As the Lockdown slowly eases, master the gentle art of everyday living to stay healthy and happy
14 May 2020
Sadly, but not unexpectedly, the journey back to our old lives and everyday routines will not be instantaneous, as we bid to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. As of today, many restrictions remain firmly in place and a few have only been provisionally lifted, with calls for people to ‘stay alert’ and exercise thoughtful discretion in the coming weeks. The ensuing disappointment and confusion among many is quite understandable.
Against this backdrop, it’s more important than ever that we prepare our minds to continue to observe social distancing and related restrictions to movement, despite the deep inconvenience of having to do so. Here’s the thing to keep in mind— it’s all for a good cause. Far more serious than our inconvenience, is the potential cost in lives and health as a consequence of throwing caution to the wind.
Perhaps, in this difficult time, happiness is less the picture of a glowing sunrise over a perfect horizon and more the sobering conviction that the inconveniences we willingly bear will save lives. Perhaps, happiness is more of an acquired taste that grows in us as we grudgingly accept that some unpleasant changes have come to stay. Maybe happiness dawns on us as we revel in the unexpected joy of mundane things.
This blog is devoted to helping you embrace the beauty of the mundane. This gentle art of staying happy while in lockdown will remain valuable long after the lockdown ends and a new ‘normal’ returns. Here are some things you can do today to make your everyday lockdown lifestyle less tedious and more rewarding.
1. Be the master of your everyday!
It’s official. Life in lockdown warps our time perception. Psychological studies have shown that time appears to move faster when we’re engaged in monotonous and familiar experiences, but slower when we’re having new experiences. The lockdown happens to be a combination of both new and monotonous experiences, hence the paradoxical sense that time is moving both slowly and quickly.
Our everyday routines fit squarely in the monotonous, ‘autopilot’ category. To reclaim mastery of your everyday, be intentional about what you do and when you do it. Creating a schedule is the way to go.
Another good reason to programme your day is to manage the periods when you might be feeling low and may be only just surviving the lockdown. Over 60% of our users reported having negative feelings between 8.00 – 10.00am and 3.00 – 5.00pm. Interestingly, that corresponds roughly to when the normal work and day-to-day tasks begin, or the school day starts and ends. Armed with this knowledge, our users can plan around those times to enhance positivity and feelings of wellbeing. You can do the same for yourself with a simple daily schedule.
As a leading psychologist and anxiety specialist, Tamar Chansky, Ph.D, writes “Being home without a plan is adding to our anxiety. How do you ground yourself? Create just enough structure.” She adds, “With no structure we get lost. Too much structure, and we feel confined. Seeing a schedule in writing, however simple or obvious, really helps!”
2. Make good use of the extra time to sleep and rest.
Everyone knows good sleep contributes greatly to our wellbeing and happiness. What many have now realised is how deeply exhausted they were before the lockdown started! Our minds and bodies craved more rest than we could squeeze into our weekends and somehow, in these less than ideal circumstances, we’re getting this much needed extra rest.
Data from Sleep Cycle shows that on average, Britons have been enjoying an extra 42 minutes of sleep since the lockdown began, while our average wake-up time has moved from 7:44am to 8:16am. All this extra rest is surely something to feel a little grateful for. So, as we move forward into this next phase of life in lockdown, let’s continue to enjoy these little extended treats of rest and the slower pace of life.
One warning though; there’s also data that suggests our quality of sleep during the lockdown is poorer than before, with the result being that many people are experiencing grogginess and tiredness. Experts say there are many possible causes, including worry and anxiety. They also point out that while in lockdown, people may be experiencing grogginess, known as ‘Sleep Inertia’, due to reduced exposure to daylight.
As Professor Colin Espie, professor of Sleep Medicine at the University of Oxford, explains, Melatonin, a hormone which enables us sleep soundly, is deactivated by the ultra-high luminescence of daylight. Staying indoors can keep Melatonin active longer than usual, making us prone to nodding off one too many times in the day. This is why it is recommended that we try to spend more time outdoors to boost our chances of getting a good night’s rest.
