In the last couple weeks, most of us have been thrown into a brave new world of social distancing, self-isolation, and in some cases, downright lockdown.
And while it’s important to do what we can to maintain our mental health in times like these, I believe we can do better than just maintain. I believe we can use this time and these challenging circumstances to grow and become better.
We’ve all had our normal routines and habits thrown into chaos, but a silver lining is that maybe this has made room for new habits to be born:
- Sure, you can’t go out drinking with your buddies on Friday and Saturday night anymore, but maybe you could use that time to reconnect with some old friends you miss but never seem to find time to connect with?
- You can’t go to the gym anymore for your yoga class, but maybe this is a chance to mix it up and explore different forms of yoga and other movement exercises with online tutorials?
- Your book club can’t meet anymore, but what if you used that time to start working on that book you’ve always dreamed of writing?
My point is:
Why not look at the disruption to our everyday lives as an opportunity to change our everyday lives for the better?
Here are 10 suggestions for doing just that.
Do an exercise challenge
One of the major challenges of the last couple weeks is that our exercise routines have been disrupted. But just because you can’t go to spin class anymore doesn’t mean exercise can’t happen. And in fact, this may be a chance to get creative and start some new exercise habits.
One of the coolest things I’ve seen online over the past couple weeks is people taking on creative exercises challenges. On Twitter, I saw two buddies who live in different parts of the world challenge each other to do 100 push-ups per day. And what’s more, they did them with each other over FaceTime!
Always wanted to try yoga or pilates? Why not hop on YouTube and give it a shot?
Start a podcast
Podcasts are having a moment as they’ve risen in popularity and variety over the past few years. But what most people don’t know is that it’s surprisingly easy to start your own!
For example, an old college buddy and I started a podcast about children’s books last year — just two dads chatting about our favorite (and sometimes, least favorite) children’s books that we read over and over (and over and over and over…) again each night with our kids.
A podcast can also be a great way to be more social — find a friend with a shared interest, and make a point to chat once a week about the thing you’re interested in.
If you’re interested, check out this guide on How to Start a Podcast.
Start that mindfulness practice
I know a lot of people have wanted to start a mindfulness practice but just never seemed to be able to find the time or motivation. Coronavirus lockdown could be the perfect time to get started. I wrote a beginner’s guide to mindfulness here if you’re interested. I’d also recommend this little book: How to Sit Like a Buddha.
Rekindle an old friendship
Thanks to the Internet, “social distancing” doesn’t mean we have to be any less social. In fact, being unable to do a lot of our normal activities and routines means we may have even more time to be truly social. One way to take advantage of this time is to reconnect with an old friend — someone you care a lot about but maybe haven’t had the time or energy to stay in touch with as much as you’ve have liked. Why not reach out and see if they’re up for a weekly FaceTime or phone call?
Fun example: Just last night, a friend of mind said he and his wife were doing a virtual double date with some mutual friends and playing Scattergories over Zoom!
Build a reading habit
Another habit I hear people say they wish they had time for was reading. The limitations of coronavirus lockdown are a great excuse to finally dive into that list of books you’ve been meaning to get to. And even more than that, it’s an opportunity to establish a solid reading habit so that books become a bigger part of your live even after the lockdown ends.
Quick tip: It’ll be easier to make this a habit if you start by reading things you really enjoy as opposed to books you feel like you “should” read. Also, remember that audio books count too ? For more tips on kickstarting a reading habit, I wrote an article about How to Build a Reading Habit a while back.
Start a newsletter
Like podcasts, email newsletters have become popular in recent years. And while they’re often used by major companies and organizations for marketing purposes, they can be incredible personal and intimate as well.
For example, I was talking to a reader of my own newsletter recently who said she was inspired by it to start a newsletter of her own sharing baking recipes with interested family and friends. Each week, she experiments with new baking projects and sends a newsletter on Sunday showing her readers (about 30 people) how it all went.
Starting a family newsletter is also a great way to keep extended family members in the loop with what’s going on in your family by sharing pictures, funny quotes and stories, etc.
Okay, maybe this one doesn’t sound like a ton of fun, but the coronavirus lockdown really is a huge opportunity to check off one of the biggest items on many of our long-term to-do lists — get organized.
Whether it’s a major overhaul of the whole house or garage, or a smaller project like organizing the home office so it’s actually usable instead of just a storage unit, getting organized would make for a great use of lockdown time.
Longer-term, getting organized can also be incredibly beneficial when it comes to starting other new habits and routines. We all know it’s easier to get to work when our desk is clean; similarly, it’s easier to get started with new projects at home when the house is reasonably organized.
Learn a new skill
For over a decade, I’ve had a banjo gathering dust in my closet. A friend gave it to me and I’ve always meant to learn how to play but just never found the time. This could be my opportunity! There are plenty of free video tutorials on YouTube which is more than enough to get me started.
Or here’s another one: I’ve always loved traditional Chinese and Japanese watercolor landscape painting, and it’s been a bucket list item for a while now to try and learn to draw my own. Why not get started now?
Whatever skill you’d like to learn, I guarantee there’s someone on YouTube teaching people how to do it.
Create a business plan
I know a lot of people have the vague dream of running their own business or even a hobby that generates some side-income. But, as usual, the chaos of regular life inevitably bumps aspirations like this down the priority list.
But if you’re stuck at home with some time on your hands, why not really flesh out that business idea? Think through what it is exactly you’d like to do? Do some market research and see if there’s a group of people out there buying something similar. If so, good — that means there’s demand! Next, think about what your unique selling point would be — your story, your unique advantage, etc. Once you’ve got some ideas there, think through marketing and distribution channels — assuming you started producing something, how would you make it available to the world?
If nothing else, you could use this time to bone up on the fundamentals and nitty gritties of what actually goes into starting a profitable business or side project.
Want some inspiration? These podcasts interview people who have started their own small business and side projects and ask them to tell their stories and share their strategies:
Brainstorm Your 100 Life Goals
It’s a nearly inevitable fact of life that we’re so busy with the day-to-day stuff that we rarely have time to even consider the big picture stuff.
I mean, how often do you stop and ask yourself what your most important goals for life are? What are your top 10 dreams? What do you want to accomplish before you’re 30, 50, 70, 100?
I remember seeing this exercise a few years ago and being so struck by it that I plopped down on the floor of the airport and starting writing furiously. It’s called the 100 Life Goals.
Basically, you sit down with a pen and paper and just list 100 things you’d love to do in your lifetime: Write a children’s book, learn French, run a marathon, climb Mount Kilimanjaro, visit Machu Picchu, learn how to sail, etc.
There’s this amazing phenomenon whereby simply clarifying what your goals are gets you moving toward accomplishing them. Try it out.
Taking up the challenge
Stepping up to a challenge and using it to accomplish great deeds isn’t just for famous people in history books. In our own small ways, all of us can use adversity as a springboard for personal growth and service to others.
It sure beats sitting around worrying.
Psychologist and blogger. I help people use psychology for meaningful personal growth: https://nickwignall.com