Connection has gained a completely different definition over the past year. As our world has changed, we’ve had to adapt the ways that we interact with each other, care for each other and connect with each other. Now, we are seeing our worlds change once again. And while this change comes with exciting possibilities for the future, it’s also easy to feel overwhelmed or unsure where to start. This past year was one of reduced interaction for most of us and finding our way to fuller social lives will be an ongoing process. Whether you’re trying to reconnect with old relationships or hoping to foster new ones as the world begins to open back up, intentionality can often be the best remedy.
Here are a few ways to connect with others if you don’t know where to start.
Connecting In Person
As the CDC continues to give us encouraging news about what’s possible for people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and in light of the weather getting warmer, it’s never been a better time to start planning some creative outdoor activities. A potluck-style picnic with a few close friends is a great way to soak in the sights and sounds of nature while reconnecting with the people that matter most. If you’ve got a musician friend, why not try putting on a backyard concert? You could even rent a projector, grab some blankets and popcorn and start hosting weekly outdoor movie nights.
Many of us have gotten into the habit of taking a walk each day, which can be great for our mental and physical health— recruiting a friend who lives nearby to be your “walking buddy” can help you keep this good habit alive while giving you the boost of catching up with someone you care about.
The outdoors also brings plenty opportunities to spark a new interest or meet new people. A local outdoor yoga class or other distance exercise class can help you feel better, get some fresh air, and get used to being around people again.
As always, it’s important to stay abreast of the CDC’s most recent recommendations. You can read their current advisories here.
Strengthening Remote Relationships
As we prepare to see our social media flooded with footage of people out and about once again, it might make us feel like we’re expected to have a full social calendar at all times. It’s easy to feel like the only connections that matter are those you can see in person, and this might be stressful after a year when we haven’t been able to maintain many of these connections. If you feel like your in-person social circle has shrunk, try to remember the lesson this past year taught us: just because someone isn’t in your physical presence doesn’t mean they aren’t there for you. Think of your relatives or friends who live in a different city or state than you and consider reaching out. You can still take advantage of how easy it’s become to connect with loved ones virtually, whether it’s through a video chat or a Netflix With Friends session.
If everything is starting to feel more fast paced as our worlds open up again, letter writing might be the solution for creating space and slowing things down for thoughtful communication. If you find yourself texting and emailing all day long but still feeling disconnected, you might want to change up the way you’re communicating. See if any of your friends would be interested in becoming pen pals; chances are, some of your friends have been feeling the same way. Written mail is a great way to be more mindful about your connections to the people you care about, and the best part is how reciprocal it is! You get to brighten someone’s mailbox with a hand-written missive, and you receive the same joy when they reply! You can even use this strategy to bring an entire friend group closer together— if many of your friends live far apart, try starting up an email thread where someone different sends a little update about their life each week. It’s an easy way to make you feel more aware of and connected to your friends, and helps the distance feel a little smaller.
Finding New Community
Even as things start to open up, the Internet can still give you a head start when it comes to meeting people. Chances are, your neighborhood or town already has a Facebook or Nextdoor group devoted to staying connected and updated on local happenings. Getting plugged in not only keeps you in the know, but can help you keep an eye out for community events you’re interested in where you might make a new friend. In addition to the general neighborhood groups, Buy Nothing groups are a great way to seek support and give back all at once. Buy Nothing groups are Facebook groups for your specific area where users can post about a need or something they’d like to give away. They’re a great way to feel the impact of living in a close-knit community, and are always there for you to seek help or give an old possession a second life. With a little intentionality, your neighborhood can turn into a real community for you with all the support and connection that that entails.
If you love to read, book clubs are a great way to turn a passion into a chance for real and lasting connection. Sites like Reader’s Circle and MeetUp have listings for book clubs in your area with descriptions so you can find the exact right fit for you and your genre of choice. Your local library might also host book club events, and you can always search for local groups on Facebook for likeminded readers.
Taking a class is a great way to expand your horizons, but it can also help you find new people who have the same interests as you. The Daily Om has offerings centered around fitness and wellness, while Skill Share can help you pick up a new creative skill and Master Class can bring you wisdom straight from the experts. For a free alternative, check out your local library’s event roster to see if anything piques your interest; most libraries offer classes in everything from personal finance and small business advice to conversing in a foreign language. You can start to build a community by finding connection around something you care about and expanding your perspective or developing a skill.
After a year of quarantining, we all might feel rusty when it comes to making connections and having conversations. The most important thing to remember is that this period is an adjustment. It was a challenge for all of us to get used to living differently in the pandemic, and while getting some aspects of our old life back is exciting, you can’t expect your brain and body to snap right back into their old groove. Be patient with yourself if things feel overwhelming— you don’t have to follow anyone’s pace but your own. No matter what your needs and style are, there are so many opportunities to meet someone new, establish fun traditions or rediscover old ones. Whether you decide to take a class, start a group or invest more in your neighborhood, here’s hoping that this year will mean more community for us all.