3. Put your harvest of free time to good use.
The UK’s new lockdown measures mean that long days with many hours to fill will continue for many of us. While this extra free time has been forced upon us, let’s look on the bright side — we can now afford to do some of the things we always wanted to do but never actually had the time to. People are finding lots of new things to do during the lockdown to fill the spare time and even those WFH have additional time to spare without commuting each day.
Learning a new language is one of the top new skills people have been flocking to learn in recent weeks. According to reliable data, the number of active UK users on the language app, Duolingo, doubled a few days after the lockdown started.
People are also seeking expert guidance on how to adjust without compromising happiness, mental wellbeing and productivity. This has led to huge interest in online happiness courses such as Yale University’s ‘The Science of Well-Being’ with Professor Laurie Santos. Professor Laurie’s course has been exceedingly popular, with over 1.3 million students signed-up by mid-April. A happiness course might be the thing you need to for helping you to increase your happiness and for staying more productive in lockdown. The University of California, Berkeley also has a popular happiness course you could explore.
And, there’s much more! Leading institutions such as Harvard and MIT continue to offer free courses through the likes of Futurelearn, Edx and Coursera. Microlearning platforms like Skillshare and Domestica have tons of great courses for creative, business, tech and lifestyle skills. And if you’d like to learn basic home maintenance and repair skills, there’s Reed’s home improvement course, now available at a heavily discounted price, and other sites like the Family Handyman University and the DIY School. Many millennials and Generation Z are also rediscovering their creative bones and are turning to traditional hobbies such crocheting, drawing and cross stitching. Check out Creative Bug for these classes.
For many Britons, reading is arguably the simplest and most classic way of passing spare time. Research by the Office of National Statistics shows 44% of Britons surveyed had taken up reading to cope with life in lockdown. Consider this an invitation to read that book you’ve heard so much about. You can take that one step further by joining a virtual book club such Goodreads or one run by a celebrity such as Zoella Book Club or Emma Watson’s Our Shared Self. You could even start one of your own with friends, family or colleagues to stay connected and mentally engaged. The bottom-line is this— go ahead and try something new. Don’t look back wishing you had used this time better!
4. Make good food together.
Let’s face it; food was a big deal before the lockdown started. Many of us treasure dining out with friends and gathering loved ones for regular home-cooked dinners. The continuing lockdown sadly means that we are, at the very least, weeks away from reclaiming these pleasures and even then, likely to be constrained by social distancing rules.
Food continues to play a very important role in our lives during lockdown though. A survey by Tesco showed that one in five have been making their meals from scratch and have learned to cook more dishes since the coronavirus lockdown began. The food thing has also taken on comical dimensions as some millennials moan over making one too many pilgrimages to their refrigerators, and others take to creating unusual food and cereal combinations. Mealtime and related activities have become an adventure and a treasured me-time and family time for many who seek enjoyment by cooking while in lockdown.
In the UK, the hottest cooking-related trend right now is baking, and many have been bitten by the bug. Online searches for bread recipes have reached an all-time high and according to BBC Good Food, people have watched their bread making video more times in two weeks than ever before. Amateur bakers continue to share pictures of their delicious home-baked breads and others have made a generous habit of passing on their baked creations to neighbours and key workers.
If you haven’t done so already, now’s the time to get in on the fun. There’s really no pressure to be perfect as we celebrate hilarious cake fails as much as we do sublime home-baked breads. There are so many ways to stay connected with family and loved ones through food. If you live alone, try getting a friend or group of friends to join you in a cooking challenge. You could even have a virtual dinner party or try your hands at making exotic dishes, guided by the world’s best chefs!
Don’t let a shortage of ingredients stop you. There are many online guides on how to improvise with what you already have at home. Try Jamie Oliver’s recipe for eggless chocolate cake, try handy store cupboard recipes curated by The Happy Foodie, and check out World Atlas’ best cooking blogs for inspiration.
Wine lovers are not left out. Virtual wine tastings are all the rage. There’s even an online wine tasting Masterclass by renowned wine critic, James Suckling, to get you started. London based Hedonism wines has a great selection of virtual wine tastings you can join with a click. You could also try hosting a virtual wine tasting with friends and family.
