Isolating this Christmas? Here’s how to spread a little festive cheer at home

With an estimated one million Brits expected to be in isolation this Christmas, it’s tricky to feel particularly festive when you’d rather deck Omicron, than the halls…

And now Wales is announcing stricter measures coming into play after Christmas, nightclubs are locking up on December 27, and shops are upping COVID-19 measures and recommendations to limit social contact – you would be forgiven for wanting to join those (ahem, me) in isolation, and choose to stay cosy indoors this Christmas.

Whether you’re one of the unlucky people spending Christmas alone out of necessity (thanks to an isolation period after catching the latest Covid strain) or preference, a solo day can feel like a bit of a downer.

But a change in plans doesn’t mean your festivities need to be free of Christmas cheer.

We’ve set out to bring you ways to feel Christmassy despite isolation – a matter of utmost importance, by the way, as one study found that the holiday spirit really can make us happier and more joyful.

Aside from getting FOMO from watching Youtube videos of Christmas markets on repeat, how can you mark the occasion?

Decorate

Don’t give into that urge to pretend Christmas isn’t happening – go big on the decorations to get in the mood.

Lisa, from Newcastle, suggests: ‘Cut out snowflakes and decorate anything you can find!’

Remember those? Off-white snowflakes made from scraps of paper adorned every classroom window growing up, so why not grab some old magazines, newspapers, or even old books, and make yourself some snazzy snowflakes, or stars, to hang around your flat?

You could take it one step further and make simple, looping paper chains with colourful magazine pages to hang around your houseplants, and your flatmate’s bike that seems to live in the hallway.

‘My wife does an advent calendar window,’ Ian tells us – and it’s a good shout, too. Using any scrap paper, fabric, water-based paint or even washable pens lying around, you could decorate the inside of your windows in your home – especially if you can’t taste the chocolate from your own advent calendar this year (cheers Ms Rona).

Christmas decorations apparently evoke strong memories associated with childhood and happiness, according to some psychotherapists, so it’ll ultimately limit feelings of stress and anxiety by giving us a blast from the past.

Get cooking

‘Festive baking, and lots of it,’ plenty of people advised ys.. Have fond memories of your mum’s roasties, your dad’s honey-roasted parsnips, or your Uncle’s (really OTT boozy) red cabbage from Christmas past? Stay on the nostalgia train and try to rustle it up yourself at home.

You could even ask your famed family member to host a virtual cookalong, if they’re up for it. Not only are you bonding with family and creating a sense of togetherness, but you’re tapping into the serotonin-boosting joy that is nostalgia, which can make us feel happier.

Lillie, from Newcastle, bakes Italian biscuits and makes Bicerin (basically sugar, good coffee and melted chocolate or cocoa powder) with her husband every Christmas morning as it reminds her of Turin, where she got engaged. ‘I love the feeling of remembering that moment at Christmas, even if it was raining at the time,’ she adds. ‘It transports me right back.’

Add some festive scents

If you have some oranges or clementines leftover from your cookalong, turn them into decorations of old by scoring them, and studding them with nibs of cloves. They can help channel those gorgeous festive smells associated with Christmas markets.

Lost your sense of smell? Don’t worry, try to trigger and restart the Olfactory Cortex (the bit that helps us smell) in your brain by taking a big whiff, reminding yourself what they smell like, and channel the memories that the smell evokes.

Bring the Christmas market vibes home

Got some cloves leftover, and missing Christmas markets? If you’re lucky enough to have an outdoor space and some red wine lying around, bring the markets to you.

Get dressed up in your finest hat-scarf-and-gloves combo, and heat up some red wine, with lashings of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to take outdoors with some Christmas music – make sure you’re at a distance from any neighbours, though.

Have a Christmas movie night

Channel Christmas movie energy, too, and make like Jude Law in The Holiday by building a fort out of blankets, tights, pants, and pretty much anything you can get your hands on and snuggle up in Christmas PJs with the latest festive films on Netflix.

Plus, see if you can pop any items of clothing from your fabric fort afterwards into a black sack to donate at a charity shop in the New Year (once your isolation is over and you’re feeling better, of course) – ‘tis the season of giving, after all, and the science behind charitable giving shows it’s a serious mood-booster.

Blast the festive tunes

Lastly: sing! Dance! Be merry! Even if you despise Michael Bublé and Nat King Cole, listen to music that makes you bop and jive while you cook dinner or do boring household chores.

Search for lyric videos on Youtube and host an at-home karaoke sesh, or try and copy Mean Girls’ Jingle Bell Rock dance in your front room – after you’ve fashioned your very own outfit, of course.

Just because you’re isolating doesn’t mean you have to miss out on festive cheer this year. Batten down the hatches with Twiglets, paper chains and fairy lights on your succulents, and put your mental wellbeing first by embracing the Christmas spirit.

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