Life isn’t returning to normal very quickly in various parts of the country, including here in NYC. People living in urban areas, in particular, tend to be accustomed to having lots of exciting activities to engage in outside of their homes, but that’s not possible right now. Playhouses, movie theaters, and professional sports venues are mostly closed; gyms, too, are closed or considerably restricted; restaurants may allow outdoor seating with limited capacity, but as it gets colder, fewer people will want to eat al fresco. Face-to-face book clubs, sports clubs, and other group activities aren’t happening. So what can you do to get out of the house, stay active, and maintain your mental and emotional health?
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Yes, time spent watching TV or surfing the web has increased dramatically in the last few months, but I don’t recommend these as particularly good for mental health. There’s so much on mass media that can drag one down, and it does not generally engage the brain or the body. These are two important factors for mental health – engaging the brain and the body. Many people are picking up new hobbies that address both of these important factors.
Exercise comes in many forms: working out with a work-out video or channel, doing yoga, taking walks in the park or walking the dog, and bicycling are excellent options. Science has clearly proven that exercise does wonders for emotional well-being. Getting out of the house, soaking up vitamin D from the sun, and breathing in fresh air are very good for your physical health, in addition to the benefits to your muscles from the exercise.
Other activities that engage the brain include word puzzles, reading, writing a book or poetry, learning a new language, and learning an instrument. Hobbies like knitting, crocheting, and other crafts can be fun and relaxing, as are gardening and baking, which may exercise new muscles or new areas of the brain as you work to master any of these activities.
I recommend you pick up an activity or two in both categories so that you exercise both your body and your mind.
If you are partnered, married or have children, I recommend you also come up with some fun things you can do with your family. Board games, picnics, creating your own family reading and discussion group, playing Frisbee or some other simple sport as a family – all these will add the dimension of strengthening family bonds.
Hobbies and pastimes do more for you than just keep your brain and body from turning to mush. They make you a more well-rounded person and add new layers to your personality and your own self-identity. They can expand your circle of friends and connections. The skills you learn, along with the exercise to your brain, may help you in your career path and develop motivation and creativity. When we’re stuck at home with limited activities, these activities can help you structure your time, decrease boredom, and give you something to look forward to after a tough day.
As I have encouraged my clients as well as readers of my blog articles, it’s very important to develop a mindset of finding the best in every situation. Though the shutdowns have been painful in many ways, we don’t have to be victims. Take the time to develop some new interests or pick up old interests and nurture your relationships. You might find that these times have hidden blessings!