Daily Living

Coping With Social Isolation This Winter

A mug and popcorn in a red bowl in front of a fire

Winter can be a challenging time for many people, particularly this year as we face a global pandemic. But social distancing doesn’t need to mean social isolation. There are a number of great ways to stay connected with others or things you can do on your own to bring warmth to these cold days. Pamela Jarvis, Arthritis Support and Resource Advisor with the Arthritis Society’s Arthritis Rehabilitation and Education Program, shares some tips.

It’s important to point out that these are simply a few ideas to build on, and the key to success lies with your own motivation to carry out these activities or to create innovations that will work for you. If we start off making small changes and feeling better, that small snowball of motivation can roll into a giant one. 

1. Practice mindfulness and meditation (MM)

This is a great opportunity to slow down and explore the world of mindfulness and meditation. The possibilities are endless, and this widely accepted practice has proven benefits for those who do it regularly. A number of research studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of mindfulness and meditation, while brain scans have shown positive brain changes in people who practice it regularly. With many different ways to meditate, from formal, guided meditation to informal walking meditation, this practice can assist in clearing any motivational blockages you may be experiencing.

Many free meditation apps can be accessed online as well as through podcasts or YouTube, in addition to formal, guided meditation apps that are available for a cost. As with anything, it takes time to learn MM and it is essential to be patient and empathetic with yourself. An example of an informal type of mindfulness meditation is simply going for a walk and taking that opportunity to be completely present in the moment. Use this as a healing opportunity to absorb smells, sounds, the feeling of the ground under your feet or mobility device. The trees, the spaces in between the branches, the animals that are currently scrounging for food to last them through the winter.

If you are unable to walk, even being outside and noticing nature can be just as powerful. You might be able to find classes being run virtually in your community, or also has many free virtual events that you can join. This is a great opportunity to learn about virtual platforms, which leads into the second suggestion on increasing resiliency and adjusting through the winter season.

2. Connect virtually

Many people have become acquainted with various digital platforms to connect to others via a tablet, laptop or phone. From a simple conversation between two people to a family game night involving 20 people, it can help break down some of the barriers of isolation. One major mainstream virtual platform called Zoom offers free training webinars with live support every day, no prior experience needed. It is quite straightforward to learn and a basic Zoom account is free. You can learn more from the Zoom Help Center.

If you’re celebrating a holiday or just looking to connect with friends or family, there are lots of great ways to have fun together online. Bingo, trivia, a scavenger hunt or “guess the baby picture” are just a few of the games you can find online or create yourself.

3. Consider Meetups

For those of us who may have been spending a lot of time alone lately, this is a great opportunity to meet some new people from the comfort of home. is an online site “for finding and building local communities. People use Meetup to meet new people, learn new things, find support, get out of their comfort zones and pursue their passions, together.” Joining is free and so are most events. You can attend a virtual social event, join an online book club or learn new skills. Just remember to practice online safety when participating in an event and don’t share your personal information with other members.

4. Watch feel-good movies

Whether comedy is your thing, love stories or action, there is an abundance of wonderful movies and shows, holiday-themed or otherwise, to settle down with for the evening. Pair that with a cozy warm drink and an aromatherapy diffuser or candle to create a comforting and wondrous aroma throughout your home.  

5. Find opportunities to laugh

They say laughter is the best medicine, and it definitely can help us feel better. Laughter creates a feeling of lightness and changes the energy within us to one of positivity, strength and motivation. Why not put on your favourite comedy, pick up a cartoon book or listen to a comedy podcast? There are also a number of free laughter yoga classes available online. Dr. Madan Kataria, for example, offers a free laughter yoga club every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday morning and evening.  

6. Surprise someone with a gift

Who doesn’t like a surprise gift? Put your creative skills to work by making personal gifts for loved ones and mailing or dropping them off (keeping a safe distance). There are many great websites to help get those creative juices flowing. Pinterest and are a few websites that can inspire ideas such as framed puzzles, personalized ornaments, a collage or a scrapbook of old photos that have long been collecting dust in a cardboard box.  

To minimize contact, you could also think about virtual gifts such as compiling old photos into a video or slideshow for your loved ones. Many computers and smart phones come with built-in photo and video editing programs, such as Windows Photo and Video Editor, or Mac Photos, that allow you to add titles and music. Or create a personalized star chart for your loved one by entering a date of significance in Sky and Telescope Magazine’s Interactive Star Chart. By pressing the print button, you can save the chart as a PDF file and email it or print it out yourself. Creativity can boost your mental, emotional and intellectual health!

7. Practice gratitude

There has been much talk in the media lately about the practice of gratitude, but what does that really mean? Gratitude is a practice, but it must be practiced consistently. The practice of gratitude is simply shifting your mindset from a negative, energy-draining place, focusing on events you cannot control and that will ultimately bring you down, to a more positive, energy-centred place. When you have more positive energy resonating through your mind and body, it feels good. This helps with motivation and creates a domino effect. Positive energy creates positive outcomes.  It’s as simple as that. Gratitude journaling is a tangible way to recognize all the positives in our lives. This can be done by writing down the good things that happened that day, or all the good things that we have in our lives.

8. De-clutter

Although it does take a lot of physical energy, purging and going through your old items can be rejuvenating for a couple of reasons. The stuff you are not using can be donated, and that can foster a sense of satisfaction at giving back to the community. Additionally, it can be cleansing to de-clutter, providing a sense of calmness and control for your mental health. It’s important to be aware of your own physical limitations and adapt and adjust how much you do at once, being careful not to overdo it.

9. Exchange recipes

Food often brings people together. So, what about a recipe exchange party with friends or family members? Each person can email a favourite recipe ahead of time for others to try. All the participants can prepare the same dish or different dishes from the selection of recipes. You can then set a time to enjoy the food together virtually over Zoom or another video conferencing platform If everyone is making the same dish, you can even have a contest to judge whose version looks the best!       

10. Keep connected from home

Online sites such as and offer a number of free workshops and events. You can find events related to specific interests such as outdoor activities, book clubs, music or visual art, as well as opportunities to learn a new skill such as investing, photography or cooking. Hobbies and crafts are big areas of interest right now as we are not as mobile this year. You could also take a wellness workshop on topics such as creating a restful mind and body, maintaining healthy relationships or reducing stress.

This winter in particular, it is important to include self-care in your daily routine. Not all of these suggestions will work for everyone but think of them as a starting point to expand upon. As we face a unique winter that may keep us physically apart from others, we can explore new pastimes and create new traditions in our own special way.