Whether you were a homebody long before the coronavirus pandemic struck, or a tireless social butterfly, one thing remains true for us all: This unprecedented new way of life in isolation caused by the historic health crisis has drastically changed the way we interact with our friends and family. Luckily, there are still plenty of ways to keep in touch with the ones you love—and even ones that you’ve yet to meet—all while staying safe from COVID-19. We’ve consulted experts to come up with some of the best ways to be social while also doing your part to flatten the coronavirus curve.
Have a virtual dinner party.
For many, sharing a meal with friends and family is one of the most painfully absent aspects of life in quarantine. But just because you can’t be together physically doesn’t mean you can’t spend quality time together over a home-cooked meal. Choosing a recipe, fire up your favorite video-conferencing app, and have your first virtual dinner party.
“The kids get to talk and connect with family while we all cook as a group,” says Heather Hoke, mother of two and creator of Embracing Chaos with Love. “You can even turn it into a game and decide whose dish looks the best.” And it’s not just the act of cooking that can keep you in touch: Try creating a private Facebook group, or group chat, to share recipes and take turns picking the dish for each gathering.
Establish a remote workout routine.
Trying to avoid an overly sedentary lifestyle can be hard enough when you’re commuting to an office job five days a week, but ironically, it can be even harder when you’re stuck indoors all day. Instead of putting off physical activity until shelter-in-place regulations are lifted, try scheduling some virtual workouts.
“They hold us accountable and keep us motivated,” says Jaime Zuckerman, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist based in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. “They foster a sense of community during this time when so many of us are feeling lonely and isolated.” These online workout sessions also benefit your mental health, adds Zuckerman. “They’re a great way for us to release endorphins—our ‘happy chemical’—which helps ward off depression and anxiety, especially during these times of social distancing,” she says.
Watch movies and TV shows together.
Thanks to technology, self-isolation doesn’t mean you have to miss out on watching your favorite television shows and movies with your closest friends. Netflix Party allows groups to watch programs together with a built-in chat function, and apps like Airtime allow you to actually watch content while also viewing each other.
“Social distancing doesn’t mean you have to isolate yourself from your friends,” says Daniel Klaus, chief executive officer of Airtime. “[Our app] allows you to hang out with your friends the way you used to, either by binging TV shows together, watching funny videos on YouTube, or chatting while listening to music with up to ten friends.” At least this way your entire social circle will finally understand what those Tiger King memes are all about.
Send a handwritten letter.
With people hunkering down at home coast to coast, even the most technology-averse individuals have likely seen their daily screen time skyrocket thanks to video calling and binge-watching. But it’s wise to step away from the digital world every so often, even when you are trying to communicate with someone. That’s why experts suggest writing an old-fashioned letter–you know, the kind on actual paper, written in actual ink—to a friend or family member.
Not only does the act of sending a letter keep you in touch with someone, but it can also help brighten their day. “Everyone smiles when they find a personal card or letter in their mailbox,” says psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina, PhD. “And according to [National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director] Dr. Fauci, the virus doesn’t stay on paper products very long, so the risk of spreading the virus is very, very small.”
Go on a virtual date.
Just because your dating life may have been complicated before quarantine doesn’t mean you have to swear off meeting new people while staying at home.
“This is an opportunity for us to really take the time to get to know someone without having to worry about busy schedules, awkward in-person first dates, or—worst of all—being stood up,” says Peter Anthonii, a lifestyle expert at CareyOn Public Relations.“Take the lead in planning a candlelit dinner or go visit a world-famous European museum (virtually) together.”
Connect with old friends.
At a time when we’ve never been so physically isolated from each other, reaching out to close friends—even ones you may have lost touch with—is more important than ever. “Video chatting for work is not enough,” says Kimberly Dwyer, PhD, a licensed psychologist and productivity coach. “We need social connections with the people who know us as full people and not just as professionals.”
Dwyer adds that it’s the interaction itself, rather than the context in which it’s had, that’s important. “The game nights, cocktail hours, coffee chats, celebrations, and even religious services [with old friends] give us these opportunities to be ‘full’ social people and engage with others outside of our working lives” she says.
Have in-person conversations at a safe distance.
While it’s crucial to follow social-distancing guidelines, it’s likely that you’ll cross paths with family and friends at some point. And the conversations you have at a safe distance—whether it’s with a neighbor over the fence, or outside a loved one’s window—can give you a sense of normalcy in these strange times.
“It’s so important for us to stay emotionally connected while strictly adhering to social distancing,” says Kelley Kitley, author, psychotherapist, and mother of four. “My family of six drove by my mom’s house yesterday so we could chat and see her face to face while she stood on the curb and talked to us.” These planned visits-at-a-distance can also break up the monotony of video chats and phone calls currently dominating your social calendar in quarantine.