You may not be able to see your best friend in person right now, but just knowing they're there can boost your resilience. In fact, a new year-long study found having close friendships is critically important for our mental health - especially when times are tough.

Psychology professor Dr. Rebecca Graber led the study for the University of Leeds in the UK. She had study participants fill out questionnaires about how well they were able to bounce back from challenging life events, like divorce, chronic illness, or the death of a loved one. They also answered questions about their self-esteem, coping behaviors, and the quality of their relationship with the person they considered their “best friend.” And they answered the same questions again one year later.

The result: The more solid a person’s relationship with their best friend, the more resilient they were at the end of the study. And that was true whether their bestie was a friend, a sibling, or a romantic partner. And the positive impact didn’t change even if they had a different best friend when the study began and ended.

Bottom line: Close friendships - even new ones - help us survive difficult times and stay mentally strong.