At this extraordinary time of uncertainty, isolation, and huge concerns over our health, it is vital to keep our brains and bodies active and challenged, whilst also calm and at peace! This is a tricky combination to achieve without our usual outlets of work, school, dance classes, art groups, the gym, theatre, cinema trips, dinners out, nights at the pub, family gatherings, social time, or days out at the beach, parks, and many other places…. And losing these outlets is only one of the many changes to our daily lives we have to process, but together we can do it! We must accept it, adapt to it and appreciate all the good we can…
On OSCA, along with the rest of the internet, will be posting a lot of ideas and activities over the coming weeks to help keep people busy and creative, but to start with I want to give you a simple list of things you can do at home, that can help your well-being. Hopefully they should be things you can do with what you already have at home, or maybe just a couple of bits to add on to your online shop (when it arrives!!)
These ideas are for children and grown ups, and can be interpreted and changed to suit your age, and circumstances.
1. Have a bath.
Seriously, if you are physically able to, have a hot bath, if not have a long hot shower. During this time you could light candles, use some nice bubble bath or oil you have been saving, light incense, play relaxing music, listen to an audio book, or enjoy the peace and quiet… pay attention to your personal care; what does your body or mind need right now? It might be as simple as exfoliation, extra time in hot water, realising your feet need some extra TLC when you get out! It might be that you realise how stressed out you are and you need an early night, some more time alone, a binge of your favourite TV show, some time to meditate or journal. Whatever it is, pay attention and make a positive but relaxed plan to act, whilst enjoying your time in your hot water and bubbles. Let the water wash away the day, wash away your worries… come out feeling refreshed, relaxed and ready for what’s next.
For children – baths provide a wonderful time for sensory interaction, relaxation, a different type of playtime, and a time to indulge in their own space. You can add to these experiences by adding colours, smells and toys to the water, playing them an audio book or music, or again allowing for some quiet time. It’s also a really good time to encourage self care and independent hygiene. A warm bath before bed, with candles and relaxing music is just as helpful for kids as it is for ourselves..
Bake anything – something you need – maybe bread or biscuits? You can bake a simple flat bread without fuss (recipe here), or perhaps invest some time in starting off a sourdough… cupcakes, cookies, flapjacks and pancakes are quick and easy bakes for children to get involved with, and there are lots of recipes out there to minimise the sugar content if you want to focus on healthier eating habits. A banana or applesauce pancake is a great bake if you are low on flour – just mix mashed banana or applesauce with beaten egg and fry like pancake! Pastry is also a good all round bake, as it can be used for both deserts and dinner! I will be sharing some specific recipes in the coming days…
Baking is a great mindful activity – you can switch off from bad news, constant headlines, and other negative elements in your life, whilst you instead focus on measuring, mixing, kneading and creating something from scratch. On the whole, you will also get a sense of achievement at the end, when you pull the loaf from the oven, or see the higgledy piggledy decorations on the cupcakes the kids are so proud of, or tuck in to a delicious meal you all helped to cook…
If you or your family enjoy cooking and baking, a great extension is to create a recipe book of all your favourite family recipes… this could be in a note book or sketch book, on the computer, in a dedicated blank recipe book, or a file of note cards… However you decide to do it and whether you are on your own or a large family, this is a lovely way of celebrating your baking and cooking experiences, memories and future endeavours. Children can illustrate with pictures and doodles, as well as practising literacy and numeracy skills in writing the recipes, equally adults can use artistic skills by creating illustrations or photographs to go along with the recipes…
Taking time to write and collect your recipes is a great way to focus your energy and spend your time mindfully and meaningfully, plus you will have a beautiful collection of usable recipes which will last forever.
4. Go for a walk
It may seem super obvious, especially at the moment, as its one of the few activities we are permitted to do at any length. However, it really is such a good activity to do for our physical, emotional, and mental well being. A couple of days ago, I spent most of the day on my phone; I was checking in with friends and family, planning some home school activities, preparing some online activities for work, helping my husband with some design work, and a bunch of other menial tasks… by 3 pm my head was full of tension and I felt irritated and frustrated.
Then, our dogs told me they needed a walk, so my son and I went for a 45 minute walk outside, and by the time we got back my headache had gone and I felt distinctly calmer and far more productive .
We are very lucky where we live and have access to lovely countryside, however the act of walking anywhere, the fresh air, the exercise, the removal of screens, the new sights and sounds, are all so beneficial wherever we are. Any exercise increases blood flow and circulation, and therefore provides the body with fresh oxygen, which is great for body and mind. Walking is not too strenuous and can be done at a slow pace, so has the added benefit of allowing time to think, to look, to reflect and to restore, as well as benefit from the physical health benefits.