It was Guy Fieri who said, “Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together”. He was right and the power of food holds true in lockdown as it did before. So, keep calm and find ways to make good food and drink together.
5. Create some lockdown fun.
With some imagination and willingness to step outside your comfort zone, you can seriously spice-up your daily lockdown routine. Remember garbage removal cosplay? Called bin outings, this trend is pretty much a global phenomenon with people in Norway, Australia and parts of the US sharing the fun. Others have gone a step further with dress-ups for virtual pub quizzes, family Come Dine with Me and even virtual proms.
Still in the spirit of changing things up, you could try hosting games nights with family, friends and even your social media pals. If you’re spending coronavirus isolation away from your partner, keep the sparks flying in your relationship by scheduling a virtual date night as regularly as you need to. If you’re single and searching or just single and mingling, virtual dating is also a great idea. Find the dating app that’s right for you and take a chance. Virtual dating doesn’t have to be complicated. Did you know that the most popular idea for virtual dating is having a chat over a drink or coffee? Whether online or offline, what matters is spending quality time together.
There’s really so much you can do to lift your mood and keep having fun while in lockdown. If clubbing was your fun thing to do, try turning your home into a club. That’s exactly what one family did when they turned their home into a nightclub complete with a VIP section and a bouncer. If this isn’t something you’d like to try at home, you could show-off your family’s dancing moves in a home video like Jack Buchanan did with his ‘Family Lockdown Boogie’. Their cute family video has been viewed over 3 million times and is so heart warming to watch. It’s alright if you’d rather not share your family’s fun times online. The important thing is to think outside the box and create fun memories you and your loved ones will cherish long after the lockdown has ended.
6. Spread the love.
Since the lockdown, our users have reported a 31% increase in how often they feel sad, and one of the main reasons is the mental toll of being socially distant from friends, family and loved ones. Even when we’re with loved ones in lockdown, not being able to go out together or celebrate special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries can be a major downer. That’s why now is the best time yet to put on a charm offensive and shower your loved ones with affection through gifts, surprises and over-the-top gestures like playing dress-up on their special days.
Research conducted by the University of Zurich, Switzerland, showed there is a clear, positive link between being generous and feeling happy. To support this, Neurologists have also found that giving gifts leads to the release of endorphins which boost our feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
There are so many ideas for thoughtful gifts and interesting ways to get them across to friends and family. Glamour Magazine’s list of Quarantreats has lots of great ideas you could choose from and Wired has compiled a great mix of gift ideas for different tastes. And there’s no reason to fret about how to get your thoughtful gifts across. Drive-by drop-offs which comply with social distancing rules are very popular these days. One lucky lady even had a surprise drive-by and drop-off baby shower.
Another fun and charming thing to do is to surprise loved ones on their birthdays or anniversaries with a house party or pub crawl. Pub crawls have become a very popular way for young people in the UK to celebrate turning 21 in lockdown. With friends or family, they turn each room into a different pub, with different cocktails and fun rules that mean they get to change clothes while hopping from pub to pub.
Sending a care package is probably the simplest charm offensive you can pull for loved ones during lockdown. And it’s not just about sending cute, bespoke packs of treasured things that special someone will appreciate. It’s also about sending people what they need for surviving the lockdown. The campaign to send care packages to NHS workers is a great example.
Typical lockdown care packages usually include things like home-baked goodies, scented candles, bath bombs, lotions, books, music, wine and even flowers. If you’re up for it, you could pull a stunt to show that special person how much their happiness means to you. Some lucky ladies in Lebanon and Italy were super excited to receive their Mother’s Day roses by drone. Going the extra mile to make our loved ones happy also makes us happy. That’s the kind of win-win we all need right now!
So, what’s the takeaway?
William Morris put it best when he said, “The true secret of happiness lies in the taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” The lockdown has given us plenty of time to immerse ourselves in the mundane details of everyday life. This season with its boon of free time won’t last forever and we are already getting ready for post-lockdown life. A time will come when we’ll look back and be thankful that we were able to do what had to be done to save lives. Seize the opportunity to do things that will make you happy and leave you with no regrets in life after Covid-19. Spend time with loved ones, reconnect with family, learn new skills and have some fun while you’re at it.