On Friday, we wrote about ways to combat loneliness. It can be hard to be separated from people for an extended period. And usually, even when we are in our homes, we see more activity outside our windows. As people are being told to stay inside, it’s easy to feel disconnected from one another. With phones and technology, it’s easy to keep in touch with family and friends. Feeling disconnected isn’t good for your spirit or your health. That’s why we love a grassroots movement to that is springing up around the country.
People across the country are using Christmas lights to combat loneliness. By putting up strings of light, people making trips to the supermarket can see that other people are thinking of their community and doing their best. Seeing a neighbor’s lights from inside your own home can remind you that people are still close by. It started on Twitter with people using the hashtag #coronaviruschallenge. Some folks are going all out and redecorating their lawns completely, but that’s not needed! Just put up a little something that can be seen outside your house to let people know that there are still connections in your neighborhood. It can give folks a boost who are feeling lost or lonely.
“What if we all put our Christmas lights back up? Then we could get in the car and drive around and look at them. That seems like a fair social distancing activity,” suggested Lane Grindle, of Milwaukee, on March 15, sparking off a simple movement.
It’s a fun activity and a way to get a little exercise if you need to go to the garage/basement/attic to get them. And — much like donating to a charity — while you might see the smile on the face of passersby, you still get the great feeling of knowing that you are making a contribution to the wellbeing of others. That way, even if you are in an area where people are being told to stay in unless it’s absolutely necessary to leave your home, you know that you are participating in the same activity as others around the country and that anyone who had to travel might be cheered up. Doctors and emergency workers are leaving their homes daily, and it’s nice to support the people who are supporting us.
It’s also a sweet treat if you have any children in your home. With online school and no playdates, they are going a little stir crazy. A parent in Rhode Island wrote online that her son requested Christmas lights for “something to look at” without knowing that it was becoming an internet phenomenon.
People from all over the U.S. are sharing their stories. “People were flashing their blinkers at me while I was putting them up,” said Scott Moody of Burlington, VT. “And a couple of cars stopped and took a picture so I’m like, cool, if it’s giving people even a moment or two to not think about all the things that are going right now, great.”
You might feel a little foolish, putting up Christmas lights in March. But the boost you get looking at them can be a payoff. “People thought it was kind of silly at first but when I explained that I am just trying to bring the monotony of making people smile, they liked it,” said Melanie Brown of Panama City, FL. “I’m trying to get everybody. I put it on Facebook, ‘Everybody get your Christmas lights out.’ Let’s spread some joy and make the kids happy because they’re going through a lot too.”
One person tweeted out a photo of their lights—a single string that they hung to look like a heart. “There are dark times ahead, but I can still put love & light out into the world,” said the Tweet posted by Sarah Bang in Huntsville, AL. “Some folks have mentioned putting up Christmas lights to cheer up people in quarantine, in isolation, or just to remind the world there’s still light & hope. Here’s my contribution.”
Psychologist Deborah Serani said, “I think anything that takes us out of our normal habituation, the normal day in, day out ... signals our senses, and then our senses measure if it’s pleasing or not.” Moreover, she explained that the colors and brightness “spike dopamine, a feel-good hormone.”
And, for some people, being slow to act has paid off. Many online are admitting that they never actually took down their Christmas light — they had just stopped switching them on! If that’s you, good cheer is only a light switch away!
If you want to see more examples, people are using the hashtags #CoronaKindness, #SocialDistancing, #SpreadCheerNotFear and #LightsForLife. Check it out and then join in the movement!