The Christmas holidays are usually synonymous with social gatherings, raucous office parties and evenings of fun and laughter with friends and family.
With social restrictions in place this year though, the festive period could be less sparkly for lots of us, and if you live alone, it might be a time where you feel more isolated than usual.
Here are some simple ideas for staying happy, healthy and connected over Christmas…
1. Join a Zoom choir
Studies have found that group singing isn’t just a fun way to pass the time, it can also actively improve our mental health, making us feel more confident and valued. While an IRL gathering with singers in your local area might not be allowed for a while yet, virtual choirs are popping up all over the internet.
You could join in with the Sofa Singers, a free and weekly singing event that brings hundreds of people together on a Zoom call to learn a new song and practise their harmonies for 45 joyous minutes. If you can’t find a choir that suits your personal music taste, you could even have a go at setting up your own with a group of pals. All you need is a laptop, some lyrics and a little bit of imagination.
2. Foster an animal
Some RSPCA shelters and animal charities rely on fosterers to provide temporary homes for dogs and cats in their care, especially over the Christmas period. Fostering a pet can be really rewarding and vital work, as it can help an animal’s rehabilitation and improve their chances of finding a forever home.
Dogs and cats provide wonderful company during times of loneliness, and if you know you can’t commit to taking on a pet of your own long-term, having a furry friend stay with you over the festive period could really help to lift your spirits.
3. Join a virtual writing group
Writing can be a really fulfilling hobby, but it can often be a solitary endeavour. Joining an online writing group can help you to forge new friendships while flexing your creative muscles at the same time.
The Original Writers Group welcomes writers from all walks of life and hosts a weekly online workshop for both amateurs and professionals – they boast poets, novelists, playwrights, scriptwriters, historians and philosophers in their ranks. Members are invited to share their work – whether short stories, poems, essays – or to simply join the hosts for an evening of chatting, sharing, planning and pontificating all things writing.
4. Get a penpal
There’s something really special about building a snail mail friendship over time. Plus, putting together a thoughtful, handwritten letter can be a really soothing task.
Global Penfriends is an initiative that can help to match you up with a letterwriting pal from another corner of the globe. It’s a lovely way to meet new friends and learn about other cultures at a time where travel is restricted.
5. Stay busy by learning something new
Hobbies can help to relieve stress and loneliness by keeping you engaged in something you enjoy. Whether it’s painting, learning a new language or trying your hand at an instrument, spending time doing a fun activity will help increase your happiness and satisfaction with life.
Plus, once you’ve picked up some new skills, you could offer to help teach a friend everything you’ve learned over a Zoom coffee morning.
6. Volunteer to speak to the elderly
Spending time on your own over the festive period can be a really upsetting experience, but for some people, loneliness is a full-time reality. If you love to chat, you could volunteer with AgeUK to have a regular phone call to an older person, who’d love to make a new friend. Their telephone befriender initiative matches up volunteers with older people for a weekly 30-minute natter.
Not only will you be making a difference to someone else’s life, but you’ll also be improving your own happiness and wellbeing in the process too.
7. Seek help
Most people feel lonely sometimes, but if loneliness is affecting your day-to-day life, it’s good to remember that there is support available to help you.
As well as talking about your feelings to a friend, family member, health professional or counsellor, you could also contact Samaritans on 116 123 if you need further advice.