20 ways to stay connected to the outside world as restrictions tighten

Something else to think about is the benefit of helping others, she says, not least

Something else to think about is the benefit of helping others, she says, not least because altruism has been shown to enhance our feelings of wellbeing and connectedness. According to a study conducted on 70,000 Britons over 18 and published in the Journal of Happiness Studies this year, volunteering enhances our self-reported happiness and health. People who spent the first wave delivering food packages or befriending lonely strangers will be familiar with the resulting warm feelings of community.

Wherever you are, the principles for feeling connected are the same. Our relationships thrive when we do things together, confirms Prof Kinman, even if we’re physically apart. We benefit from spending time together outdoors – a mere 20 minutes in nature, according to one study, significantly reduces stress. We benefit from helping others, and from sharing things as weighty as our darkest worries and as light as a meme. Most importantly, if we think inventively about the ways we interact, we can defy the circumstances. Adversity can bring us together rather than draw us apart.

20 ideas that will keep you in touch with the world outside your door

1. Join a local support group

During the first wave of the pandemic, Facebook and WhatsApp were the scenes of busy “mutual aid” groups: local, loosely-organised attempts to ensure that everyone who needed help in lockdown received it. Sometimes people needed food delivered, sometimes medicine. Sometimes people simply wanted to speak to another human being on the phone. These pages and groups are becoming more active again. To find your local group, search Facebook for the place you live plus the phrase “mutual aid”.

2. Organise a group challenge

Peter Robertson runs Twizzle, the upmarket party planning company that has, as of recently, had to master virtual events. He says that online get-togethers work best when they’re interactive, when everyone’s involved, and when there’s a theme, “whether it’s a colour, or dressing up, superheroes, or clothes on backwards, or mums dress as dads and dads dress as mums”. He suggests a simple scavenger hunt: “One household is MC. They organise challenges, or competitions: you’ve got one ­minute – find a hat, a pair of shoes, a yellow object, something that makes a noise… Go!”

Or initiate challenges: “Who can make the Eiffel Tower out of loo rolls and balance a marble on top? More fun than Zoom drinks.” 

3. Find an outdoor fitness buddy

Indoor sports are currently problematic. Outdoors, though, there are fewer restrictions and having company makes us stick to exercise regimes better and enjoy them more. You might have a friend or family member to share a walk, run or ­exercise video with – and if not, try the Sportpartner app, which helps individuals find buddies for running, cycling, golf and other pursuits.

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