Loneliness has been a problem for some time now but, in recent months, the pandemic has made it worse. With remote work continuing to increase, employers and employees alike need to be hyper-aware of this situation. According to The Atlantic

Loneliness and perceived social isolation can be detrimental to our health and are , according to Dr. Steven W. Cole and other researchers at UCLA. They also found that loneness adversely affects inflammation and, unsurprisingly, also negatively affects our mental health and stress levels. Another study , meaning that increased loneliness can be a significant factor contributing to severe depression. It may even be linked to an .

According to , the  revealed that “close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives.” Also, it “has proven that embracing those in your community helps us to live longer and be happier.” Social connections are the antidote to loneliness and key predictors of health, happiness and longevity.

If you are experiencing loneliness, remember that the rejection you might anticipate by reaching out to others is usually not as likely as you might think. Keep that in mind as you consider trying to take additional steps to establish connections. For those who struggle with establishing close personal relationships, I offer the following advice.

How To Beat Loneliness With Emotional Intelligence

Accept the situation.

Admit to yourself that you’re out of practice when it comes to social interactions. You may think your fear of interacting socially is because you’ve not done it for a while and when you’ve been feeling lonely for a while, this is natural. However, it may go deeper than that. After all, there was probably a reason you didn’t interact to begin with. So, accept your situation, admit you’re lonely and elect to do something about it.

Accept yourself.

Many people think they need to change their personality to connect with people. While it might help to change your behavior (such as inviting someone over despite being unaccustomed to having guests or making eye contact and smiling), most people don’t need to attempt a difficult change in their personalities. Even if you consider yourself introverted, you don’t need to try to become extroverted to find your people and connect.

Reconnect with others.

One of the first things people say you should do if you feel lonely is “get out there and meet people.” This eclipses the fact that most of us already know people. One thing we can work at is reconnecting with people we already know. This is no doubt a lot easier than starting from scratch with new acquaintances. And once you’ve practiced on people you’ve known for a while, the experience you gain will serve you well in befriending strangers and creating new connections.

Listen.

If you’re struggling to connect with someone, the sense that you are failing can be overwhelming. Try to be aware of this feeling so you can replace it with active listening. Active listening is nonjudgmental, patient listening that improves clarity and mutual understanding. If you listen attentively, rather than thinking about what you are going to say next, you will leave less room for anxiety.

Ask questions.

Worried about keeping a conversation going? Fortunately (or sometimes, unfortunately), most people’s favorite subject is themselves. Use this knowledge to your advantage. Encourage others to talk about themselves and you’ll see them blossom like flowers.

Share yourself.

Marlon Brando successfully carried off the distant and mysterious bit, but at some point in your conversations, people will want you to share something about yourself, probably something personal, something they can relate to. So, give them what they are looking for. Facilitate trust and tell them how some situation or another made you feel. In my experience, sharing feelings is almost always more intimacy-producing than talking about some novel you’re reading or what you did last weekend.

Open up.

Meeting people is one thing. Connecting is another. To connect more than superficially, you’re going to need to show a little vulnerability. Be prepared to share fears and faults. The glossy version of themselves that many people reserve for social media might increase the number of their friends but will rarely lead to deeper connections.

Be selective.

You don’t have to open up with everyone. As a matter of fact, it’s probably best if you don’t. Try to objectively choose which relationships you want to deepen and which you want to keep cordial, but nothing more. After all, it’s quality connections you’re after, not just a large number.

Connections can be physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. With the right people and circumstances, it’s possible to experience all four. But not all relationships have to be deep to be beneficial. Casual connections, such as passing conversations with neighbors and colleagues, can also make us feel good. Enjoy them for what they are.

Attend a regular social meeting.

Find an activity that interests you and indulge in it with a passion, even if at first it doesn’t come easily. This will help you relax and find shared interests with other similarly-inclined people. Think about creating a routine presence at monthly scheduled social events. Benefits include:

• Developing regular socializing habits that strengthen your skills and your confidence

• Interacting with the same people so you get to know them better over time

• Having a defined location and time so you know what to expect, avoiding the need for social improvisation

So, as you contemplate breaking out of your funk and loneliness, be aware that the first step is to admi that you are lonely and that at least a part of your dissatisfaction with life and depression is because you are lonely. With this admission firmly in mind, you can work on improving your emotional intelligence skills and go on to create satisfying connections that can enhance your life.

 

Article originally published on Forbes.com