As winter arrives and outdoor gathering becomes less possible, many of us are dreading all the time we’ll spend home alone over the next few months. When you can’t share space with someone as you talk with them or give them a hug, connection becomes harder.
But there are still ways to bond with people, and finding the ones that work for you will keep you connected and help you get through both this season and the ones beyond.
Here are some ideas.
1. Find a friend to text with about your daily life. What you had for breakfast (oat jars? omelette? waffles?). What you plan to do with your day. How your fern is unfurling or your succulent leaf is budding. Witnessing the small details of each other’s lives is a way to bond and something that happens in long-term relationships of all sorts. Your friendships may not have been based around this kind of bonding before, but this is the time to invite change. Sharing these moments is a way to connect on a basic level with another human. Send pictures with your texts. Send video texts. Write creative descriptions. Use all these formats to share what your life is like in this moment.
2. Have video chats. Yes, we are all experiencing how exhausting these can be, but communication that comes with some nonverbal cues is worth the energy, when you have it. Much of our communication is nonverbal: eye contact, facial expressions, hand gestures, body position, and more. While you can’t see all of that on a video chat, you can see some. To make your video chats more enjoyable for everyone, find a quiet place (for instance, not outside with the wind and traffic noise or in the kitchen while you’re cooking). Make sure your face is lit. Consider your background—are you sharing more of your space than you want to? Is there art or a plant behind you that your friend will appreciate seeing?
3. Write letters. You don’t even have to send them. Simply thinking about what you want to say to a friend or relative can increase your sense of connection with them. And if you do send them, you may receive one back! Writing letters is different than writing emails; it’s harder to delete and rewrite. So take your time. Think about your words before writing them. Share thoughts that might be hard to say in person.
4. Tell your loved ones you love them. Even if you’re normally reserved with your emotions, there’s no better time to push your comfort zone. While we’re stumbling through this miasma of uncertainty and fear, make sure the people you care about know just how much you care about them. Imagine yourself in a future that no longer includes them. What would you wish you had said? Say it now.
5. Get to know yourself. If you live alone, you’re probably spending far more time with yourself than you’re used to. You may be responding to this with boredom. Boredom is not something to be vanquished, but an opportunity to learn something new about yourself, discover an interest lurking in the background, enjoy the memory of past experiences, or let your mind wander where it will. Researchers have found that boredom can increase creativity; it clears space in the mind in which new ideas can emerge. Learning more about yourself can be as simple as sitting down with a journal and some questions to ponder: here’s a list to get you started.
6. Give your home some new life with plants. We all know that animals make good company, but so do these simple growing things that we often take for granted. Without taking much energy from us, they offer oxygen, the opportunity to tend to something, and a reminder that change is always happening. Go ahead and talk or sing to them. They like it, and it doesn’t mean you’re going crazy.
You will certainly have moments of feeling isolated. That’s okay. Feelings of loneliness remind us that connection is important and can push us to reach out even when it’s hard.