Socializing is a crucial part of staying physically and emotionally healthy. Studies indicate that those who are isolated are at risk of developing certain health conditions compared to those who have a healthy social life.
Unfortunately, the past year sent many people into a period of unwanted loneliness and isolation, especially American teens and young adults. But with restaurants and venues reopening, there’s now an opportunity to socialize again.
The problem is … how exactly do you do that? At this point, you may be accustomed to a more solitary way of life. While you may be craving in-person human interaction, that’s easier said than done.
If you’re struggling to socialize in 2021, try easing yourself into it with these tips.
1. Decide What You’re Comfortable With
Before you get together with anyone, it’s a good idea to check in with yourself and reevaluate your own personal boundaries.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regularly evaluates the safety of certain activities for vaccinated and unvaccinated people in the U.S., so check their website for the latest info. But even if you are fully vaccinated, you may have stricter rules for yourself than what the CDC suggests.
Before socializing, ask yourself these questions:
- How do I feel about socializing inside versus outside?
- Do I want to stick to my social pod, or am I OK with socializing in public?
- Am I comfortable socializing in places where people might not be fully vaccinated?
- Even if I’m vaccinated, would I prefer to keep wearing my mask?
Once you have these answers, it’ll be much easier to select which invites you’re comfortable accepting.
*Note that your state or local government may have more specific restrictions, depending on where you live.
2. Reconnect With Your Core Crew
There’s a good chance you haven’t seen some of your closest friends since March 2020. Now’s a good time to catch up in person on everything that went down over the past year.
Remember, your best friends know all your idiosyncrasies and won’t judge you for your messy house or disheveled work-from-home look. And when you rekindle old friendships, it usually feels like you were never apart!
3. Go on Chore Dates
Not every hangout has to be a huge bash. If you’re struggling to give up your newfound free time in order to socialize, why not choose a friend date that doubles as an errand? Here are some productive things that are just more fun with a friend:
- Shopping for post-quarantine clothes
- Returning online orders
- Getting mani-pedis or haircuts
- Redecorating a room
- Planting a backyard garden
4. Join an Existing Group
It’s tough to start from scratch … so don’t! There are plenty of existing groups that you can join to gain instant acquaintances who could eventually become good friends, like:
- Volunteer organizations
- Fitness centers
- Dance and martial arts studios
- Amateur sports leagues
- IsaBody Challenge® groups
- Community center courses
- Book clubs
- Watch parties
- Casual gaming tournaments
- Hobby groups
5. Blend Your Online & In-Person Life
Since so many people went virtual last year, there’s a good chance you made a friend or two online. Why not transform your digital buddy into an in-person pal? The next time you log on, invite them to meet you at a coffee shop, restaurant, or park and see where things develop from there.
6. Have People Over Your House
You may feel nervous jumping into crowds or large groups of people right away. Inviting people over to your home allows you to control your environment and the number of guests who attend. Plus, you get to choose your snacks, and who doesn’t like that?
7. Give Yourself Permission To Be Alone
This may seem counterintuitive, but by allowing yourself to say “no” to social events, you reduce the anxiety that comes with reentering the wider world. There’s no reason you have to socialize if you’re feeling tired, nervous, or burnt out.
That being said, socializing can be a great mood booster. When you’re on the fence about going out, ask yourself these questions:
- Once I’m at the event, will I feel happy and want to stay?
- Will I feel miserable and alone if I stay home?
- If I turn this down, will I end up wasting my entire day?
- Do I miss my friends and family?
- Would my child/partner/roommate appreciate a day out?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, consider enjoying some social time. Remember: You can back out or leave at any point. Don’t hold yourself socially hostage.
As you start socializing again, keep in mind that the pandemic has forced many people to reprioritize their lives. It has encouraged a renewed appreciation of friends and family. So don’t feel silly reaching out to strangers or acquaintances — you may find people are much more receptive to new friends than you’d expect.