Even with all of our digital devices, we still sometimes get disconnected. In a time of continued physical distancing, we must find new and engaging ways to stay connected with our support network. With lower temperatures ahead, it may feel more difficult to find safe and creative ways to connect with friends and family. Social connection is a central protective factor against suicide.

Here are a few virtual ways to stay connected with others at a distance:

Find a pen pal. If teleworking, texting, and video calls make you want to take a break from your screen, consider sending some snail mail to a loved one. Not sure how to start? Think of one reason you’re thankful to have that person in your life and write it out – expressing gratitude is an easy way to deepen your connection with someone. Try asking the person questions in your letter to encourage them to keep the exchange going. To go a step further, you can add a few small gifts with your note to make a fun care package.

Learn a new creative skill. Kids are not the only group that benefits from “play” time. Practicing an art like photography or drawing, can improve problem-solving skills and offer a form of stress relief. Work together with others to critique your work or do the hobby together over a video chat.

Share a meal or cook “together.” Before sitting down for your next meal, see if any of your friends are free to tune in to share the time with you. You can try to make the same thing, give each other tips for how to amplify your next dish or choose a theme for the meal.

Organize a virtual fitness challenge. Nervous to try a new workout? Phone a friend – literally. Find a workout video or online challenge and set up a video chat with a shipmate to complete it together. If you want to make it more of an event, plan out a 5K or bike ride that you and a friend can do from your respective locations. Send each other pictures or updates along the way.

“Travel” the world. Museums, parks and tourist attractions from across the globe are offering free virtual tours. No passport is required to enjoy the sights and sounds of a new location with a loved one that lives far away. Schedule a few spots to enjoy a virtual vacation and make a list of places you’d like to eventually go together. If you want to make the experience more personal and local, schedule a time with others to show them your living space and neighborhood over video.

Attend “live” events. To help live concerts, community events or sports games feel more “real,” consider “dressing the part” with your loved one. Wear what you would if you were attending the event in-person and do other things to set the scene: make a certain type of food, have a dance party or chat about what you see and hear while the event is happening.

Start an inspiration chain. Whether it’s a group chat or email chain, find a way to share encouraging messages and resources with friends in a dedicated space. Consider sharing motivational memes or quotes, new music, podcast episodes, or helpful articles.

Remember: strong social connections are just as important to your psychological health as fitness and sleep are to your physical health. 1 Small ACT can make a huge difference – reach out to a friend and make a plan to do something fun and feel connected.

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