7 Innovative Ideas to Make Gatherings
Special This Year

Ruminating on all the things we can’t do this fall and winter, just like any negative thinking, leads to sadness and even situational depression. Now more than ever, it’s important to focus on the positive. There’s so much we can do this year. We can still get together with extended family and friends, even if there’s no hugging or sharing a table. In fact, given that there’s no playbook or precedent for gatherings this year, you can get creative and reinvent what gatherings look and feel like. It may just ignite new traditions and be the most memorable holiday season ever.

Here are 7 ways to connect and make the season meaningful while maintaining social distancing.

1. Virtual Table Reading

Did you know you can download free scripts from 50 top TV shows and the 50 best screenplays? Choose your family or friend group’s favorite TV show or movie. Laughter is ensured and we know laughter boosts your mental health.

2. Virtual Holiday Roundtable

Gather virtually, and, while eating together share what you’re grateful for this year. Expressing gratitude is associated with happiness. When we express (and receive) gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin – two neurotransmitters that impact our emotions. Both can immediately enhance our mood.

All kinds of sharing can be done. Interestingly, 4 out of 5 of the happiest countries in the world are in Scandinavia. Try out Denmark’s famous Hygge Game or create your own conversation cards to spark feelings of togetherness and well-being. The Hygge game is full of light-hearted, thought-provoking questions. Connect on a deeper level with the people you love as you answer “What would be the title of your biography?” or “What’s something you look back on and think ‘I can’t believe I did that?!”.

3. Get Crafty

Host an outdoor, socially distanced afternoon of merrymaking – decorate cookies or make holiday greeting cards. You can set up tables, bring your own supplies, spread out and get creative.

Blue Starlite

4. Drive-In Movie

Holiday movies are a staple for many family and friend groups. You don’t have to give that up this year, just tweak the setting. Austin’s Blue Starlite Drive-In has locations in Austin and Round Rock and shows all types of movies. Do 512 also pulls together listings of screenings at Blue Starlite, Community First! Village and drive-ins outside of Austin.

5. Camping with Friends

Who doesn’t love s’mores and some story-telling by a campfire? Camping makes it easy to social distance. Most importantly it lends itself to bonding with others and gets you out in nature. A double hit of dopamine! Plus, research shows a link between exposure to nature and stress reduction. Time in nature significantly reduces your cortisol (a stress hormone) and boosts endorphin levels and dopamine production, which promotes happiness. So, pack comfort food and give it a try Thanksgiving weekend or anytime this fall. There are lots of great camping spots near Austin.

6. Host A TV Watch Party

Netflix Party and Watch2Gether enable different households to sync up and watch TV and movies. So, cue up your favorites and get to watching.

7. Virtual Board Games

Playing board games is a relationship-building joy for many families and friends. Now, you don’t even have to be in the same home – or the same country – to play together. Everything from Monopoly to Scattergories to yes, Pandemic, is playable online. Practically any game you can imagine playing with friends is available online – MahJongRenju, even the Hanukkah favorite Dreidel. Houseparty is also a fun app where you can have up to 8 people in a “room”. It features built-in games like trivia and quick draw. Let some friendly competition commence!

Need someone to talk to? Call us at 512-472-4357.
Free 24/7 Emotional Support Helpline