The holidays are usually the busiest time of the year for travel. This year healthcare workers and public health professionals are urging people to stay home for the holidays to help stop the spread of COVID-19. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends postponing or canceling holiday travel and staying home in order to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 [1]. It is important we all do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Although it is heartbreaking to cancel holiday travel plans, this year you can connect with loved ones safely from the comfort of your own home.

Tips for connecting with loved ones this holiday season.

Check-in on friends and family. Research shows that feeling socially connected to friends, family, and the wider community is beneficial for mental health and life expectancy [2]. Make sure to check-in on those who may be celebrating the holidays alone. Chances are you may have a neighbor that had to cancel their holiday travel plans. If weather permits, invite them to meet outdoors wearing masks and staying six feet apart, or schedule time to connect through video chat or a phone call.

Host a virtual celebration. This year many people are moving their holiday celebrations online. There are several platforms that can accommodate large groups, including FaceTime, Zoom, Houseparty, Skype, or Google Hangouts [3]. Social media apps such as WhatsApp, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger can also help connect with loved ones far away. Troubleshoot any technological issues with a test run before the actual virtual celebration.

Prepare meals together. Host a dinner party and prepare the meal together over video chat. Swap favorite holiday recipes with friends and family. You can talk with loved ones while you cook and maybe even get a few pointers from your aunt Betty. If cooking isn’t an option, consider ordering takeout or delivery from a local restaurant.

Have fun together, virtually. Get creative with how you celebrate together. Consider activities that can be done virtually, such as streaming a movie or religious service together, decorating ornaments, playing a trivia game or charades, hosting a virtual holiday talent show, or singing carols over video. Don’t let distance limit the fun you can have together.

Cultivate gratitude. This year has been difficult for many people, especially those who have lost jobs, loved ones, or are isolated and lonely. Research shows that feelings of gratitude can help combat loneliness and increase happiness and life satisfaction [4]. Some ways to cultivate gratitude include journaling about things you are grateful for, delivering a note of gratitude to a loved one, or practicing mindful meditation [5].

Stay home, stay safe. Protect others and protect yourself by following state and local public health guidance on face masks, indoor gatherings, and physical distancing. Limit the number of trips you take outside the home. Make sure to carry hand sanitizer with you and wash your hands often. Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces in your home and work areas on a daily basis.

Author: Deborah Passey, Ph.D

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Domestic Travel During the Pandemic. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-during-covid19.html on December 9, 2020.
Haslam C, Cruwys T, Haslam SA, Jetten J. Social connectedness and health. Encyclopaedia of Geropsychology. 2015 Jan 1;2015:46-1.
Muchmore, M. Zoom Alternatives: Best Free Services for Group Video Chatting During the Pandemic. PC Mag. 2020 Nov. Retrieved from: https://www.pcmag.com/picks/zoom-alternatives-best-free-services-for-group-video-chatting-during-the
Caputo A. The relationship between gratitude and loneliness: The potential benefits of gratitude for promoting social bonds. Europe’s Journal of Psychology. 2015 May;11(2):323.
Miller MC. In praise of gratitude. Harvard Mental Health Letter. 2011;28.