If there’s one thing that can be said about the past year and a half, it’s that loneliness has been on the rise. Even when we have daily interactions with neighbours, baristas, and friends, we can still feel isolated.

Positive psychiatrist Samantha Boardman, M.D., and author of Everyday Vitalityexplains what we can do better to combat the current loneliness epidemic.

The Importance Of Social Connections

As Boardman explains, “We all know that it’s important to get enough sleep and to exercise and eat, but probably the most reliable contributor to our wellbeing is our social connections.” That said, she notes, not all social interactions are created equal.

When it comes to those social interactions that nourish our need for connection, the two most valuable factors are meaningful conversation and an experience of ‘felt love,’(felt love is all about feeling understood and cared about by someone.)So, here are her tips for infusing your interactions with those two important factors.

3 Ways To Tackle Loneliness

1. Have meaningful conversations with people you care about (and who care about you)

“Having frequent positive interactions with other people who you feel care about you in some ways is essential,” Boardman says, and meaningful conversation is one way to do so. She notes that meaningful conversation comes down to really paying attention, getting the phone out of the way, and digging deeper than you normally might. “Usually good conversations involve more listening than talking,” she adds.

2. Carve out time – even just five minutes

Just five minutes of genuine connection will do more than hours of interaction without connection. Boardman suggests carving out at least five minutes of your day just to be present and have a conversation – especially with loved ones – beyond logistical things like who’s picking up the kids or whether the dishwasher needs to be fixed.

3. Be deliberate

Last but not least, Boardman says even casual interactions can be more meaningful “if we pay a little bit more attention and are deliberate about them.” When you grab your next coffee, ask your barista how they’re doing – and really mean it, for example. You could also reach out to a friend you haven’t talked to in a while and take some time to catch up. Walking the dog? Ask your neighbour if they want to tag along, and take the time to get to know them better. The options are endless!

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is, no one is immune to loneliness, but there are ways to combat it. Every interaction is an opportunity to transcend isolation, and when we focus on intentionality, meaningful conversation, and connection, we find we’re much less alone than we think.