Winter can feel like a stay at home order even when there’s not a pandemic, but with a little creativity, it’s not hard to find ways to get out and enjoy the season. We may not be able to have indoor parties this year, but we can still have fun and even be social safely. Here are five ways to stay social connected, physically active and mentally stimulated this winter:

1. Use Your Backyard

Most of us pack up the backyard furniture when the weather starts to turn cold, but you might want to make an exception this year. A fire pit, tiki torches, or an outdoor heater can make sitting outside in the winter cozy. Add blankets and a hot beverage, and you’ve got the makings of a fun night in while still feeling like your getting out. Enjoy this activity with the people you live with to keep COVID safe.

If you want to stay inside but still enjoy the outdoors, try a bird or squirrel feeder. You can buy a commercially made feeder or make your own. Making bird feeders is a fun craft that kids and adults of all ages will enjoy. You can use an empty milk carton, pine cones coated in peanut butter, or, if you’re handy with a hammer, build a wooden feeder. Place your feeder near a window so you can enjoy the sight of your feathery friends feasting.

Clear winter nights are perfect for stargazing, and many constellations and meteor showers can be visible from your own backyard. Check out NASA’s website for the latest information on cosmic events. You don’t necessarily need a telescope. Many beautiful nighttime sights are visible with the naked eye or a good pair of binoculars.

2. Try a Winter Sport

Going to a crowded ski lodge isn’t a good idea this year, but snowshoeing or skiing in a local park or another place that gives you room to breathe can be good for your physical and mental health. If you are heading to the backcountry, make sure to check local avalanche conditions and always take the right gear with you in case you have an emergency.

Skiing and snowshoeing can be COVID safe because they take place outdoors and you can easily distance yourself six feet away from your friends. You can also wear a mask during these activities for an extra layer of protection and warmth. Snowshoes and skis can be purchased online or rented from a local business. You might have a friend with an extra set lying around that they are willing to lend.

Studies have shown that spending time outdoors, even when the weather isn’t great, helps to reduce stress and improve mental health. Getting your exercise during the winter prevents weight gain and keeps you healthy and in shape for when spring comes around. Spend a little extra time on your warm-up before you head outside in the winter. Cold weather makes you more susceptible to strains and sprains. With the right equipment and a little preparation, winter sports can be a safe way to socialize and relieve stress.

3. Challenge your Brain

On really cold days when you feel like staying in, you don’t have to turn to a screen for entertainment. Keeping your brain engaged in a variety of mental tasks is good for everyone’s mental health and is especially helpful for those who live alone. Putting together jigsaw puzzles or models can reduce stress and help improve memory, concentration, and motivation.

If you live with a couple of other people, try playing a board, card, or video game you’ve never played before. You’ll get the benefits of social interaction along with mental stimulation. Other good activities you might want to try to include word searches, crosswords, and sudoku puzzles. Reading is also a great way to boost your mood and work your brain.

If you haven’t picked up a hobby yet, now is a good time to try something new. Crafty activities like knitting, painting, or working with clay can be satisfying and therapeutic. Don’t worry if you’re not the crafty type. Other hobbies like caring for houseplants, trying new recipes, or feeding a sourdough starter will keep you busy and motivated.

4. Indulge

With just a bit of effort, your home can become a cozy winter haven. Try buying a new scented candle or a fuzzy blanket to treat yourself and create a relaxing mood. Sometimes taking something you often do, like drinking hot cocoa and making it fancy, can be extra satisfying. Gourmet marshmallows in your cocoa, a new bath bomb, or a toy for your pet can turn a dull winter day into a fun day. You can even craft some of these things yourself if you need something to keep you busy. Try making a winter playlist and listening to it while you do a relaxing activity.

5. Seek Online Support

The internet is a great place to find other people who share your interests. offers people a platform to create virtual and in-person groups around any topic you can think of, from retirees who want to make new friends to writers looking for feedback. You can also try searching Facebook for groups that suit your needs. Some Facebook groups are very active, with members posting and responding in real time. If you are a fan of something specific like fantasy books or video games, online forums like Reddit and Discord provide a place where you can nerd out with others who share your passion. You could even use one of these platforms to create a digital space for you and your real-life friends to hang out during the pandemic. And if you must watch Netflix, you can always watch the same show as your friends and then discuss it over a video call.