Wilton editorial: Winter can be isolating

Movies, cooking magazines and Christmas carols would have us believing there’s nothing better on a winter’s day than snuggling up on the sofa with a book or the TV and something fattening to eat.

That’s fine during a snowstorm, but when it becomes an everyday activity, it’s not good.

While winter’s snow and even ice makes it a beautiful season, inclement weather and shorter daylight hours can make people feel trapped and socially isolated, even if they go to work because that means there is little relief from the daily grind compounded by shoveling, plowing, and all the extra laundry caused by layers of sweaters and jackets.

For those who are prone to loneliness year-round, the winter blues can develop into more severe mental health concerns, including addiction. A study from Brigham Young University shows a lack of social connection increases health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having alcohol use disorder. Loneliness and social isolation can be twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity.

It’s no surprise people are lonely. Census data shows more than 25 percent of the U.S. population lives alone, and more than half the population is unmarried. The number of children in families is also declining.

All the more reason to get up and get out at this time of year.

Happily, there are many things to do in Wilton, even at this time of year. Sunday’s Winter Carnival brought hundreds to Wilton Center, and while some may have thought this was just a “kids’ event,” they were mistaken since there was plenty to see and do on the town green and in Wilton Library just a few steps away. Adults were also enjoying s’mores down at Schenck’s Island.

A look at The Bulletin’s calendar of events, the Bulletin Board, shows opportunities for getting out and among people almost every day. The library offers concerts, talks, and educational programs such as the poetry series that begins Feb. 6. Looking for something more money-oriented? The Wilton Chamber of Commerce is presenting its economic breakfast on Feb. 8.

The Wilton Historical Society presents a monthly historical book club, with its next meeting on Feb. 13. Later next month, the society will open a new exhibition based on the life of jazz superstar Dave Brubeck.

Those who want to do something that’s more interactive might consider joining or volunteering with one of Wilton’s many philanthropic organizations including the Kiwanis Club and Rotary, each of which meets weekly for lunch — how much more social can you get than that — as well as the Encore Club for women and the Wilton Woman’s Club. For the environmentally minded there are Wilton Go Green and the Wilton Garden Club. You don’t have to be a newcomer to town to join the Newcomers Club.

Civic-minded folks can check out the Wilton League of Women Voters and may even consider volunteering to serve the town on a commission. The Democratic and Republican town committees welcome guests to their meetings.

Stay at Home in Wilton specifically works to keep the town’s older citizens engaged through social events and its Friendly Visitors program. Volunteers are always welcome.

Kids can get lonely, too, with middle school often being a very tough time. Trackside Teen Center is a place where teens and tweens can get off their devices and out of the house and have some real face time with real friends.

None of these activities will necessarily help people with severe problems, but they can help chase the winter blues away until spring rolls around.