Right now, due to the pandemic, many people have a little too much time on their hands.
Our days seem to run together without our usual routines, and I’m no exception. After I’ve walked and written and gotten my work (both inner and outer) done for the day, if there are still a few hours of light left, my mind tends to wander and sometimes in directions I’d rather it not go.
Rather than think about what I just saw on the news, I try to direct myself into other more positive places. Here are some things that may strike a chord with you.
1. Music has power.
Many of us spend good parts of the workday either talking or listening. Silence is golden, but music can really make a difference in my mood when the workday is done.
From Mozart to Ed Sheeran, music has a way of soothing the rough edges that these COVID-19 days seem to create. Try listening to music, or pick up that old guitar and start to play. Listening or playing improves your cognitive abilities.
2. Gaze at nature.
If you’re going to let your mind wander and you want it to be a positive experience, it helps to look at something beautiful. Nature is wonderful, and so is art.
Note: TV doesn’t count, because you have to be able to let your mind go where it wants instead of being directed by someone else. Just look out a window if you can’t be out in nature.
3. Read a book.
That’s right, an actual real book with pages and words. Most people don’t read even one book a year, which is sad. Reading is such a gift.
Unfortunately, some of us have to do so much reading online that we seldom take the time to sit down and enjoy a good book. But it’s worth doing. So find your favorite armchair and settle in with a good book. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
4. Write a thank-you note.
This note can be to your partner or anyone important in your life to whom you want to show some appreciation.
Don’t send a text or an email. Get an actual card and mail it. We rarely do that anymore, and it will go a long way to making someone you care for smile. (I just did it!)
5. Finish up one of those unfinished tasks.
When you are feeling a little blah, it’s hard to get motivated. You may not really want to go through voice-mail-hell to get that incorrect $5 charge off your cell phone or cable bill, but now you’ve got some extra time, why not go for it?
You can even let your mind wander while on hold, so you’ll be nice when the person on the other end finally answers.
6. Eat healthier.
This is a good idea for most of us. Of course, it might not be possible for my green-smoothie drinking spouse, but I find that I am making more salads with her, and that’s bonding time. When four hands and two hearts are making a meal, it’s not just food for the body, it’s food for the soul.
7. Exercise, exercise, exercise.
In some countries, people can’t leave their homes without permission, and then they can leave only to run essential errands. So take advantage of your freedom. Put on a mask and take a walk around your neighborhood. Or if you can, go for a hike.
Exercise is the most accessible, easiest-to-use and fastest-working antidepressant/anxiety tool that you have — with the fewest side-effects. Use it.
8. Home improvement projects.
As you’re going to be at home a lot more, why not make it as nice as you can? A lot of home improvement takes up just your time and energy and doesn’t cost a thing, but even investing a few dollars in your comfort is money well spent. It’s part of taking care of yourself and those you love and live with.
9. Plan every detail of the trip you are going to take when the pandemic is over.
This is a great exercise for individuals and families, and you can work on it daily if you want. Just get a big board and put up pictures of where you’d like to go on it. Once you decide on where to go, you can think about how to get there.
Albert Einstein once said we need to learn to see the universe as friendly. That’s challenging right now, but if you work on little personal pieces, it will come together for you faster than you might think.
Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., LMFT, is an award-winning therapist and writer. He is a columnist, blogger and the author of seven books, including the newly released “Visualization For Success — 75 Psychological Empowerment Exercises To Get You What You Want In Life.” Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.