While this time of year is traditionally full of opportunities for celebration, there are many for whom the holidays can be an isolating and difficult season to get through. And while spending time with ourselves is a great way to explore and invite growth into our lives, it can be particularly challenging to find the positive in being by yourself during a time of year when we’re expected to feel nothing but happy holiday joy.
The good news is that there are many ways you can connect with and support loved ones from a distance if you can’t fit it into your schedule or budget to visit them this season. From dropping off baskets filled with yummy treats to exchanging cards expressing your gratitude and love, below are 10 ideas that’ll help you foster connection and build community this season with those who need it most.
1. Check in
Reaching out is a great place to start. Be sure to ask before you assume how they’re responding to being on their own for the holidays. It’s possible that they’re looking forward to not having to endure a long family meal, and of course, it’s also possible that they’re heartbroken over not being able to go home or gather with loved ones. By checking in, you’re inviting your friend to share their truth, and you’re offering them the space to be heard.
This is also a great time to provide additional outlets for your friend if they need extra support. Maybe that’s encouraging them to connect with their therapist or schedule a phone or Zoom call with their family. Listen as they voice their needs, and respond with resources that can further support them.
2. Support their rest
Many of us have at least a couple of days off from work around the holidays. It’s such a busy season, and everyone is in need of more than a little rest. Curate a line-up of their favorite holiday episodes, send them a roundup of books they’ll love, or put together a soothing playlist of songs that will put them at ease during their time off. Not only are you sharing tools and resources that will help them unwind, but you’re also letting them know that their health and well-being are important to you.
3. Marathon your favorite holiday movies
While a Nancy Meyers script combined with scenes of a picture-perfect English village (I’m referencing The Holiday, of course) is enough to make me happily burrow away for several days without human contact, there’s really nothing better than watching your favorite holiday movies with friends. Whether that’s telepartying on Netflix or FaceTiming while you watch Happiest Season, there are plenty of ways you can still connect over the beautifully-cheesy films we can’t get enough of during this time of year.
Pull on your coziest PJs, mix up a batch of your favorite holiday-themed snack (I’m going for Muddy Buddies), and get ready for hours-long texting convos about whether or not The Princess Switch, The Princess Switch: Switched Again, or The Princess Switch: Romancing the Star is the superior Vanessa Hudgens performance.
4. Dream together
Next time you’re chatting with your friend, let your focus shift to the future for a bit and share how good it’ll feel when you can get together again. Dreaming up a themed dinner party to throw or planning the possibilities for a future trip to take together can brighten up any challenging day, and the only thing that’s better than the excitement of planning is marking the date on the calendar.
5. Drop off a basket filled with their favorites
There’s a reason sharing gift baskets with new neighbors was once a staple of every guide to etiquette. Putting together a collection of your friend’s favorite things—snacks, baked goods, the candle they can’t get enough of—and dropping it off on their front step is a thoughtful surprise anyone would be happy to receive. You can even pack your friend dinner plus a bottle of wine or pair store-bought jam with an assortment of homemade baked goods. Whatever it is you think they’ll look forward to the most, fill the basket with that.
6. See the lights
Pack up your holiday beverage of choice (I’m pouring peppermint hot cocoa), and set out to find the prettiest holiday lights. A quick Google search for holiday light displays in your city will likely turn up helpful results, and you can always ask around for recommendations from those in the know. When you get to your destination, bundle up, walk around, and get ready to ooh and aah at all the winter wonderlands you find.
7. Take advantage of virtual entertainment
There are so many amazing classes, performances, exhibitions, and more that we have access to online. Set a date with your friend, enjoy one (or three!) together from afar, and chat about how much fun you had afterward! DIY a winter wreath, tune in for a virtual performance, cue up an online workout, or take a cooking or baking class. Whatever you decide to do, it’ll be an opportunity for you to connect, grow, and learn something new together.
8. Head out for a walk
If you live in the same city, send a text to see if your friend wants to go for a walk together (bonus points if you live where it’s cold!). Not only are endorphins, sunshine, and connection a game-changing combo for your mental space, but you’ll also get the opportunity to catch up—even if it’s only for 20-30 minutes.
9. Volunteer together
Whether you’re spending the holidays alone or not, giving back can raise anyone’s spirits and reminds us of all we have to contribute. See what opportunities are available right now in your community or go online for ideas. Connect with an organization that’s distributing hand-written letters to those overseas or gather up donations to bring to your local food bank. Any option you choose will have the same effect: Boosted empathy and a reminder of what this season is really all about.
10. Send a little “thinking of you”
What are the things about your friend for which you’re the most grateful? Maybe it’s their vulnerability, their strength, or their kindness. Maybe it’s their ever-expanding imagination that keeps you inspired. Make a list of all the things you love and appreciate about them. Write your list in a card and drop the little love note in the mail. Whether that’s a DM, text, or a small note in the mail, it’s a simple gesture that can have an amazing impact. Sometimes the simplest things matter most.