For most of 2020, a lot of us have been cut off from some of our favorite activities.
Whether you've been missing out on going to the gym, traveling the world, or just meeting up with friends at a bar, chances are that life is feeling a little lacking without your usual outlets. So what do you do instead? Do you find other ways to stay active, or do you turn into a vegetable binge-watching old TV shows?
While there's nothing wrong with vegging out from time to time, for a lot of us it's way too easy to fall into patterns and routines that don't do any favors to your physical or mental health. But there are ways to avoid that trap if you care to. And now that winter is approaching and a lot of options for outdoor activities are about to be off the table, it's all the more important to fight against that tendency.
So—rather than waiting for the world to get back to normal so you can be active again—you can use some of these methods for keeping active even if you're stuck in a cramped apartment as a second wave hits...
Everybody has to eat, and while you could survive off takeout or frozen meals, being stuck at home is the perfect time to discover a love of cooking. You may not be able to get out and explore the world as much as you would like, but you can explore flavors and recipes from around the world. Even if you don't currently know how to fry an egg, all you need to get started is a pan, a stovetop, and a decent knife.
If you want to, you can take the time to master various cooking techniques and tricks, watching YouTube videos about the proper way to julienne vegetables or how to use a roux to thicken your sauce. If you devote enough time to that approach, you can become a very talented home cook. But as long as you have the basics down, it can be just as rewarding to grab some ingredients and start throwing things together.
Not every culinary experiment is going to be a smashing success, but there is something both soothing and rewarding about a relaxed approach to cooking. And even if the result isn't delicious, it's definitely a lot healthier than mindlessly shoveling chips into your mouth in front of the TV.
Even if you don't have the space or the funds for a treadmill or a stationary bike, you can still get your cardio going at home without feeling like your workout is a chore. If your neighbors can't handle a little noise, pop in some headphones, cue up some of your favorite tracks, and-in the wise words of Madonna—"let your body move to the music."
In addition to getting your blood pumping, there are numerous psychological benefits of dancing—not least of which is the fact that it's just fun. Best of all, being stuck in your own home takes the guesswork out of dancing like nobody's watching.
If dancing isn't quite enough to stave off the "quarantine 15," or to keep you feeling as fit and active as you used to, a fitness app like Aaptiv might be just what you need. With various regimens and trainers available whenever the mood strikes you, guided workouts and classes can be customized for your personal workout goals and the options that work for your life. And with a seven-day free trial of Aaptiv, all you need to get started is your smartphone.
When you find yourself spending every day in the same space, doing mostly the same things, with little social interaction and no clear end in sight, you may find your thoughts becoming a mush of vague anxieties and despair. We depend on variety, conversation, and shifting events to track the passage of time and keep us engaged with the world.
While there's no replacement for those things, there are ways to slow your brain's descent into a formless puddle of goo. One of the best ways is journaling. Even if you're just expressing your anxiety and despair, putting your thoughts into words has a way of clarifying them, which can make them easier to deal with while making you feel sharper and more engaged with the world.
Adding journaling to your routine can also help you track the passage of time, and—if you're really losing touch with reality—it's a great stand-in for human conversation.
Developing Your Artistic Skills
You don't need to be a great artist to get some real value out of creative activity, and there's no better time than when you're stuck indoors to develop your skills with a pencil, a paint brush, a whittling knife, or a needle and thread.
If there's a hobby, an interest, or a musical instrument you set aside in the past, there's nothing stopping you from picking it up again and putting in the time to build some talent. Maybe you'll never sign a record deal or see your work hanging in a gallery, but the sense of accomplishment in making something—and in getting a little bit better at the process—is a powerful source of sanity when you might otherwise feel powerless.
It might seem strange to recommend meditation as a way to keep your mind "active." After all, isn't it basically the opposite? While the process of meditation can vary a great deal depending on the style you decide on—mindfulness, transcendental, visualization—they all offer the benefit of helping you clear the clutter from your brain.
The empty and useless thoughts that take up space in our heads can often get in the way of more healthy and productive thinking, and meditation can be a great tool for clearing out that clutter and finding a more peaceful baseline to work from.
Okay, so video games aren't for everyone, and online gaming is often viewed as the purview of men and boys who are still in middle school—either factually or emotionally. But you know what those men and boys get a lot of, even during lockdown? Conversation (even if it does mostly involve offensive insults).
The good news is, you don't need to invest in a $2000 gaming rig or an antisocial personality disorder to receive the benefits of online gaming. From Words With Friends to online chess to Jackbox games, there are any number of online games that offer chat functions for chatting with friends and strangers, and others you can play through video calls with friends.
While it may not live up to an in-person game night, online gaming can serve the dual purpose of entertaining and providing some social interaction.
A lot of people have taken the opportunity of being home all the time to get a new pet. That's a great option...if it's an option. But if you have nasty allergies or can't keep a furry friend in your home for whatever reason, houseplants are a solid alternative. In addition to improving indoor air quality, studies have repeatedly shown that greenery has a restorative effect on mental health.
Having something to keep alive can help you keep to a healthy routine that may even include taking better care of yourself.
So even if you have to spend the whole winter holed up in your home, hopefully some of these techniques can help you stay healthy and happy.