With an array of tools at our disposal, keeping connected with friends and family is as simple as having an internet connection.
As inherently social beings, suddenly transitioning from complete freedom to government-enforced social isolation is a jarring experience — but one many of us are fortunate enough to share together.
We live in an era with a plethora of technology at our disposal to keep us mentally stimulated, informed, and connected. Just because we’re confined to our homes, doesn’t mean our social contact has to be entirely compromised.
Exercise, mental stimulation, and socializing are all paramount to maintaining a healthy mental state. Despite the current circumstances, it’s important to avoid straying too far from your ordinary routines and interactions to fight off cabin fever.
We’ve gathered a few tips to help you fight the excess alone time — and even take advantage of it — by staying physically and mentally active with friends and family, without having to step foot outside the house.
Virtual dinner party
If you’re working from home, you may already be familiar with video conferencing apps and Google Hangouts, which allow 100+ users to join a call at any given time. But these apps don’t have to be limited to work-related meetings, just like dinner doesn’t have to be limited to you and Netflix.
Getting together with a group of friends or family online is a great way to break the isolation cycle, and is a diverse activity that the whole family can get involved in. Hop online before mealtime to cook together or share recipes and tips along the way.
If you have children or other close relatives living out of home, setting aside a night every week to sit down for an e-meal is a great way to relax, enjoy some delicious food, and check in with the whole family.
Staying physically active
Keeping up with a gym or workout routine is a struggle we can all relate to and when your daily routine is flipped on its head.
Sometimes the best motivation is having a workout buddy to push you to stick to the routine and more importantly to make it more enjoyable.
Devices like FitBits can connect to your smartphone and allow you to track each other’s progress by sharing trophies, badges, and step averages with friends within the app. Exercising can get boring at the best of times; so to upkeep the motivation, FitBit also allows you to set a variety of challenges and races with friends to add a dash of competitiveness to your daily routine.
If fitness technology isn’t on your list, then harness your imagination — working out at home can be as easy as using water bottles or bags of rice as weights. If you want to really strip back to basics, activities like yoga or Pilates require nothing but a little bit of floorspace.
Set a schedule with your workout buddy (or buddies!) and stick to it. The perks of having a friend to join you isn’t limited to just making it more fun and social – you can also help each other by counting reps, checking each other’s form, and cheering one another on to reach your goals.
Watch a movie together
Netflix has turned out to be humanity’s saving grace, with bored isolators going through the streaming service’s entire catalog of true crime series.
Sometimes watching a movie together with a friend can make it a more enjoyable experience, which is where Netflix Party comes in.
Netflix Party is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to sync video playback with multiple other users. It also features an integrated group chat so you can bug your friends with observations or questions about the movie, just like old times.
If you don’t want to be bound to Netflix, TwoSeven is a similar browser extension that allows you to sync video playback on a range of services like YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO Now. However, you must subscribe to access all available streaming services and benefits.
Build a skill together
The age-old complaint “I wish I had learnt how to do ‘this and that’ when I had the time to” is no longer an excuse now that everyone is confined to their homes with an abundance of online learning tools.
Whether you want to learn a new language, an instrument, or a craft, there are plenty of online tools available; with many offering their apps, short courses, and computer programs free of charge during this period.
Coursera offers an array of free online courses from institutions and companies around the world — such as Harvard, Goldman Sachs, Johns Hopkins and MoMA — and most can be accredited to spice up your LinkedIn for just a small fee and some assessments.
If you’re looking for something a little more hands-on and creative, Fender is offering 3 months of free guitar, bass and ukulele lessons. No strings attached though, so you’ll have to bring your own guitar.
Just like with exercising, it’s easy to slip out of the routine of learning something new — especially if it’s difficult and requires practice — but everything is easier if we stick together, and skillbuilding is no exception.
Keep each other’s progress in check by setting weekly goals and have daily Skype catch up sessions on to make sure you’re both on track, whether it’s perfecting a cross stitch or keeping up with your French vocabulary. By the time isolation is over, you can get together and show off your new skills.
Alternatively, find a friend who is good at a skill you want to learn and offer to skill swap with them. You can learn something new while practicing something old – for example, exchange cooking classes for drawing classes, Spanish for German, or chess for knitting.
Friday night drinks
Last, but definitely not least — just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean you have to throw your end-of-work-week plans out the window.
Friday night drinks are a universally accepted phenomenon, with the German word “Feierabendbier” dedicated specifically to the beer one may enjoy at the end of a work day.
If you’re living with your partner, Friday night drinks with your own separate group of friends is an important and fun way to make sure you still get some time to yourself, while maintaining a healthy balance among all your relationships.
Sometimes the confines of the house can become repetitive so why not try out a wine tasting evening, whisking your friends virtually away to the Napa Valley or France and beyond.
Sommelier Caroline Conner of Lyon Wine Tastings hosts a free virtual wine tasting every day except Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1pm ET – just sign up on their website, print the tasting sheet, and bring a glass of whatever you have laying around – Conner will then guide you and five others through a tasting.
Vino Vinyasa founder Morgan Perry has a similar approach with a twist — every Friday evening at 7:30pm ET, she will host a 15 minute yoga and stretching session to precede a wine tasting.
Now that you’re all warmed up, no wine evening is complete without some music to match – apps like JQBX enable users to synchronize to a Spotify playlist, so you’re all hearing the same songs at the same time. Trust me, this will come in handy after the third glass of wine when you’re ready to start singing along together to Queen.
With integrated games similar to Pictionary, Charades and trivia; Houseparty is like Google Hangout’s fun uncle – perfect when you want to let loose, have some wine and some laughs.