Staying Social in Winter Isolation

Jan 29, 2023

Staying social in winter can be a particularly challenging task. Whether the snow is falling and covering the world in a blanket of pure white ice, or the warm air inside is preferable to the chill outside, we all find it hard to socialize in winter.

Now is the time of the year when we find ourselves sitting inside in a sweater, reading a good book, or watching television and sipping coffee or tea. You might even listen to a podcast during these hours to eat up some of the time.

Even if you live with family or friends, the short winter days and long winter nights cooped up inside can take their toll. In the long, cold days of winter, the loneliness of isolation can creep up on us and conjure feelings of hopelessness and despair.

Especially after the merriment of the holiday season, the months of January and February can seem long, cold, and interminable. Developing feelings of isolation and loneliness can lead to mental and physical health problems, especially for those in recovery.

That is one of the many reasons staying social in winter is so important for us. Protecting our health is of the utmost importance. Read on as we discuss the ways winter isolation affects us and give tips on how you can stay social in winter. 

Leaning Into Recovery and Staying Social in Winter

There are many reasons why we may not be as social during the wintertime as we are during the warmer months. Not all of these reasons are because we do not want to be around people. For some of us, the reality is more complex.

Disability issues such as communication, vision, and hearing impairments may limit the social contact some of us have access to. For others, transportation may not be accessible, especially if you live in a rural area without access to public transit.

For those of us who are in recovery, our particular health issues and situational concerns already limit our choices of where we can go and who we can go with. During cold winter months, when socialization often takes place indoors, avoiding problematic situations can end our ability to mingle entirely.

There are a few things to keep in mind for staying social in winter while in recovery. First, know that it is good that you are prioritizing yourself by avoiding problematic situations. Your recovery and preventing relapse are your top concerns.

Having a social life is important too, and there are positive ways you can socialize without placing yourself in situations that make you prone to relapse. Some of these are:

  • Volunteering at a soup kitchen or nonprofit
  • Mentoring others in your community, such as a youth reading program at a local library
  • Visiting the elderly in a nursing home or healthcare facility
  • Becoming more involved in your church
  • Taking classes in cooking or another activity
  • Joining a gym or fitness group

Health Risks of Isolation and Loneliness

As recent years have taught us, humans need social interaction. Losing the ability to be around other people can be detrimental to our ability to function in society. For some people, this can lead to mental anguish and even mental breakdown.

We naturally feel lonelier as we age. During our school years, we are surrounded by large groups of our peers. These groups provide a captive audience for us to pursue friendships that last to graduation and some even beyond that.

But research shows these social interactions dwindle steadily as we age. Lack of socialization is linked to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity, anxiety and depression, cognitive declines, and weakened immune systems.

As we get older, one of the most concerning aspects of loneliness is the development of cognitive decline. This can lead to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, in addition to other illnesses. 

Tips for Staying Social in Winter

No matter what stage of life you are in, staying socially connected to others is important. As we brace ourselves for months of cold weather, we all need to stay social in winter. Here are a few tips on what you can do to bide the cold winter hours:

  • Find a new hobby, or restart an old one. Join a group online or in person with the same interests as you. Sharing your favorite hobby with others can be a great way to socialize.
  • Take a class. Consider taking one on something you do not know, or take a refresher course on something you do know. We are never too old to learn.
  • Use this time to stay in touch with friends and family. With FaceTime options on smartphones, not to mention conference apps like Zoom, Skype, and Webex, these times of isolation are a good time to give your friends and family a call.
  • Consider adopting a pet if you can. Pets not only increase mood, but they also give you a companion, someone to care for and to care for you in return. 
  • Introduce yourself to your neighbors. Connecting with the people who live around you gives you a community at your doorstep.

Loneliness is not only a risk to your health. People who are lonely are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors. In recovery, it is important to minimize your risks.

Building a community is a great way to overcome the isolation and loneliness you may feel this time of year. You can overcome all of the gloom and chill January brings by finding the warmth of staying social in winter. 

The cold, winter months can bring up memories of snowball fights with our siblings, trodding along outdoor paths heavy with the scent of pine, and bundling up for visits with families and friends. As adults, winter can also become a time of isolation and loneliness, stuck in our homes with little outdoor activities to do. Staying social in winter is important for our mental and physical health. For those in recovery, it can make all the difference in preventing relapse. If you are experiencing symptoms of isolation and loneliness in winter, call Renaissance Ranch at (801) 308-8898 today. Your care team is always here for you to provide that extra support you need.