In a strange way, the COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to bring people together with a stronger sense of community than I’ve ever known in my lifetime.
It almost feels like our society is being stripped back and tested; to be more resourceful, less wasteful, to appreciate what we have, take fewer things (or people) for granted and to be mindful of the welfare of others.
As many of us go into self-isolation or work from home, we may have plenty to distract us during working hours but find ourselves staring into a vacuous, socially-distant abyss in the evenings or at weekends.
Some of these ideas might sound silly and not all of us will be able to do them, but if you need a little inspiration, here are 26 ways to counteract the boredom of enforced isolation.
#1. Start a Whatsapp group with your whole family, your colleagues or your friends, and regularly check in with older relatives by phone.
#2. Absorb yourself in a really compelling piece of journalism – here are 35 of my favourite must-reads.
#3. Go for a long ramble in the countryside, climb a hill or start jogging round the block. Explore somewhere nearby you’ve never been. The National Trust have just announced that they’ll try to keep many of their gardens and parks open for free at this time.
#4. Take everything out of your kitchen cabinets, clean inside, then re-stack them with the longer expiry dates at the back, so you can use up what’s about to expire first. Go through your kitchen draws and shred any paperwork you don’t need, and throw out or recycle anything you’re not using.
#5. Learn a new language – by the time we’re finally able to travel again, you could be able to order whatever you like in a French bar! Babbel is a handy app, while Duolingo can teach you the basics of everything from Swahili to Scottish Gaelic.
#6. Bake something comforting like this moreish Norwegian carrot cake.
#7. Print off this form from Facebook and pop it through the letterboxes of elderly neighbours. It lets them know you’re available to help with shopping and collecting prescriptions if needed (though obviously keep your distance to keep them safe and protected; you can always leave things in a porch).
#8. Spring clean your wardrobe and clothes cupboards – try Marie Kondo’s approach.
#9.Cultivate a love for your garden. Sweep up leaves, pull up weeds, rake over soil, prune shrubs and bushes, pot up herbs, sew seeds, plant vegetables, clean up plant pots, start a wildflower corner for bees and enjoy the sense of doing something physical, especially if you’re usually at a computer all day. Alternatively, build a window box and fill it with seeds.
#10. Order a decent concertina file or sturdy folder and organise all that paperwork that’s floating around the house.
#12. Watch a feel-good movie whenever you can. Ban yourself from viewing any films about pandemics, extinctions, viruses – or basically anything that doesn’t feature John Candy.
#13. Follow a good workout video on YouTube. By the time we all emerge from enforced social isolation, we could all be Greek gods and goddesses! Potentially.
#14. Declutter your personal inbox and those 1,534 unread emails. Go through all your historic emails, unsubscribe from spam you don’t want, delete anything you don’t need and organise everything else into folders like ‘friends and family’, ‘household’, ‘career’, ‘travel’ etc. Then empty your ‘deleted items’ file. Do the same with all those random documents cluttering up your laptop or PC desktop.
#15. Have a coffee with your friends or family over Facetime or Skype.
#16. Learn a new skill – something you’ve always thought about doing; painting, knitting, chess, pilates, photography, candle making, car repairs, upcycling…
#17. Write long, lovely letters to people and post them – especially to older family members.
#18. Paint something. If there are leftover paint pots from previous touch-ups, find something you’re not keen on and paint it; old chairs and stools, plant pots, picture frames – whatever could benefit from a new lease of life.
#19. Start a Pinterest board of all the places you’d like to go once this is over; it’s full of inspiration on everything from recipes and DIY ideas to hotels and home improvements.
#20. Always wondered about your family history? Do a free trial on Ancestry and start tracing your roots.
#21. Remember all those songs you loved in your teens or party days? Have a YouTube nostalgia session!
#22. This might feel weird, but have you ever tried automatic writing? Get a blank piece of paper, empty your mind and just write whatever subconsciously comes to you without thinking about it or editing it. Sometimes it’s bizarre and fascinating what you can produce.
#23. Organise all the apps on your phone into folders, then free up phone space by deleting unwanted stored Whatsapp pics, then going through each app and deleting unwanted data that clutters up memory and slows your phone down.
#25. Do a really deep clean – vacuum under your sofas and chairs, dust places that never get dusted, clean kitchen floors, get everything sparkly.
#26. Curl up with a book you’ve been meaning to read.
And above all, please stay safe, well and calm – like all storms, this too shall pass x