London (JPN):Everyone experiences loneliness at one time or another. But prolonged feelings of loneliness are toxic for your health, much less happiness, experts say.

On February 8 UCLA researchers reported that lonely people are at higher risk for certain types of inflammatory disease. The new study follows another from last year, published in the journal Psychology and Aging, that found a link between chronic loneliness and accelerated signs of aging and high blood pressure.

Problem is, the world is a lonely place, according to media reports. A study last year by Britain's Mental Health Foundation reported a massive 53 percent of UK people have reported feeling depressed because of loneliness. Earlier this month, ABC News reported on the "national crisis" of loneliness in Japan, likely due to prolonged lifespans. According to Newsweek magazine, Americans are three times lonelier today than they were 20 years ago.

Want to feel less lonely?

John Cacioppo, PhD, author of several books including Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection and professor at the University of Chicago, explained in Psychology Today, a bi-monthly magazine, how four steps can break the cycle of loneliness.
The basis of the four-step method is EASE, an acronym for extend yourself, action plan, selection, and expect the best.

Step 1 - Extend yourself

The key is to make an effort to step out of your comfort zone, which isn't very comfortable if you are lonely. Cacioppo recommends getting involved with a charity or volunteering your time to experience a new and different social environment.

Step 2 - Action plan

Don't set yourself up for failure: Take an honest look at your strengths and time commitments to find social outlets that will enhance your quality of life and not cause more stress. One example offered is for shy individuals to consider working with animals. In any case, make a plan and give yourself the ability to be in control.

Step 3 - Selection

Selecting whom you want to be in your in social circle is important. People surrounded by numerous "friends" are not necessarily free from loneliness. In finding social connectedness, it is important to find quality connections with people who share similar interests. So frequent places that incorporate your interests.

Step 4 - Expect the Best

Start thinking more positively. Optimism will draw a more consistent and positive response from others and help reinforce social connectedness. As you become more open and positive about new situations and people, subtle changes can happen in your attitude and perception of loneliness.