Some find holidays lonely due to being apart from friends and family, their passing, or the uniqueness of the season. A sense of community can help diminish loneliness and improve holiday spirit. We can build community during difficult but rewarding holidays in several ways. Whether you work from home or in a large company, live alone or with many kids, a spouse, and pets, we all benefit from belonging and interconnectedness. Join us as we discuss 10 ways to build community this holiday season.
A sense of community represents an emotional connection and an interconnectedness with others.
Ensuring social connectedness and community all year round may help stave off the emotional ups and downs that often come with the holiday season.
In the holidays and year-round, volunteering, joining a club or social organization, hosting a party, or using Zoom or other visual media to connect with friends and family are ways to improve one's community.
Even those who live alone do not have to be alone for the holidays. We can take steps to engage, enrich our lives, improve our connectedness with others, and permit socialization.
What is community?
When you think of the word community, it may mean something different to you than it does to your friends or family. In general, a community represents an emotion or feeling as well as a collection of individual relationships. Individuals form and sustain communities in order to pursue common interests, goals, or needs. A sense of belonging and a safe place to feel emotionally connected to others reduce the risk of depression and improve mental and physical health.
How to engage
Getting involved in a community is simple, but it takes effort to participate in your world or neighborhood.
Living alone doesn’t mean you have to spend the holidays alone. However, having many friends and family does not mean you have to be a social butterfly every minute.
Choosing a balance between too few and too many activities, social engagements, and interactions can make your holiday season more enjoyable. We can all do things to feel like we belong, whether we have too many friends and family demanding our attention, live alone in an apartment or community, or are in a single-family unit.
Interacting with others boosts mood, goodwill, and rewards. Allowing your brain to experience joy, delight, and merriment improves mood and cognition and reduces the risk of depression during this busy season.
Let's take a look at 10 holiday tips to help you feel like you belong this season. Try one or more of these to help you feel connected during the holidays.
10 tips to create community during the holidays
Are you a homebody who lives alone or has few social activities? Join a community organization, club, or volunteer. In addition to meeting new people, you may discover a new hobby that will last beyond the holidays. Sometimes communities and social networks find us, but when they don't, a few simple steps can help you find your place.
Connecting with others physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually can improve health.
Tip 1. Volunteer
Volunteering can be rewarding on many levels. It enriches emotions, helps others, and often fills a community need. Volunteer at your local fire department, religious organization, animal shelter, or food bank. People need help year-round, but especially during the holidays.
Tip 2. Host a party
Bring friends and community to you. Host a party if you have a group of friends or family who you enjoy spending time with or are looking to gain new connections. This could be a fun-themed party, like a gift wrap party. We all gift wrap in some form or another; many people hate it, though others love it. Make it a time to enjoy. Have food, drink, and good music, and invite your neighbors, friends, or family to celebrate.
Tip 3. Movie or binge-fest
Have a holiday-themed movie fest, or pick a day or two to relax, eat your favorite snacks and drinks, and watch movies or binge that new TV show with friends/family. It may seem unproductive and intellectually uninteresting to do every day, but you can start a tradition to look forward to. Make a day of playing poker or another favorite game if TV or movies aren't to your liking.
Tip 4. Community events
Check out your local area for regional and seasonal events. Often, townships, organizations, schools, or universities will host holiday-themed events. From Christmas tree decorating to Menorah lighting to ice skating in the park—you name it—someone probably has an event during the holidays that may spark your interest. You may even meet someone and develop a meaningful, long-lasting friendship or find that roommate you need for your spare room.
Tip 5. Get in the spirit of the season
For many, it can be hard to get out of the mindset of the daily grind, the day-to-day tasks, the routine, work stress, school, and chores. However, change that mindset and get excited about the holidays.
Each person celebrates the holidays differently. Some may want to bake holiday cookies, while others want to build gingerbread houses. Others may make personalized holiday cards or decorate their yards with tons of decorations. Whatever makes you happy, thinking of warm, fond times makes you feel connected and interested.
Tip 6. Join a club
Take advantage of social media to find engaging activities. Join walking or biking clubs if you like being outside. Consider joining a book club if you like reading. Zoom and other technologies allow us to meet book clubmates worldwide. The possibilities are limitless.
However, by reading and participating, you become more connected to others. Discussing books stimulates the mind and allows for interaction. It makes you feel like you belong, have something to offer others, and have the opportunity to learn something new.
Tip 7. Share traditions
We come from various backgrounds, cultures, parenting styles, and religions, but we can find common ground. You might not do what one family does during the holidays, but you might try it and think, "Hey, this is amazing," and want to incorporate it into your annual rituals. Nobody celebrates the holidays the same way. We all have unique qualities and ideas that can make the holiday season more enjoyable for others.
Every culture, family, neighborhood, and person has their own traditions. Some people will light luminaries along their property, while others will attend a religious service, and others will eat a specific meal and watch movies. Whatever traditions we have, there is always room to add new ones and modify old ones to enhance our holiday experiences.
Tip 8. Zoom, Facetime, Skype gatherings
Seeing other people's joy during the holidays adds to the holiday spirit. Watching your Goddaughter open your gift, seeing your child's face when the tree, bare of presents the night before, is suddenly filled with "Santa," or wishing friends and family a happy holiday are best done in person. But that is not always possible.
Stay in touch with loved ones online if you cannot be with friends and family in person this holiday season. Set a date, time, and place, and send a meeting link to chat and share this holiday.
Instead of calling or texting, seeing a person's smile, laugh, or in-person presence can make a big difference. It transforms the brain, improves emotions, and helps you feel more connected, even if you are miles apart.
Tip 9. Smile, wave, engage in chat
Talk to people while you are running your normal errands. At the grocery store or gas station, greet them and ask how the cashier is. A simple smile and wave can make someone happy and content. Wish your building doorman and car valet happy holidays. These small acts can brighten a day.
Tip 10. Get physically active
Everyone understands the health benefits of exercise. Exercise helps manage weight and reduces the risk of diabetes, osteoarthritis, heart disease, mental illness, and more. This could be simply a walk around your neighborhood or a full-out workout. Going to the gym, joining a nature or biking club, or hiking with friends are other examples.
Being physically active during the holidays helps us forget loneliness, boosts mood, reduces stress, and burns calories for holiday desserts and other treats.
Take extra laps around the aisles and avoid elevators when shopping. Increase your daily steps during the holidays. Plan neighborhood walks (weather permitting). Exercise and socializing with friends and family may improve relationships and lead to great friendships.
The holidays do not have to be about eating, feasting, unbuttoning belts, and gaining weight. We can enjoy holidays, special foods, family, and fun without adding to our waistlines.
Foster community year-round
The holidays can bring life, fun, color, aromas, celebrations, feasts, gifts (receiving and giving), and more. Sharing traditions improves them and adds warmth, fond memories, and familiarity.
Despite expectations, the holidays can be sad and depressing for many. Thus, maintaining a sense of community and belonging year-round will give you the self-efficacy (self-knowledge) to handle holiday challenges, stressors, and fun.
However, if you need a little reminder this time of year, consider volunteering locally or hosting a party (for gift-wrapping, holiday decorations, or eating your favorite foods). Wish friends, acquaintances, and strangers happy holidays with words, a wave, or a smile. Make the most of your holiday season.
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Social Connectedness.