Creative Ways to Find Community and Connection While Social Distancing

Science tells us that staying social can boost our well-being and lower our stress — so during this challenging time, it’s important that we feel connected.

FilippoBacci/ Getty Images
FilippoBacci/ Getty Images

Millions of people are practicing social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, and while many of us do our part to stop the spread by staying indoors, it’s very challenging to maintain the same level of social connection and community that we did before. Research tells us that staying social and avoiding a sense of isolation can improve our well-being and lower our stress so during this time, it’s important that we get creative in order to stay connected.

We asked our Thrive community to share the creative ways they’re staying social and finding a sense of community while at home. Which of these will you try? 

Host an online meditation session

“My way of staying connected is by holding weekly meditations on Zoom. I see faces I haven’t seen for years from all around the world, and right here in my town. People tell me they emerge feeling refreshed, grounded, and recharged. I feel grateful to be able to do this, but also it lights up my life to see peoples’ faces on my screen, and hear the comments afterward. For some people, this is the only time they see another human being that day.”

—Georgina Cannon, coach, relationship counselor, and instructor, Toronto, Canada

Send your friends handwritten notes

“I’m leaning on snail mail and handwritten cards to help me keep my sense of community. I have always been a big fan of handwritten cards and notes, and I’m using them to surprise my friends and family members. What I love most about sending mail is that it not only comes as a surprise to the recipient, it sparks a conversation upon being received. I always receive a text or a phone call after the fact, which offers more opportunity to connect.”

—Alyssa Swantkoski, executive assistant, Denver, CO

Join a writing group

“I used to be involved with a writing group, where I gained so much inspiration and support. Since then, I’ve had kids and have experienced other life events that pulled me away from that passion, reducing my writing to mere dabbling. At the beginning of March, I was invited by the instructor of my last course to attend the Writer’s Circle — a support group for writers of varying genres and experience. But with the limitations of social distancing, the meeting was postponed until last Wednesday, when the Writer’s Circle was moved online. One of the guests in the circle was an instructor that I had over a decade ago. She was instrumental in growing my confidence and skill as a writer. It felt amazing to reunite and find a familiar community online.”

—Christine Hourd, personal development coach, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Have a family reunion on Zoom

“It’s been hard for our four-year-old and seven-year-old to be away from their extended family. They wonder when they will be able to hug their grandparents again and chase their cousins around.  To stay connected as we adjust to our new virtual reality, one of our cousins arranged a family Zoom reunion with over 40 of us involved. Each family member went around sharing updates. My son shared a drawing he made of the world beating coronavirus.  A younger cousin played a Bach piece on the piano. Two others sang a duet in Hindi. Another cousin showed off his amazing dance moves. Moments like these truly keep us together, and we’ll remember them after the pandemic is over.”

—Mita Mallick, head of diversity, Jersey City, NJ

Try “dress up” Zoom calls

“Dressing up or suggesting a theme for calls and video sessions can be a great way to add some whimsy while staying connected.  Since frequent calls between kids and grandparents can feel forced sometimes, adding an element of creativity can help increase engagement for everyone. Sunday calls might include dressing up in your ‘Sunday best,’ for example. Depending on the ages and interest of those involved, the theme can be over the top, or simply sticking to a color of clothing that everyone wears.”

—Marta Chavent, change and management consultant, France 

Join a virtual performance group

“I love to sing and perform in my community, but it’s been hard to be able to do that with social distancing going on. I recently joined a virtual performance group.  It’s a collection of singers and instrumentalists who come together to get their music performance fix. It’s been inspiring to get into rehearsal mode, meet new people, and bond over our love of music. It’s helped manage my anxiety and the emotions that I’ve been avoiding as well. We just completed our first project together and it was amazing how unified everyone sounded. Music can truly unite us all.”

—Joyel Crawford, leadership consultant, Westmont, NJ

Hold storytime online

“Although I miss the actual physical contact, I have been connecting with even more friends and family during this time. I’ve been calling friends on a weekly basis, chatting with relatives online, and scheduling Zoom calls with my grandchildren. I have even been recording videos of myself reading books to my grandchildren and sending them so they can hear Grandma reading to them whenever they’d like. We made chocolate chip cookies together over Facebook Video chat last week, and had all of the ingredients measured beforehand.”

—Joanne Barr, Ottawa, Canada

Start a “show and tell” night

“This quarantine has highlighted the need for human connection. I am very social and always out and about with friends, so early on I prompted a group of college friends to start a virtual happy hour via Zoom. The weekly event has evolved into a sort of ‘show-and-tell,’ each week featuring something new. We’ve experienced and learned different things together virtually, from how to properly chop an onion, to one friend reading a children’s book she wrote and published. I’d highly recommend trying this with a group of friends as a way to stay connected and still have fun during this unusual time.” 

—Eliza Williams, client engagement, New York, NY

Reunite with old friends

“Maintaining community certainly takes creativity right now. I have reconnected with friends who live far away by establishing regular Facetime calls or Zoom parties. Our old day-to-day routines kept us from connecting, but I have now prioritized focusing on people who fill me up. I have attended extracurricular programs that used to be difficult to fit into our schedules. This has included virtual religious events, family reunions, and drive-by birthday parties. I’ve found that I’ve been putting myself out there even more in this virtual world.”

—Robyn Isman, L.I.C.S.W., Needham, MA

Invite friends to a virtual jazz fest 

“In honor of the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival that could not take place this year, my friend and I spontaneously hopped on a  Zoom dance party. We live-streamed previous years’ performances via a New Orleans radio app and danced the afternoon away. In lieu of ticket purchases, we made donations in support of local musicians. We’ve already scheduled our next Jazz Fest Zoom, this time inviting more friends to join in on the fun and the cause.”

—Molly Biehl, coach, San Diego, CA

Try a “quarantine quiz night”

“While we’re all at home and we have loads of time to get in touch with our family and friends, we have created a group to host virtual happy hours, play online games and quarantine quizzes, and share some jokes and pictures that keep us happy in these difficult times.  The quarantine quiz activity includes certain tasks where the group members are asked to do things as fast as possible within a certain amount of time. For example, one task was to take a selfie and post in the group, and the first one who posts wins. It’s a great way to keep ourselves engaged and have fun.”

—V. Rashmi Rao, content writer and digital marketer, Hyderabad, India

How are you staying social and finding community right now? Share with us in the comments!

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