Even before COVID-19 brought unthinkable levels of isolation, our world was increasingly lonely and hurting. Depression, loneliness and suicide rates were on the rise. As the pandemic continues, these trends have only accelerated.

These times demand we do a better job of caring for one another. Even with this recognition, our skills are woefully underdeveloped, leaving us unprepared to help those in need. To combat the feelings of loneliness and isolation, people need to feel acknowledged, seen, valued, heard and cared for. This is more than kindness, empathy or sympathy — it is comfort.

Comfort, the cultivation of human care and connection, is a skill, not a trait and can be learned. When we repeatedly comfort others, our human empathic response is engaged and awakened. Not only does the receiver of comfort get comforted — the giver of comfort is comforted and more emotionally grounded.

Comfort requires you to think of others by looking around to see who is hurting. You must pause, slow down and use your head to consider what action might comfort that person. You then intentionally reach out, even if it’s awkward to give your smile, presence, time or ears by listening, so you can connect. In that moment the focus is on them, not you. By reflecting on how you helped this person, you will see it helped you.

In this “Circle of Comfort,” emotions such as empathy and compassion are naturally carried along. We can all be better comforters. Let’s change our perspective on human care and use comfort to better connect and mend our hurting world.

Jill Bornstein is the co-founder and CFO of Inspiring Comfort. She also is a certified grief recovery specialist and a QPR Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper instructor. To learn more about the skill of comfort, visit InspiringComfort.com or check out the book “Paws to Comfort” at pawstocomfort.com.