Connecting with loved ones is vital for our mental health. However, enjoying those social connections can be difficult at a time when the CDC recommends social distancing. Staying safe during the global pandemic doesn’t mean you need to become a hermit, though. These COVID-safe strategies will help you stay social while you’re social distancing.

Use Social Media Productively

social distancing
Image via Flickr by mynetx

Social media can be a double-edged sword during a pandemic. The creators of these online platforms designed them to encourage virtual social interaction. However, passively scrolling through posts can make you feel more isolated. As you scroll, you’ll likely read news about the pandemic that can make you feel anxious or stressed.

That doesn’t mean social media is all bad. Social media can be a great way to socialize if you use it more consciously. Take steps to interact with others. Rather than simply scrolling and liking a few posts, take the time to leave comments. Fire up their instant messaging and video chat functions and talk to your family members and friends. Emphasizing the social part of social media can change your relationship with the medium and help you feel more connected.

Pick up the Phone

Once, the only function of phones was to call others. As phones become more functional, the features became distracting, and you probably started calling people less. Today, young people aged between 22 and 37 say they don’t like talking on the phone. They complain the practice is “too time-consuming.” They’re even more likely to dodge calls from friends and family members than those from work colleagues. In a pandemic, though, all you have is time at your disposal. That makes it the perfect time for rediscovering the art of a phone conversation.

Phone conversations create an immediate dialogue that text message interactions lack. They give you time to focus on someone that matters to you and nothing else. When you’re in isolation, hearing the voice of someone you care about can really lift your spirits. Experts suggest making time each day to call people you care about, especially those you don’t regularly touch base with.

Have a Virtual Party

Shared experiences don’t have to happen in shared spaces. Plan a virtual party with your friends, then hook up on video chat. For example, you could all get pizzas delivered, then stream a movie together. Keep your laptop nearby so you can chat with your friends throughout the experience, just as you would if you were in the same room.

One of the best things about a virtual party is that all your friends can attend, no matter where they live. It can be a great way to reconnect with friends living around the nation or abroad.

A virtual party is a great way to mark a milestone like a birthday or a career achievement. However, you could also throw a party just because you miss people or because you and your friends have free time. A regular Friday night virtual party is a great way to usher in the weekend.

Work Out With a Friend

Working out with friends is a great way to stay motivated and stop those iso-snack calories from sneaking up on you. The good news is you can easily continue this healthy habit while socially distancing.

If you feel comfortable going out, you can easily meet up with a buddy for a run or cycle. One person should lead while the other safely trails 6 feet behind. The leader should glance back regularly to make sure their workout partner keeps pace.

Alternatively, those video chat programs can also help you connect during an at-home workout. Take turns leading a workout for you both, or find a workout channel online. The video program lets you see what you are both doing so you can analyze your form and push yourself to do better.

Connect With Your Neighbors

Roughly a quarter of Americans know all their neighbors. We need to work together as a community to get through the pandemic. That means there’s no better time to get social with your neighbors, from a safe social distance of course!

Simply waving to a neighbor from your window can give you both a lift. You could also write a letter introducing yourself and put it in a neighbor’s letterbox. Plan a time to meet at the ends of your driveways or from a safe distance at the entrance of your building.

Many Americans are nervous about going out for meals and groceries during the pandemic. You could ease some of this stress by leaving meals on your neighbor’s doorsteps. This friendly gesture is a great way to spread goodwill during this difficult time, and the connections you make with your neighbors will last long past the pandemic.

Attend a Drive-In or Streamed Concert With Friends

Few things bring people together like music. It seems like it will be a long time before we can safely attend live shows. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t see concerts with our friends and fellow fans. Several leading artists are finding new creative ways to bring music to you. Drive-in concerts let you see your favorite musicians in the flesh, from the safety of your car. Park next to your friends’ cars, tune in your radios, then listen to the show’s audio piped into your speakers. Instead of applauding, use the horn to honk in appreciation.

If there are no drive-in concerts near you, try a streamed gig. Since the pandemic closed venues, many popular artists have started streaming shows from their homes. Log on and watch these performances along with your friends. Streaming platforms like Twitch and Facebook Live allow fans to chat and share their thoughts on the show in real-time.

Social distancing gives America its best chance of slowing down and ideally eliminating COVID-19. It might seem difficult at first to stay apart from people you care about. However, with a little creativity, you can satisfy your need for social engagement while social distancing.