Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Five Lockdown Activities To Keep You Sane

They say only boring people get bored. I doubt those people had been in lockdown for the past six weeks. Guys, lockdown is hard. It's vital and necessary and so very important but it's intense. And boring. Now before anyone thinks I'm whinging about lockdown, I'm not,  well not a lot. I'm painfully aware that I have things a lot easier than a lot of people, especially all of our NHS workers on the frontline... but still, it is boring. So I've put together a list of things I've been doing to stave off the boredom while I'm safe at home. Enjoy!

Playing guitar -  Playing guitar is my favourite way to decompress, when I have to think about the chords, the strumming pattern or my finger placement there's no space in my head for anything else. I'm completely focused. It's amazing. It's also one of the only things I do that is just for me and the joy it brings me.

I've been playing for nearly four years and am an average player at best. I'm mostly self-taught which means I've picked up a ton of bad habits, so recently I've started using Fender Play, which I strongly recommend btw, to learn the stuff I've missed and refine my playing style. I've been using it for a month and am already noticing a difference in how I play. It's awesome. 

Besides making you look really effin' cool - seriously, guys, have you SEEN how cool I look?! - playing guitar, or any instrument really, also has a host of benefits for both your physical and mental health. Playing can help relieve stress and reduce pain, while some research even suggests that listening to, playing or writing music can lower blood pressure and aid recovery following a stroke or heart attack. Isn't that incredible?! 

Knitting/crochet -  When I was younger my Grandma insisted on teaching me how to knit and crochet. I was a moody teenage at the time and had absolutely no interest in learning how to knit or crochet. I was way more concerned with wearing too much eyeliner, listening to Paramore and going on MSN, but I'm so grateful she taught me now. I started getting into knitting, and to a lesser extent crochet, when I was about 17 and went through a brief stint of wanting to be a fashion designer (LOL!), but I always used to feel a little bit embarrassed of my old lady hobbies, I didn't want people thinking I was a mad old cat lady before my time. But in recent years knitting has undergone a bit of a rebrand, thanks to companies like Wool and the Gang and We Are Knitters, as well as Krysten Ritter, who loves knitting and is really fucking cool, so knitting is actually kind of cool now. Good news 17 year old me, we were just ahead of the curve.

So why should you give knitting or crochet a try, I hear you ask? Well, first things first it's FUN to make things, to have created something that didn't exist before you made it, it's great. And the feeling of accomplishment you get when you actually finish something is incredible. I imagine it's how new parents feel, except without the pain and/or crushing sense of responsibility.

Knitting also has a laundry list of health benefits. For reals. Research shows that knitting can lower the heart rate, distract from pain and induce a sense of calm. It's like yoga, but I can actually do it. It also releases serotonin, which can enhance mood and dull pain. Another study found that knitters were less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment and memory loss in old age. AND, this is the important one, it can also reduce feelings of loneliness. Lockdown is a lonely place, friends, but it's hard to think about how much you miss your life when you're trying to remember whether to knit or to purl.

Reading - Reading will always be my first love. Nothing takes me out of my head quicker than getting into a good book. It's pure escapism. Now, I'll be honest, I haven't read nearly as much as I've wanted to lately. My focus is shot to shit. I'm struggling to focus on anything - other than Bon Appétit videos - for longer than 15 minutes. Who knew the stress and worry of living through a global pandemic would make it difficult to concentrate? Having said that I have just finished Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce, which I did enjoy, although I wasn't gripped by it. 

Reading is good for so many reasons. It encourages empathy, aids sleep and relieves stress. Some studies even suggest that just half an hour of reading is as effective as yoga in reducing blood pressure and lowering heart rate. It can even help to alleviate feelings of depression, prevent age-related cognitive decline AND help you live longer. It's also entertaining AF if you find the right book.

Taking the dog for a walk - My state sanctioned dog walk has become something of a lifeline for me, my sanity and my tiny little dog. Even before lockdown I found that if I didn't physically leave my house at least once a day then I'd immediately start to get down and depressed. Now that I can ONLY leave the house once a day my dog walk has become absolutely vital. I'm lucky enough to be in lockdown at my mum's house in the countryside, so not only do I have my dog, Audrey, for company but there are miles and miles of fields, which tend to be empty of other humans, for me and her to discover. It's really lovely, especially if I've got a good podcast on the go, I'm really loving the Fake Doctors, Real Friends podcast at the moment, a must for Scrubs fans.

Walking with a dog also offers a host of benefits, with research suggesting that non-dog walkers could have a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and depression. Plus seeing how happy this ridiculous little animal is to be outside makes me so happy.

Now not everyone has a dog, because not everyone is a dog person, which I think is weird but whatever, but getting outside everyday for a walk can help to reduce stress, gives walkers the opportunity to practice mindfulness (100% not me) and is less of a chore than more strenuous exercise which means people (me) are way more likely to do it.

Baking -  I'm not much of a cook, I'm getting better but I get very little joy out of cooking. Baking, however, is a completely different story, baking is right in my wheelhouse. Now, theoretically you would think that there is very little difference between the two, if I can do one then surely I can do the other, right? WRONG! I am living proof (BREAD JOKE) that that theory is wrong. Cooking, I think, is instinctive, either you're a good cook or you're not, but baking is science. You just have to follow the instructions properly, and if you did you get a decent result.

I'd started getting into baking in a big way earlier this year, but then lockdown started and so did everybody else and flour became really hard to get hold of. However, there are still some great bakes to be made without flour. I strongly recommend this recipe for golden syrup flapjack, which is both super easy and super delicious, or if  you're luckily enough to have some self-raising flour in your possession and have less of a sweet tooth can I suggest this recipe for the perfect cheese scones, which I made over two weeks ago and am STILL thinking about. They were incredible.

Not only does baking yield delicious results but again, it is so good for your mental health too. A 2016 study , which looked at 658 students engaging in creative activities such as knitting, sewing and baking, found that these kinds of activities lead to an increase in energy and feelings of wellbeing the NEXT DAY. The study, which was lead by Dr Tamlin Connor, argues that the enduring effect of these activities was more "likely to facilitate creativity on the same day", meaning that the more you do something like baking the better you feel and the more you want to do it. Isn't that cool?

What are you doing to keep yourself entertained during lockdown?

L xxx

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