5 (FREE) THINGS TO DO IN LOCKDOWN
In what I imagine will become true UNFIONNISHED fashion, this is already not the post I was planning on publishing today. But, if I am to honestly be a proponent for embracing the chaotic, then I am going to have to take this blog where the winds lead me.
Or, as the case may be, where social media takes me.
Added to the already abundant field of Coronavirus vocabulary - my personal favourites being "corona-romance" and "covidiots" - is a new word: “Coronacoaster.” New to me that is, since a quick Google search proves that it has actually been in use since April.
According to UrbanDictionary, the definition of “coronacoaster” is as follows:
(n.) The feeling of uncertainty, anxiety, and helplessness surveying news and information concerning humankind's possible demise from covid-19.
Dramatic, no? But it makes sense and this is certainly a feeling I have harboured for most of the past three months. However, the image that brought the word to my attention had a very different definition:
(n.) the ups and downs of a pandemic. One day you're loving your bubble, doing work outs, baking banana bread and going for long walks and the next you're crying, drinking gin for breakfast and missing people you don't even like.
Here, still a noun, the word relates more to the activities we are doing during this difficult period – the good, the bad and the… questionable. As opposed to being a feeling, it is more a state of being, and a state of being can be affected by the things you choose to spend your time doing. Especially when you mostly have to do these things on your own.
But why am I writing about this now? With shops, hairdressers, bars and restaurants all beginning to re-open their doors, we can't help but begin to think about leaving our homes and - gasp - socialising with other human beings again. But what about the people who aren’t ready to do that yet? What about those still concerned about their health or the safety of others? What about the worriers?
Don’t get me wrong, I know that people are going to have to leave their homes and return to some degree of normality at some point, if they haven’t begun to do so already, but I am still seeing people online talking about feeling reluctant to leave their homes. To a certain degree, I feel exactly the same.
So, for those of us still feeling the effects of the "coronacoaster," here are 5 things that I have found joy in during our time in Lockdown that you too may find appealing distractions from booking a table at your local...
1. Declutter your wardrobe
Honestly, like so many other things on this list, decluttering your wardrobe is something that can be done at any point during your life. Personally, I think you can get great value out of making this a regular practice in your lifestyle: in or out of Lockdown.
A 2018 study conducted by relocation and removals company Movinga revealed that the average person in the UK did not wear 73% of their clothes in the previous 12 months. This means we are only wearing around a quarter of the clothes that we own. Why? This doesn't even take into account the amount of clothing that we wear regularly as opposed to only occasionally.
Sorting through your clothes piece-by-piece and deciding which ones to keep - that genuinely bring value to your life - and which to get rid of - either through donating, selling or gifting - can be a great way to bring order to your wardrobe as well as your mind.
As well as the positive mental effects that decluttering your wardrobe can have, it is also a really pleasant way to spend a day. Make yourself some nice coffee, listen to some music, binge a Netflix series. If you have children, can you make it into a game or competition? Children are great at knowing what they like and what has no value for them: use this to inspire you, too. More posts on decluttering to come...
2. Get outside
OK, so this one might not be very revolutionary but it had to be on this list regardless. Now that we are free to go outside whenever we like (in the UK that is), you simply must take advantage of the great outdoors all around us. It needn't even be for very long, nor need it require you to travel very far if this is something you are unable to do: simply stepping outside for as little as ten minutes can do wonders for your mental health and wellbeing.
As well as this, being around nature has been scientifically proven to improve short-term memory and concentration. One study even found that people who had been immersed in nature for four days performed 50% better on a creative problem-solving test.
None of this sound appealing to you?
We all know how important it is to get regular exercise and for those of us whose gyms have been closed for just over three months now, substituting this with a brisk walk or even a run will do wonders for your endurance, joint health and muscle strength.
Something I have been using to keep my walks and runs fresh and interesting is an app called Footpath. Even by only using their free plan, you can plot routes for your rambles before you go. This means you can leave the house knowing how far you plan on going and, roughly, the amount of time you are likely to be. You can even share your route with family so they know where you are going (great for those worried about safety!)
