A third lockdown has arrived with barely any notice for those living in Scotland and England, leaving many people feeling, well, pretty crap.
Whether you’re a parent who now has to homeschool disappointed kids, a key worker facing added challenges or you’ve spent the last nine months working from home and just want it to end, you have every reason to be annoyed and sad.
While lockdown now means there are many things we can’t do, there are still some lovely things that we can do to cheer ourselves up – and many of them don’t cost a penny. Here are some ideas to brighten your day. Treat yourself, you deserve it.
1. Put your favourite song on and dance
A happiness survey by Gala Bingo found listening to music placed third in its top 10 list of things that give Brits a mood boost. Natasha Bedingfield’s Unwritten is an uplifting early noughties banger we’d recommend right now. See also: Janet Jackson’s Together Again.
Not feeling The Bedingfield? Put on your favourite song or Spotify’s Happy Hits playlist and have a few minutes break from work to dance around – get the kids involved, too. Doing so stimulates the release of chemicals in the body that make us feel good.
2. Listen to Alison Hammond’s laugh
Honestly this woman’s laugh is like gold dust – you can’t listen to it and not smile, as this 33 second montage from our friends Love of Huns shows. We also thoroughly enjoyed her calling Ryan Gosling ‘Ry’ in this stunning clip.
3. Make (or buy) a nice coffee
Takeaway coffee is still permitted under the lockdown rules so go and grab yourself one or – if you’re fortunate enough to have your own snazzy machine at home – make yourself a banging brew.
Not a coffee fan? Grab a tea. That same Gala Bingo survey found sipping a delightful cuppa also made the top 10 things to turn a frown upside down.
4. Go for a walk
It might not seem like the most enjoyable thing to do, especially if the weather is extraordinarily meh where you are, but we guarantee you will feel that little bit better afterwards.
If you can, head to a park, as spending time in nature does give you an even greater mood boost. But if you can’t, don’t worry – you’ll get exactly what you need simply from the movement and spending time in natural daylight. Try to spot five things that are beautiful while you’re out or even pick a colour and see how many times you can see it on your stroll.
5. Think of three things you’re looking forward to.
Each month, Action For Happiness shares a new calendar of tips and tricks you can try throughout the month to give yourself a boost. While December’s focused on kindness, January’s calendar focuses on happiness and one of its daily suggestions is to write down three positive things you’re looking forward to this year.
If you look past the next couple of months, we’re sure you can find a handful of things to feel good – and even excited – about.
6. Overhaul your social media with dogs (or whatever floats your boat)
You can follow trends and topics, as well as accounts, on both Instagram and Twitter, so instead of doomscrolling, why not actively choose to follow some happier trends instead?
We’d recommend #teddybeardogs and also, for cat lovers, the Insta account @catsdoingthings. Share your favourite topics and upbeat accounts with us over at @huffpostuklife.
7. Phone a friend
Connection is super important right now, as we’re all confined to our homes once more. FaceTiming or phoning a friend (or family member) to have a catch up will give you that much-needed mental boost.
How you interact is really important. A study found time spent interacting face-to-face or by voice or video call was linked to more positive emotions, whereas time spent in text-based interaction – for example, emailing, Whatsapping or texting – was not.
8. Cook your favourite meal
Forget the New Year diet or the post-Christmas detox, we’re in a lockdown and you deserve to eat something that makes you happy. What’s your favourite meal or a food that’s linked to happy memories? Make it this evening! Or, if you don’t have the ingredients yet, plan to make it later this week so you have something to anticipate.
9. Help someone else
Kindness has all kinds of positive mental repercussions. People who go out of their way to help others – doing shopping for elderly neighbours, helping out at food banks, donating blood, volunteering for befriending services – experience more positive states than those who don’t, studies have found.
Why not try something new if you’ve got a lot of free time in lockdown? Become a NHS responder or visit Do It for more ways to get involved. Volunteering England, Volunteer Scotland, Volunteering Wales, Jersey Charities, Guernsey Charities or Volunteering Matters will also have opportunities in your area.
10. Take a big breath
You might need a few more breaks today than normal – and that’s totally fine. We’re surviving a pandemic. Be kind to yourself and when things start to feel a bit much, shut your laptop (or walk away from whatever you’re doing), close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths.
Focus on what that feels like rather than anything else. Here are some other breathing techniques you can try if you’re feeling overwhelmed.