Monday, October 25

From staying fit to sex: How Guardian readers have improved their mood during the pandemic | Health & Wellness


Garden shed with fairy lights

We bought some solar powered garden lights and installed them in our garden shed. We can see them when we are having dinner or we let the dog into the garden. It means that during the day we have fun with the flowers and, at night, the twinkling lights. They remind me of the stars, another factor that lifts my spirits: looking at the stars puts everything in perspective. Nicholas Vince, actor and YouTuber, London

Ella Van Loock feeding the birds in Pollok Park, Glasgow
Feathered Friend … Ella Van Loock feeding the birds in Pollok Park, Glasgow. Photography: Ella Van Loock

Feeding the birds

I’ve been going to my local park, Pollok Park in Glasgow, and feeding the birds seeds. My friend started doing it and posted a video so one day I went with a bag of seeds and soon I had birds landing on my hand to do research, including chickadees, blue tit, and big tit. They swooped down, pinched my toes with their little feet, and then you could feel the buzz of their wings as they flew off again. You have to be really still and quiet for them to come, so it’s like a form of meditation. I have brought four people to hand feed the birds and that also lifted their spirits. Ella Van Loock, Primary School Teacher, Glasgow

Cook and dance

Baking and cooking while dancing to the music of a great band on my apron has really lifted my mood over the past year. There is something transcendent about creating and turning simple ingredients into something complicated and tasty. And happy dancing and being silly in the kitchen is really wonderful on sad days. Tom North, Bank Teller, Massachusetts, USA

Exercise Videos

They all told me that exercise videos would make me feel better and initially I frowned at them and went back to my laptop. But they worked! I signed up for a fitness app and joined one of their plans that instructed me on the 20-40 minute video that I should be doing four days a week. Now I feel much better. It’s a good way to disconnect from the screen after work; I feel stronger and am much less grumpy. Some videos consist of stretching exercises only, but I still feel better after moving, and my various aches and pains from spending much of the day sitting also seem to have mostly disappeared. Hannah Sewell, Software Engineer, Sheffield

Cycling the Thredbo Valley Trail in New South Wales
Cycling the Thredbo Valley Trail in Kosciuszko National Park in the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales. Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan / Getty Images

The joy of riding a bike

Living in the Alpine region of Australia, normal recreational activities such as hiking, swimming and skiing in the mountains have been restricted by the closure of state lines. Ski season canceled. I’ve never been a serious rider, but upgrading to a new gravel bike gave me the humor boost to counter the sadness of the lockdown. I have discovered over 100km of local bike lanes and now I ride three to five times a week. Swimming in the nearby Murray River has been an occasional summer pastime for the past 60 years, but with the pandemic came a renewed appreciation for this refreshing and relaxing experience. Now it is an almost daily activity, to put the mind in a good place before calling our children and grandchildren in Europe. Stephen Jacobs, Audiologist, New South Wales, Australia

Create song covers

I participate in a music creation challenge. Every month a group of around 10 of us submit a song for someone else in the group to cover. The submissions are random and everyone has a month to create a version of the song that they have been given. The group then meets at Zoom to listen to the presentations, laugh, and experience the joy of shared creativity. The mood boost has been amazing for everyone involved. Matthew Trow, Web Developer, Oxfordshire

Have sex

I might say that baking or an awesome exercise routine is what lifted my spirits during the pandemic, but it’s actually sex with my partner. He is loving, forgiving, energetic, and enormously funny. He lives alone, so he is now part of a bubble of support with me and my children. This means that our sex lives require pretty precise planning, but when all the stars align, we feel very, very lucky. Anonymous, healthcare professional, Kent

An older woman playing a video game.
I am a samurai! Whole new worlds are opened up through online games. Photograph: MixMedia / Getty Images

Gaming

Games have allowed me to escape during the pandemic, not just from my home, but from my body and mind. I am no longer a woman in her sixties with a slight phobia of horses; instead, I have been a samurai, a warrior, a sword-wielding heroine, climbing, jumping or galloping through beautiful Japanese flower fields. Monsters appear sometimes, but modern games are often beautifully designed and have a lot of time to stop and look. When I come to save and leave, I am totally relaxed. Michel Blake, Retired, Kent

The art of Charles Tunnicliffe

I stumbled upon the Charles Tunnicliffe Society by chance in the first confinement. I had known him as an illustrator of country landscapes and wildlife, but now I am a humble disciple. It has given me cause for joy and sheer escape, and I have become a collector, in a small way. By looking at books of his work, I can leave this troubled century, go back to a less crowded past, and see the world through his eyes. It has helped me find happiness in small things: sand in sandwiches, burnet roses entwining the dunes, the sight of a lonely sparrow in the garden after years of absence, a lamp in a window lighting the way home. I have spent months looking at his art, reading his tender words and looking at birds, which has inspired me to return to drawing as well. Debbie Murrish, Retired, Liverpool

A log cabin in the Alaskan forest
Slowly it does … a log cabin in the Alaskan forest. Photograph: Greg Meland / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Relax with slow TV

I’ve been watching YouTube videos of people building log cabins, preferably using only hand tools, in the wilderness of Alaska; It’s my own self-curated version of “Slow TV.” Many nights of anxiety have been cured by watching a 40 minute video of someone turning raw materials into a private and cozy haven in the middle of nowhere. Reality bites into when outdoor toilet and shower composting issues arise, but otherwise, the soundtrack of nailing nails and sawn logs has been my happy place for much of the confinement. Matt, Public Sector Worker, Scotland

Video calls

My husband and I went through the confinement three separately, but we probably had more face-to-face conversations during this confinement than the others, and it is true that the absence increases the affection. I look forward to chatting with him via WhatsApp video every night. He always makes me laugh. He is doing hard work, he works in a hospital and I am very proud of him. On Valentine’s Day, we watched a movie together online and that has become a weekly tradition. I have a lot of distractions at home (family, pets, countryside) but I look forward to our WhatsApp chats. Lucy Matthews, Somerset

John Lancaster playing his sitar
John Lancaster enjoys playing his sitar every day. Photography: John Lancaster

Practicing the sitar

I have played the sitar for about 12 years and visited India several times for lessons. The last 12 months have thrown me all kinds of difficulties, but every morning I have made time to sit and look out the window while doing my sitar practice. I should have done this years ago, but as many late starters will attest, life gets in the way. Taking the time, even if it means getting up earlier, to start the day doing one of the things I enjoy the most in life has completely changed my perspective. It has helped me overcome my grief over the death of family and friends, to a point where I think everything will be fine. John Lancaster, Sound Engineer, Manchester

Meditation

I started with a daily Headspace routine (which is free for teachers) and now I participate in Samatha meditation classes with Samatha Trust, through Zoom. It is an opportunity to train the mind and step back from the chaos and trauma that surrounds us all now. The stress-induced brain fog clouds have lifted and I really feel like a new woman. I would recommend it to everyone. Anonymous, teacher, East Sussex

Keeping a diary

Going through old belongings during the confinement, I came across a journal that I wrote in 2007, when I was nine years old. It was clear how much fun I’d had fun filling it with lots of glitter gel pens, petal presses, and stickers. Keeping a journal now didn’t seem so much fun, especially since he only did it when he was stressed or upset. I decided to order some stickers on Etsy (which felt a bit ridiculous for a 23 year old) and have had the best time using them ever since. It’s nice to be able to vent about my journal and then use a little sticker that says “Keep going!” Those stickers have been a little form of joy during a stressful year. Moneeka Thakur, student, St Albans


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