5. Draw a Picture
….Granted, this is harder said than done… I am an artist by trade, but I am actually rubbish at drawing and don’t particularly enjoy it. However, drawing and associated pursuits are great activities when you don’t have the pressure of work or an audience to “get it right” for. Drawing, doodling, scribbling, writing, and colouring are all good activities to engage with for improved mental health. As with other creative activities, focusing on something like this allows us to forget bad news and worries, gives us an outlet for our emotions, and a reflective time to get our thoughts in more order.
If you find it hard to just start drawing on a blank page, there are colouring sheets that you can print at home which could be a good start, or you could try googling Zentangle ideas, or look to nature for your inspiration; nature journal-ling is a great way to keep up a daily practice of going outside and being creative. There are also some lovely free online drawing and sketching courses available at the moment.
A simple idea to start drawing is to create an outline of something that is relevant for you right now – an Easter egg, a flower, a heart, a rainbow, the first letter of your name, anything at all… and then fill that shape with patterns, pictures, colours, lines or more shapes. I will be posting more about this soon… If you need extra encouragement – draw pictures for your local care homes and mail them in, they will cheer up the residents no matter how good you think the drawing is!
Playing games by yourself, with others in your home, or with your neighbours (over the fence – social distancing at all times!) can help to keep your brain busy and happy! It seems to be a tradition in this country (UK) at Christmas time to play cards and board games around the table after dinner, or into the evenings… perhaps because we have the time to spend together after months of hard work, busy schedules, and time spent on homework, meetings, extra curricular clubs, deadlines and external pressures. Well, if we can look for the good in this time of lock down, it is that most of us are free of these things, and we do now have this precious time to spend together playing games.
If you are in lock-down on your own, don’t let this stop you playing games! The power of our social media based technology is extraordinary and there are many many ways to play games with people who are away from you, or even against the computer itself*. There are apps like Words With Friends, which is basically scrabble! You can play tons of card games, such as crib – if you don’t know how to play crib, learn right now; its great – and great for kids too to help with mental arithmetic. I will probably do a separate post on this as there are a ton of resources out there. (*note – watch your screen time!)
For simple games to play around the table, think Consequences (also known as Exquisite Corpse or Pass the Paper ), I Spy with colours, themes, letters or numbers… how about nature bingo, Chinese Whispers, Yes/No, Hang-man, the Alphabet game, Would you Rather…. You can also do games outside such, Twister, hopscotch, scavenger hunts, giant Jenga, and lots more…
How often have you said, “I don’t have time to sit and read a book”… well, chances are, now you do!
Getting lost in a book is the most perfect escapism, whatever your age. Reading books can take you on adventures, make you fall in love, help you remember your childhood, help you dream of your future, make you imagine worlds so far apart from your own, help you understand someone else’s plight, make you understand your own, help you imagine new possibilities, and take you to new places you never imagined…
Plus it’s a much better way of spending your time, than mindlessly scrolling on social media. Books are full of anything you might need.
Audio books are also a great alternative, if you are keeping busy with housework, DIY, gardening, painting, walking or other things, pop in your headphones and carry on!
Gardening does not need to mean being an expert horticulturalist and growing extravagant vegetables. Nor does it mean you are trying to become suddenly self sufficient. The definition of gardening is
- noun – the activity of tending or cultivating a garden, especially as a pasttime.
Note the word tending. It means to be inclined to do something… i.e, because you want to – you want to to care for, and to be there. To tend a garden may mean to walk around it slowly and pull the odd weed, to uncover a herb, to prune a few roses… it may mean potting new plants, planting up hanging baskets, it might be that you want to toil the earth and build a vegetable garden to feed your family, it could mean that you want to walk barefoot on the grass and forage dandelions and wait for the apples and blackberries to ripen, it could be you and your children want to plant sunflower seeds and see how tall they grow, perhaps you want to throw wild flower seeds and await the bees and butterflies…
For children gardening activities allow for development across subjects including art, science, maths, literacy, geography, and history. More on this to come.
Whatever gardening is to you, it is by its very nature a perfect mindfulness activity, whereby we slow down, look and smell and listen; where we connect to our surroundings and spend time being practical. At the same time we find escapism, whimsy, beauty and living poetry, and more often than not gain a sense of achievement, whilst the garden teaches us one of the most important lessons – patience.
Let me know in the comments. I am always happy to help…
Stay safe, look after yourself, and stay in touch,