Our relationships play a huge role in our general happiness. Unfortunately, it's also an area that we neglect as we prioritise other things over getting out and mingling.
According to Auckland-based psychiatrist Dr Jan Reeves, feeling shy or awkward is something that many of us experience at some point in our lives. The good news - it's totally normal.
'A huge majority of people suffer anxiety in social settings,' she says.
'Even loud, outgoing people can be anxious in unfamiliar situations. Like giving a talk or presentation in front of other people. It's quite normal to experience a bit of anxiety. It's when you start to avoid social situations or you turn to self-medication through drugs or alcohol that you should get some help.'
While we can't promise that you'll never feel anxious or awkward again, here are five practical ways you can work towards nailing it in your social life.
Focus outwards not inwards
According to Dr Reeves, people are too caught up in their own heads to notice the anxiety levels of others.
'The reality is that people are far more concerned with how they're coming across in a social interaction than how you're coming across. So if you're feeling anxious or nervous, it's more than likely the person you're interacting with is feeling something similar.'
One change: Thinking of yourself as awkward undermines your confidence. Try approaching your next conversation with a positive mindset.
Fake it 'til you make it
A growing body of research suggests that you can change your mood simply by changing your behaviour.
One highly-publicised study by a Harvard Business School social psychologist Amy Cuddy found that adopting a powerful positive stance can actually affect your body chemistry. In short, if you fake your mood initially, you're likely to feel a knock-on effect that will actually leave you feeling more confident.
One change: Start small and try flashing the cashier with a smile when you're paying for your groceries, making sure to take note of how you feel afterwards.