Through using Footpath over the Lockdown period, I have discovered woodlands, nature reserves and trails that I didn't even know existed, all within a five minute run from my front door. You never know what is hiding in plain sight.
Aside from all of the science malarky, time spent outside can promote all sorts of benefits to different individuals and it really is up to you to get out there and see what the great outdoors can bring to your life, especially when so much of it is currently being spent inside.
3. Watering plants
Caring for others is what makes human beings so unique. Without it, we would never have evolved into the large-brained, empathetic, intelligent species we are today. Forming close, tight-knit relationships with others enabled us to survive during the times when hunter-gathering was crucial and Fred Flintstone was kicking about in his suspiciously flimsy-looking car (the less said about that show the better.) We now know that Neanderthals cared for elders when they were of no economic benefit to the group: they did so owing to their capacity for love, care and connection.
In more recent years, we humans have used our natural empathy skills and applied them to the domestication of animals and plants (myself included). Whilst many people have opinions on the ethics of keeping animals as pets - no, I am not about to go on a Carole Baskin tirade but you should know that the temptation is there - it must be said that looking after other things can do wonders for our undeniable human ego. It is an inherently human thing to do.
For the last two years, I have been a lover of indoor plants but keeping them alive was not always as easy as I wanted it to be. Since the beginning of Lockdown, I have discovered great joy in researching all of my plants and ensuring I am treating them to the water and sunlight that they need and deserve: spraying and wiping their lives is in itself an incredibly calming activity to do. Seeing their changes from day-to-day has brought real joy to my Lockdown life and it is something I am hoping will continue when "normal" life resumes.
4. Learn through listening
Hands down, the best thing that can bring some semblance of normality to a Lockdown home with only one person living in it is background noise. Whether that be through music, the television or a YouTube video, I often have something playing whilst I'm working, tidying up or browsing social media.
However, did you know that most local libraries now have a catalogue of audiobooks that you can listen to for free straight from an app on your phone? Now, you don't even need to pay for a third-party subscription in order to benefit from the convenience of listening to an audiobook of your choice. The options are endless: you could go for a brand-new bestseller, a childhood favourite, or - like me - you could make the most of this free service by listening to a book that will assist you with learning a new skill or give you information about a non-fiction topic of your choice.
Being able to listen to books whilst I am occupied doing other things has done wonders for my reading goal for the past couple of years and it is certainly something I plan on continuing to use for years to come.
Another way to learn and be entertained whilst on the go is to explore the array of podcasts we have at our fingertips. These have been around for years and you can find shows on virtually any subject matter you can think of; Spotify boasts to have over 500,000 podcasts as of 2019 whilst iTunes has over 550,000, with 30 million episodes as of April 2020.
5. Embrace silence
As an almost direct contrast to my previous point, I would like to end this blog post by writing about the benefits of embracing silence.
Whether it be in the midst of nature or in your bedroom before falling asleep, finding a moment for complete silence and calm is crucial for training your brain to be clear and balanced. Because I plan on devoting a whole blog post to meditation, I don't want to write too much about it at this point but what I would like to propose to you is a question: how much of your everyday life is spent around noise? If you're a parent, I can bet you're laughing at this question but think about it nonetheless.
The way you define "noise" too may differ from other people - are we thinking about sound exclusively or including the noise we get from the influence of others: scary news updates, tempting advertisements, too much time spent on social media feeds?
If you can start to consciously space out five minutes of your day to be in utter silence with just you, yourself and thou, I am sure you will begin to see the impact of it. What exactly that impact is will be different for every single person but I have found it has allowed me to get to the core of who I am, what my values are and to check in with myself on a daily basis.
I hope you have found some inspiration for ways to spend your time mindfully and safely before things go completely back to "normal" (if this will ever be the case, that is!)
None of the things on this list have I introduced to my life solely in the past three months; however, it has been during this time that I have really come to terms with the benefits I gain from them.
Explore these tips safely and I'm sure the remainder of your "coronacoaster" will be as calm as Howard Lewis always appears to be... despite the fact that his wife most likely fed her second husband to some tigers.
Sorry, I couldn't resist.