Time itself seemed to dismantle during the first national lockdown, when days dragged, but months passed in a blur. Now though, we know what to expect.
Armed with experience, we can make a plan to transform the second lockdown into a more bearable beast. Who knows, we may even discover glimmers of enjoyment.
“We can’t change the frustration of lockdown, but we can choose how we respond,” Dr Mark Williamson, director of Action for Happiness, tells HuffPost UK. “Having a plan helps us focus on goals that matter to us and encourages us to keep making progress on a daily basis.”
Taking steps, however small, towards a meaningful goal can give us a sense of accomplishment and boost our self-confidence and resilience. Making a plan can also feel reassuring, providing a little clarity in an otherwise uncertain time.
“We all crave structure and certainty – it’s part of the human condition, it makes us feel safe,” psychologist Jessica Chivers previously told HuffPost. “It’s really important people create their own bits of certainty.”
Making a plan doesn’t mean pressuring yourself to be productive, says Williamson. It’s about slowly introducing proactive positivity into your life. So, how do we do it?
Think up some smaller, achievable goals
Action for Happiness has created a ‘New Ways November’ calendar to get you started. Each day, you’re invited to try something new and mood-boosting, such as ‘tune into a different radio station’ or ‘connect with someone from a different generation’.
You can follow the calendar or use it as inspiration for creating your own agenda. Try setting small, individual goals for each day of the month, or a new goal each week.
“Goals are great, but they need to be achievable,” says Williamson. “When making plans, try to be realistic and break them into smaller, manageable steps that can be tackled day by day. For bigger goals, start by just focusing on the next small step forward.”
Your plan could include developing a new hobby, such as crafting or baking, or it could centre on transforming your home into a glorious, autumn haven.
It might be worth writing down your plan, too, so you have something to refer to when motivation is waning and share it with a family member or friend, who can offer you support.
Focus on kindness – for yourself, and others
“Life is happier when we’re kind to ourselves and others, so try to make sure your plan includes self-care,” adds Williamson. This could be as simple as scheduling in a relaxing bath or time to be active outdoors. You might also want to plan small acts of kindness for others.
“Kindness is our lockdown ‘superpower’ and helps make challenging situations more manageable,” says Williamson. “Lockdown can be isolating so make sure your plan involves staying connected to others, even if you can’t be together in person.”
Take time to look at the bigger picture
Your lockdown plan doesn’t have to focus on tangible achievements. Counsellor and psychotherapist Lucy Fuller told HuffPost UK we can use lockdown as a break from our usual routine, enabling us to reflect on what we want in life.
“Even those who’ve been working flat out as a key workers during lockdown have had a different experience to their ‘normal’ life,” she said after the first national lockdown, “so there is always something to take away from it, whether it’s something you feel positive about or a difficult, life-changing decision that lockdown has helped to sharpen your mind about.” Writing about your feelings and experiences in a daily journal could be one way to track these thoughts.
Committing to practising gratitude throughout the month may also boost your mood. “Relax, take in your surroundings and notice what you are grateful for, even if your gratitude is just that you can stop and breathe deeply,” life coach Jessica Rogers previously told HuffPost.
“In the same way you may have set goals for 2020, write down what you have accomplished in 2020 so far – even the little things.”
Don’t put pressure on yourself
Remember, there is no ‘correct’ way to respond to a global pandemic, so no two plans are likely to look the same.
Create a timetable that’s right for you, without social media ‘likes’ in mind. If you skip a day, don’t sweat it – there’s always tomorrow.