7 Ways to Cultivate Community While Isolated

In this time of social distancing and self-isolation, it can feel impossible to cultivate a strong sense of community. And like many of the most precious things in life, community is something you don’t realize you need until it’s gone. If you’re struggling to find your people and connect with others, just know that I am 100% with you and have been racking my brain for creative ways to make my community thrive in these trying days.

man alone writing

So, to that end, I thought I’d whip up some ideas you can use to cultivate a sense of community in your neck of the woods. This isn’t a complete list by any stretch of the imagination, but should hopefully inspire you to think of ways to connect with others while in quarantine.

Reach Out to Your Neighbors 

Now more than ever, it’s important to check in on your neighbors. Maybe you’re friends with them already or maybe you’ve never met them before. Either way, I’d say most people would welcome a hello or how are you right about now. I live in an apartment building, and since I don’t see my hall neighbors very often, I decided to check in by slipping a quick note under their doors with a greeting and my phone number. That way, they could know there was an actual human lurking behind 3H.

Help with Food Delivery

bike food delievery

Speaking of help, if you’re able-bodied and not in a vulnerable demographic, you may want to consider signing up for a local food delivery initiative. I’ve seen a lot of these popping up across the country, involving folks running errands for those who can’t leave their homes. In New York, for example, Invisible Hands pairs volunteers with people in their neighborhoods to promote a sense of community.

Write Letters

If you’re working from home, you likely have a little bit of free time, so why not use some of that to send (virtual) letters to loved ones in your extended community? Perhaps you’ll shoot off a missive to your old college roommate or check in with your childhood BFF. Make the communications intentional and enjoy the trek down memory lane. I guarantee that folks will be super pleased to hear from you.

Engage with Causes 

person donating money

Right now is a fantastic time to connect (or reconnect!) with causes, initiatives, and organizations you care about. I’ve been reevaluating a lot of my own charitable giving, signing up for newsletters, and scoping out new organizations on my social media feeds. I’ve been incredibly moved by how nonprofits are responding to this crisis and have found a lot of strength in engaging with their online communities. To find the right orgs for you, do some research on GreatNonprofits.org.

Create Together 

Are you a creative soul looking to flex your artistic and problem-solving muscles while on lockdown? Then you should definitely start a collaborative group project! Maybe you assemble some of your writer and photographer friends to whip up a quarantine zine detailing life in isolation. Or, you could do a weekly art challenge wherein all your pals work on the same kind of project (a collage, poem, song, claymation video) and then share the results in a group video meeting.

Start a Book Club

pile of books

If you’re a big reader, you might try to cultivate community through a virtual book club. Choose the participants, select a thrilling read, and meet once every two weeks to check in and chat about the book. To make things easier, designate a different host each time to facilitate questions, set up the meeting room, and guide the discussion. Some public libraries have even started e-clubs of their own, so check in with your local branch!

Smile

Okay, this one is admittedly a little hokey, but I think we should all be smiling more. I’ve noticed that whenever I walk past folks on the streets these days, it’s eyes down and cold stares every time. And I get it — we’re scared, anxious, and nervous about WTF is going on in the world. But I don’t think we should allow that to strip us of our humanity. So, try to engage with people however you can. We may not be able to hug, but we can cheerily shout hello. We may not be able to breach a six-foot barrier, but we can smile warmly through our face masks. Every gesture brings us a little closer to building a community of one.

Need a little quarantine inspiration? Take a look at some of the best TED Talks to listen to right now.

Editors' Recommendations