You’ve caught up on all the Netflix series worth watching and those DIY jobs you’ve been putting off for months, are all now done. (Or maybe they’re not, and you’re looking for a way to put them off a little longer.) However you’ve spent the first few weeks of lockdown, you’re probably now looking for some novel ways to occupy your time.
So, we’ve put our collective thinking caps on and come up with six ways you can expand your horizons, put the remaining lockdown period to good use and avoid those ‘same four wall’ blues. All from the safety and comfort of your own home.
1. Join an online choir
With social gatherings banned for at least another couple of weeks and the suggestion that it may be some time before a normal level of activity is allowed again, finding stimulating but safe social interaction is a challenge. Perhaps joining one of the growing number of online choirs could be the answer.
Groups like the ‘Stay at Home Choir’ and Gareth Malone’s ‘Great British Home Chorus’ have been great morale-boosters for those missing their normal choir rehearsals. And for those whom the idea of joining a choir might previously have been too scary, it’s been a great way to experience the joys of group singing for the first time.
Singing in a group has many well-researched benefits; it strengthens feelings of togetherness, improves your sense of social wellbeing and is known to be an effective tonic against stress and depression. It has even been shown to regulate participants’ heart rates and reduce the symptoms of lung disease and Parkinson’s.
And if you normally limit your singing to the shower for fear of embarrassing yourself, then joining a virtual choir could be a happy compromise. You still get to experience the mood-enhancing power of music without worrying about funny looks from those around you if you sing a duff note.
You can sign up to Gareth Malone’s Great British Home Chorus by following this link.
If you are a seasoned musician, you may want to try joining https://stayathomechoir.com/.
2. Enter the virtual classroom
Coronavirus has meant considerably more time at home than most of us are used to, which certainly has its benefits, but too much time in isolation can take its toll. We’re all very aware of the physical dangers of the virus itself but not taking care of your mental wellbeing can also damage your health.
“Progress equals happiness” according to business and life coach Tony Robbins, and whilst our current circumstances mean most of us aren’t able to follow the plans we had, there are other ways we can get that important sense of progress. Maybe it’s time to master a new skill? With over 1,000 free online courses available, the Open University is a great place to expand your knowledge of a topic that interests you, or begin learning something completely new. Embracing lifelong learning has many great rewards. Keeping the brain in shape has been shown to help you feel less stressed, less isolated, less bored, and provide you with skills that you might be able to put to good use when we come out of this period of lockdown.
In addition, the Museum of Modern Art in New York offers a range of free study modules on art appreciation, photography and fashion. Plus many Ivy League schools, including Yale, Columbia and Harvard are also offering free courses on a huge range of topics from Introduction to Classical Music to The Science of Well-Being and Fundamentals of Neuroscience!
There is a wealth of apps, YouTube videos and online courses that allow you to accomplish everything from learning a new language to dressmaking, DIY, and the secrets to becoming a Chess Grandmaster. Or, given most of us are drinking more wine during lockdown, perhaps now is the time to take an online course to become a bit of a connoisseur!!
3. Take in the world’s cultural gems
Whilst you might not be able to physically travel to see the treasures of the world right now, museum curators around the globe – with the help of some virtual magic – have been working hard to ensure that anyone with an internet connection can still access their collections.
You can take a virtual tour of Le Musée du Louvre in Paris, pop into the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam or call in on the British Museum. Thanks to a partnership with Google, the British Museum, alongside 2,000 other leading cultural institutions around the world are allowing you to step foot inside the museum without actually having to walk in the doors.
You can roam around Stonehenge with the help of the English Heritage 360-degree view from inside the monument, and further afield, you can take a tour around Jerusalem’s most famous sites thanks to a virtual tour designed specifically for armchair travellers.
If you want something a bit less high culture, and a bit more high entertainment, then why not log on to the London Zoo live streams and join the zookeepers at feeding time! The dwarf mongoose pups are guaranteed to have you smiling. As are the monkeys climbing all over your virtual car on Longleat’s virtual safari. No need to worry about them running off with your windscreen wipers on this trip, thankfully.
4. Join a virtual book club
With communal activities on hold for the time being, online and virtual book clubs have emerged as an alternative way for readers to continue to come together. With a little help from Zoom, Twitter or Instagram, it’s now possible to connect with fellow book lovers without needing to be in the same room. And with most of us finding we have more time on our hands, this might just be the ideal time to catch up on that bedside reading.
Good Housekeeping host a popular online book club, as do Salon London who host a fortnightly reading club and regular author talks which are live-streamed on YouTube twice a week. The Richard and Judy Book Club is an enduringly popular forum for booklovers to convene and talk all things reading-related.
If non-fiction books are your thing, then Rebel Book Club is a great place to find virtual meets, as well as face-to-face meet up locations for when lockdown is lifted. And if you’re on Twitter, Underland author Robert Macfarlane has encouraged hundreds of people to follow his ‘global read-along’ of The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd.
Of course, you don’t have to join a book club to enjoy reading. Picking up a book, with or without company, is an excellent way to transport yourself to far-off lands while still observing quarantine laws.
5. Experience the Northern Lights live
It’s up there on many people’s bucket lists; witnessing the Northern Lights in all their spectacular glory. But it usually requires many hours of travelling, a freezing night in the Artic and lots of patience to catch a glimpse of the magical natural phenomenon. Now, thanks to some kind souls in Manitoba, Canada, it’s possible to live-stream the aurora borealis straight into your home every night, meaning we can all enjoy nature’s most awe-inspiring light show while keeping ourselves safe (and warm). And while it might not be quite as breathtaking as experiencing it on location, it’s certainly a great way to feel connected to nature, with all the anxiety-reducing benefits that can bring.
6. Fitness videos
Keeping physically active is a great way to build structure and routine into our days and get the endorphins charging around the body. But it has also been something of a challenge since gyms, swimming pools and group exercise classes all shut their doors. However, many organisations and famous sporting faces have created online workout sessions for people to join from the comfort of their own homes.
Joe Wicks, the personal trainer and bestselling nutrition guru has been particularly popular, running daily PE lessons for children missing their usual PE classes at school, although he’s had to let his wife take over as a ‘supply teacher’ recently while recovering from an operation to mend a broken wrist. There are over 250 free home workout videos on his YouTube channel, The Body Coach TV, including sessions for those looking for something a little gentler.
You could also visit the NHS fitness website, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/nhs-fitness-studio/, for exercise videos geared to all age groups and fitness levels.
There are plenty of other YouTube classes to try too, including yoga, Pilates and dance lessons, all of which will help you to maintain your fitness and stay connected. Exercise company Move It or Lose It are offering live workout sessions on their Facebook page and the YMCA are also offering a new, free online community programme, YMCA 360, which includes digital coaching and some of their most popular group exercise classes such as boot camp, barre, yoga and low impact programmes for older adults and those suffering from limited mobility.
Feeling a bit aimless or stressed by a lack of structure can really affect our wellbeing, so it’s important to try and create a routine to your days and weeks. Incorporating some of these activities into your week is a great way to build that structure and keep negative feelings at bay.