We’re fast approaching the holiday season, and unfortunately the world isn’t back to normal yet. In fact, with coronavirus cases on the rise, many are anticipating a particularly abnormal couple of months ahead. And one of he big changes a lot of us are going to experience is that we won’t necessarily be able to see the family and friends we’re used to gathering with this time of year. According to a recent survey, 60% of Americans don’t plan on traveling to see family for the holidays (and that number may well go up).

This is something we can all adjust to, but if you’re worried that an abnormal holiday season might affect your mood and get you down, you’re not alone! Many of us have felt down at times throughout 2020 already given the increased isolation in our lives, and a holiday without loved ones doesn’t exactly help matters.

But that doesn’t mean you simply have to accept that the holidays will be a downer! In fact, for the sake of your own mental wellness (and your ability to enjoy the season), it’s a good idea to take proactive steps to find new ways to interact with those family members and close friends. And that — naturally — is where Zoom comes into play.

We’ve all come to know Zoom as the go-to solution for coronavirus-era work meetings, remote classes, and even reunions with friends. But this holiday season the popular video chat program can serve an entirely new purpose in helping you to connect with your holiday crowd. Doing so is likely to improve your mood and overall wellness during a season when we could all use a mental health boost.

Of course, simply meeting up on Zoom does get old after a couple of sessions. So to give you a little bit of incentive to try these virtual encounters and lift your spirits throughout the holidays, here are a few ideas of specific activities you can enjoy over video chat….

Trivia Nights

These days most people tend to think of trivia as one of two things specifically: a game to be played solo on a smartphone, or a game to be played “pub-style” at the local bar. Both can certainly be fun, but an old-school trivia night among family friends, even if it has to take place over Zoom, can be a ton of fun (and sort of refreshingly wholesome). There are countless sites you can visit to field trivia questions from, whether you want to knock out Sporcle quizzes as a group, take turns going head to head on specific topics, or even organize into teams to go through as much trivia as you all can manage. But whatever you decide specifically, this is an easy activity to organize, and one that will quickly and easily translate to quality time with your loved ones. It may even inspire you to try an in-person trivia night the next time you’re able to have a normal holiday gathering!

Board Games

If you’re looking for a competitive Zoom session, you really can’t do much better than a great board game. While we’re all used to the idea of playing these games in person, many of them can actually work fairly well over a video chat. Pocket-Lint has done a nice write-up on some of the games that are particularly compatible with Zoom (even mentioning Charades, which we’ll get into as a separate idea below!), and there are some excellent suggestions. Battleship translates very well to Zoom, particularly if you print out a grid rather than relying on game boards; Monopoly is a little bit tricky but can certainly be managed easily enough; and Pictionary is practically made for Zoom. These are just a few of many examples, but they speak to how simple it can be to coordinate a holiday board game night through a video chat.

Slingo Games

Bingo may seem somewhat old-fashioned, but the truth is it still makes for another great game to play with friends or family. This is partly because a home bingo night can be just about anything you want it to be, with different cards, game variations, themes, and so on. For example, during the holidays you might have a lot of fun replacing bingo chips or markers with small treats to be eaten at the completion of each round! As many different ways as you can design a bingo night though, slingo may be the best option if you’re playing over Zoom. This is a variation described by Foxy Bingo as a combination of online bingo and slots, and can be seen across all of their pop culture themed games. And it just makes for a particularly convenient way to manage games in a digital environment. You can pick a theme (there are actually quite a few out there), spin electronic slots, and let the results dictate which squares on the cards are marked. And with Zoom’s screen-sharing options, you can do this easily where everyone can see and enjoy the game together.

Charades

This idea basically speaks for itself. But if you haven’t played charades in a while — or possibly ever — now would seem like the perfect time to try! This game can have virtually innumerable variations, but the basic idea is usually for one or two people to silently act out words or phrases for others to guess. When you think about it, it’s actually a game tailor-made for our current Zoom era. You need only take turns acting out your terms for the camera, while others in on the Zoom call guess what you’re trying to convey. You can always do this at random on a just-for-fun basis, but the best way to get everyone really into it is to make it competitive, with teams or individuals trying to beat each other to correct guesses. You might even consider putting some light-hearted stakes on the game — such as that the winning group chooses a holiday treat recipe everyone can work on together during the next night’s Zoom session.

Yoga Night

Not all of your activities have to be games, either! In fact, you may have some friends or family members who will appreciate the idea of using distant, Zoom-based gatherings to work on fitness — something most of us have to find creative ways to do during the holidays anyway. For this reason, it’s an interesting idea to tap into your daily yoga routine and share it over Zoom, going through exercises with some of the people you care about most. You may not get to chat and laugh as much as you will with some of the other activities mentioned above, but it’s still time well spent, and most importantly, time together.

Through these activities, your holiday can feel the littlest bit more normal in the coming months, and that may work wonders for your mental health. 2020 has gotten to all of us, and many are concerned that distance during the holidays will only make things worse. While it’s bound to be unusual though, you don’t have to let present conditions stop you from enjoying quality time with your loved ones! Activities like these over Zoom should bring you joy, and give a real boost to your overall wellness.

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