• Socializing plays a huge role in our health and wellbeing—unfortunately, many of us fail to fulfill our social needs in the cold days of winter.
  • Why is socializing so important? Because it brings us pleasure, helps us stay active (which is also important to overall health and wellbeing), and fights off feelings of withdrawal or isolation.
  • You can stay social this winter and not despise every second of it because you’d rather be in bed: first, try coming up with a fun weekly tradition with your friends that makes you want to get out of bed.
  • Also, take advantage of winter activities: if you want to get outside, you and your friends could go skiing or ice skating. If you prefer to stay inside, invite your friends over for a movie-and-treats kind of night.
  • Finally, step outside of your comfort zone—gather up some friends and find some new favorite restaurants, bars, and workout classes to enjoy all season long.

Have you ever played The Sims? If you haven’t, it’s a video game where you create virtual people and then essentially control their lives. One objective of the game is to keep your Sims happy by fulfilling their needs and desires, of which includes building and maintaining relationships with others. When you command your Sims to socialize, they experience a boost in their wellbeing. But when you fail to seek out social interactions for your Sims, they experience a significant drop in their wellbeing, instead.

While The Sims is just a game with bogus characters, it provides a clear representation of how socializing affects real peoples’ lives. We’re social creatures—connecting with others is essential to a happy, healthy existence. The problem is that many of us have a difficult time satisfying this need during a good portion of the year: in the cold winter months.

Why Is Socializing In the Winter So Important?

I know what you’re thinking: I just want to curl up in bed and watch Netflix all day. Do I have to leave my cozy apartment? I get it, but trust me, breaking out of your shell and pressing pause on your favorite Netflix show for a little while is crucial. Why, you ask? Here are a few reasons, explained by Kevon Owen, Licensed Professional Counselor:

1) Socializing releases dopamine, which provokes the brain’s pleasure centers. “Winter months bring with them shorter daylight hours, which means your body begins producing melatonin earlier—signaling to your brain it’s time to get ready to sleep,” Owen explains. But when you spend time socializing with your circle, this leads to a dopamine reaction, which tells your brain it’s having fun.

2) It also motivates you to be more active. Additionally, your social circle can motivate you to get in some much-needed physical activity. “This engagement lends itself well to being active. Its absence will do the opposite,” says Owen. “Winter months mean cooler weather… cooler weather causes us to slow down, to hibernate. Staying with your social circle helps you to stay active, as support from people is one of the primary motivators.”

3) You’re able to ward off harmful feelings of withdrawal. Finally, your loved ones help you fight off withdrawal and isolation, which have negative implications on your mental health. “Winter months lend themselves to nostalgic feelings. Missing loved ones and craving relationships may cause individuals to withdraw and become more lethargic,” Owen explains. “Spending time with people helps to combat those feelings.”

3 Doable Ways to Stay Social During Winter

Okay, just because you understand why doesn’t necessarily mean you understand how. So let’s go over a few ways you can succeed in staying social and happy during the season of cold darkness:

1) Come up with a fun tradition that you’ll want to stick with. Start a fun tradition with your friends that will motivate you to get out of your house each week. Grab pizza every Wednesday or catch up over hot chocolate on Sundays—pick a place you both enjoy spending time and carve out a specific date/time to meet. My friend Brooke and I drink tea at a local art café each Tuesday and fill each other in on any new books we’re reading as well as progress we’ve made on our current goals. Because of this, I look forward to Tuesdays and getting out of my apartment for a couple hours. It’s worth braving the cold!

2) Take advantage of cold weather activities. There is plenty of winter fun to be had, both indoors and outdoors! If you’re feeling up for it, bundle up and get outside with your friends: you could go ice skating, snow tubing, skiing, snowboarding, or sledding. You could even have a snowball fight like the old days. Or, if you’d rather stay inside, invite your friends over for a cozy movie night. You can watch all of your favorites, decorate gingerbread houses, and bake some yummy treats. In either case, you’ll benefit from spending some quality time with your loved ones.

3) Explore new places and hobbies. Sometimes, you need to get a little creative in the winter. You’re accustomed to all of your favorite summertime bars and restaurants, with outside seating and other warm weather perks. You’re also used to running outside and meeting up with workout groups in the park. Now that it’s cold outside, things are a little different. Sure, this stinks, but you can also look at it as an opportunity to branch out and explore new places and hobbies. Round up your friends and check out any coffee shops, breweries, steakhouses, diners that you haven’t been to. Look into gym memberships and yoga or dance classes. Put together a new routine that will help you stay social and keep you in good spirits during the winter season.