Winter can be a fun season, full of snow and holidays and coziness, but it can also bring a sense of loneliness. When the weather changes, it can be harder to get outside because of the cold or travel conditions. It’s also a time of year where there’s less sunlight, days are shorter, and seasonal depression can rear its head. On top of all that, we’re headed into our second pandemic winter. If you’re already feeling lonely, you’re not alone. Loneliness is something that folks deal with every winter, but it feels especially painful during this pandemic.
Life still isn’t back to normal (whatever that means now), and the mental toll of the past two years is hard to deal with. We’ve all been through a lot, and people everywhere are feeling burned out. Burnout is “a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress.”
Burnout can be serious, and can even lead to depression or contribute to anxiety if it’s left unchecked. Burnout can also make it harder to maintain your social connections. When you’re feeling burned out, you feel like you’re running on empty. You might feel like you have no energy left to give, and that can cause social connections to suffer, even if that’s not your intention.
Winter doesn’t have to be a season of loneliness, though. If you’re looking for ways to feel less lonely this winter, here are 5 ideas:
Get some sunlight every day
If you are able to, try to get some sunlight every day. It can be refreshing to step outside after spending a while indoors, especially if you’re feeling lonely. Getting out of your space gives your brain a break from feeling lonely and allows you to engage with the world in the present moment. You don’t have to spend tons of time outside if winter weather isn’t your thing (more on that to come), but spending a few minutes in the daylight each day can be a big mood booster. Getting outside often means moving around, which can also be helpful to mental health. Daily movement can do wonders for mood as well, which can be helpful when you’re feeling lonely. Getting outside also gives you more chances to see new people or even meet up with someone you know.
If you’re looking for more than just a few minutes of sunlight, a light therapy lamp could be helpful to you, especially in the winter. It can be tricky to get enough sunlight in winter when you live in the Northeast US, so adding anything that can boost your exposure to light can be helpful to you.
Take a virtual class on a totally new topic
There are a lot of virtual experiences on offer online for folks who aren’t gathering in person. You can find online tours and recorded classes, and you can also try things live. Some fun options could be a cooking class in a type of cuisine you enjoy, a history class about your city, or a crafting class in a new medium. To keep things interesting, try taking a class on something totally new or unfamiliar to you. Novel experiences can help stave off boredom and keep things interesting, and it gives you built-in conversation topics the next time you see someone or are looking for what to talk about at work.
Embrace the cold
It’s harder to get outside in the winter, but once you do, there are so many options for activities. The key to having a good time in the winter when you’re outside is to dress for the weather! This means lots of layers, a real winter coat, scarf, gloves, boots, the works. Wool socks are your best friend this time of year. You can also find one-time use or even reusable hand warmers and foot warmers if you need a little extra warmth once you’re out and about.
Here are some ideas for how to have fun outside in the winter:
- Go for a hike
- Try snowshoeing
- Go skiing or snowboarding
- Find an ice skating rink
- Build a snowman
- Go sledding
- Make maple candy in the snow
- Take pictures of the ice and snow
- Go ice fishing
- Play outside with a dog or pet
- Find a sleigh ride near you
- Drive around looking for holiday light displays
- Put up decorations for the holidays
Plan a theme night (virtual or in person)
Sometimes having a theme can make things harder to plan, but it can be fun to try to think of themes for get-togethers during the winter. Themes don’t have to mean something is super involved. Instead of having a book club, which can be daunting (finishing a whole book for leisure and finding a time to meet is a tall order), you could have an article club. Have everyone read the same article and chat about it. That could be done virtually or in-person, depending on your situation. You could have a food-themed night, where everyone orders the same type of cuisine, or everyone cooks something different from the same cookbook. You could also set up a food swap, in case you’re sick of cooking for yourself! Everyone makes a dish, and everyone gets a dish to take home (the covid version of a potluck).
Talk about how you’re feeling
However you’re feeling, it’s important to be able to talk about your emotions. You don’t have to talk about your feelings with everyone, but try to think of a trusted loved one or confidant who has your best interests at heart. It may also be helpful to talk about how lonely you’re feeling with a therapist.
A therapist can help you find ways to make connections and spot patterns in your thinking that aren’t serving you. They can also help you develop coping skills for when you’re feeling lonely. If you’re interested in talking to a therapist about feeling lonely, get in touch with us today so we can match you with a therapist.