help reduce stress levels. When it comes to spending time with the ones you love, the company is more important than the activity, anyway.
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