As we collectively and individually emerge from the hole the pandemic created for so many, and as we realize the deep impact of anxiety, depression and other forms of mental illness, one thing is increasingly clear: Loneliness is not good for people.

In fact, while many mental illnesses are rooted in genetic issues, brain diseases, and other problems passed down through generations, many of them are exacerbated by loneliness. Isolation and the mind games we play in the center of that isolation can level a person.

On one hand, we could argue that today our capacity for friendship is so much larger than ever before. Even if we live alone in the middle of nowhere, we can cultivate and maintain friendships on the other side of the world thanks to the Internet, social media, telephones, or any number of modern technologies that bring the gift of another person right into our midst.

Yet as our culture increasingly shifts online, and because of the inherent lack of or capacity for authenticity revealed in online friendships, there’s a powerful kickback in that we’re even more lonely and isolated. In fact, some of us don’t really know how to make friends anymore. Perhaps we don’t work in a traditional office setting surrounded by coworkers. Perhaps we’ve lost touch with our old friends and are living in a new place where we know very few people. Perhaps our family relationships or existing friendships are extremely toxic and we need to branch out, but we just don’t know how.