Let’s just face it: It’s going to be a long, long winter. Between COVID-19 restrictions and weather woes, it looks likely that we’ll be stuck indoors with our immediate families for a few months more. It’s going to be tough, that much is for sure, which means prioritizing connection with the people we love most is more important than ever. When you can’t meet for brunch or happy hour and gathering outside won’t work due to chilly temps, how do you remind your people that you care about them?
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve figured out ways to keep in touch, whether that’s with Zoom calls (though the burnout is real), socially distanced backyard hangouts, pods of friends or family members, and more. That said, loneliness and disconnection still creeps in despite our best intentions, and winter tends to bring out the blues.
Here are a few easy ways to inject a little cheer into someone’s day during a very unique time in history: a global pandemic.
Remember how excited you were to receive a letter as a kid? It’s still fun to get real mail—not bills or junk—so when you find yourself thinking of someone, take a cue from your smaller self and write them a pen pal-style letter. Another wonderful and heartwarming option is to send letters to seniors in assisted living or nursing homes; you never know when you’ll make a new friend!
A few weeks ago, I texted a link to some cozy socks to a few friends and told them to pick a color, simply because it was pick-me-up time. The gift wasn’t expensive and it wasn’t groundbreaking; it was just a reminder that I was thinking of them. If your pal is going through a hard time dealing with, well, everything going on this year, make them a care package of things you know they’ll love, like brightly-colored earrings, a book you couldn’t put down and want to discuss, or gift cards to their favorite local stores.
Missing your BFF or your nieces and nephews? Make them a playlist of songs you love hearing together; that could be ’00s throwbacks from your college years or songs from your favorite childhood movies. If you use Spotify, make the playlist collaborative and work on it together from a distance. It’s a fun way to remember the good times you had together. Listen whenever you need a pick-me-up.
Surprises are so much fun, and nothing brightens a bad day like discovering your friend left a gift card to your favorite local coffee shop in your mailbox or brought your favorite Sunday AM pastries. Did you recently move to a new place? Leave a card on your neighbor’s stoop and ask if they’d like to have a socially distanced cup of coffee from your respective yards. If a friend recently had a new baby, swing by with a pack of diapers and a homemade meal. If you know a child or teen who’s struggling with distance learning and isolation, make their day with balloons and a cheerful gift, just because. You can still be there for people from a distance.
If a friend recently had a new baby, swing by with a pack of diapers and a homemade meal. If you know a child or teen who’s struggling with distance learning and isolation, make their day with balloons and a cheerful gift, just because. You can still be there for people from a distance.
I know, I know—everyone hates the phone these days. But you know what? Chatting with another human, even for a few minutes, is fun! Maybe your grandparents are stuck at home with few visitors. Maybe you’ve been thinking about your childhood BFF. Maybe you want your aunt’s prized hot dish recipe. You know what I’m about to say: pick up the phone and call them. Have a conversation! Ask your grandpa why he fell in love with your grandma. Walk down memory lane with one of your cousins. Talk to your dad about the birds in the backyard. When life feels lonely and scary, hearing a loved one’s voice can be so comforting, and you may just make phone chats a habit.
Something green and growing makes everything better and is a visual reminder of hope, growth, and beauty. Send a bouquet to a faraway friend or family member or play florist with some grocery store picks and design an arrangement for a local pal.
You know that meme that goes around that reads, “When you buy from a local business, a real person does a happy dance?” It’s true! Supporting restaurants, salons, and retailers in your community should be something you do year-round, but it’s extra relevant now, as many businesses have had to adapt to pandemic rules, including closing indoor dining or changing their hours. These folks are so important to our cities; no one wants to live in a world where the only shopping options are Target and Amazon!
Buy a gift card for later use. Follow them on Instagram and share their posts. Tell your friends and coworkers about them. Stop in and shop if you feel comfortable doing so or opt for curbside pickup. If you’re friendly with the owner or employees, drop by with lunch or a donut! Tip your baristas extra. Whatever you do, they’ll appreciate it, and every dollar counts.
It feels like the bare minimum, but sending a text—or even a Facebook message or Instagram DM—simply to check in can brighten a day in a big way. We all like to know when someone is thinking of us, and you don’t need to have a lengthy convo. Saying, “Hi! I was just thinking of you and hope you’re doing well. Please let me know if you’d like to FaceTime or chat soon, and I can’t wait to see you when it’s safe to do so!” reminds them that there’s someone on the other side of a screen who cares, and who can’t wait to get together soon.
Kara Nesvig grew up on a sugar beet farm in rural North Dakota and pretended to be Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz for about three full years. Things haven’t changed much, except she now lives in an adorable ’20s house in St. Paul with her husband, their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Dandelion and many, many pairs of shoes. Kara is a voracious reader, Britney Spears superfan and copywriter — in that order.
BY Kara Nesvig - December 24, 2020
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.