The third Monday of January is a day away. For those not in the know, it is often touted by the media and various retail outlets alike as the most depressing day of the year. The groundswell of attention annually garnered by this occasion is hard to miss; for many uninformed individuals the hype surrounding it is enough to validate its threat. In the suffocating situation of our current global crisis, this leaves one question- should we be worried about Blue Monday?
First of all, what is Blue Monday? The story starts with a formula created by a psychologist named Cliff Arnall. Arnall claimed to have created an equation based on specific factors contributing to poor mental health. Arnall then calculated that the third Monday of every January was statistically the most depressing day in the year. The formula is calculated (amongst other things) with financial strain, short cold nights and (quite bizarrely) time since failing New Year’s resolutions. Some might go as far to say these claims aren’t too far off the mark, it is a stressful time after all. The problem with all this though? Well, Arnall was publishing his findings for Sky Travel.
With that in mind, things become a lot clearer, the infamous blue Monday is a marketing tool. Arnall himself admitted there was no clear link between the date and mass bouts of depression in an interview with The Daily Telegraph. Problem solved? Hardly. The pseudoscience that fuelled the stunt is just the start; even this year, almost two decades after the phrase was coined, newspapers still peddle the myth obnoxiously as if it were a fact. One newspaper boldly claims to have the key to beating Blue Monday in an article published this year- by “saving cash fast.” You get the idea, a thinly veiled ploy to increase sales by preying on fear.
This kind of morally bankrupt marketing has ramifications for the country’s mental health, with these headlines exasperating the very real crisis our country faces. Thousands upon thousands of people are locked in battles with their mental wellbeing in an already challenging year, with the repeating cycle of house arrest taking its toll daily. Anyone reading these headlines out of context might fear they hold weight in some way.
While some papers might be indulging in the hoax, we’re here to sort the fact from fiction and fuel you through the winter. There are plenty of ways that you can put your health first in this frustrating period and can do so quite easily. Whether it’s for body or mind, here are 100 things you can try out to power through lockdown.
1 – Try to walk daily
I wouldn’t be surprised if most of you reading this list already used walking as your main source of cardio last year. If you don’t do it as regularly, it’s a great place to start. Often denigrated as an ineffective form of exercise, walking doesn’t get enough credit. An hour a day can greatly decrease long term chances of heart and lung diseases, whilst increasing stamina and mental wellbeing. You can tailor a walk to fit your own pace and ability, whilst also making the most of the winter sun. It’s best to find a route that you enjoy and go from there, even if you can’t manage the whole hour you can always start smaller. Who said you had to exhaust yourself to get a good workout?
2 – Buy a bike
Riding a bike is one of the most immersive, engaging forms of exercise you can choose. It can be easy to get bogged down by negative thinking, but it’s hard to think about anything whilst you’re speeding down a road in the open air, which is exactly what I love about it. Like with walking, it does wonders for your heart and lungs whilst also building muscle around your legs (typically an area of neglect for many people). A lot of bikes are affordable for beginners, so it’s worth a try.
3 – Alternatively, try an exercise bike
If you’re anything like this writer, you have no sense of balance and this is ok, don’t give up on cycling just yet. Buying an exercise bike could be a perfect substitute to cycling outdoors. Cycling in your own space is just as effective, a lot more convenient and far easier for people training at all skill levels. In times of the virus, using an exercise bike might suit you if you’re wary of transmission outdoors. Most exercise bikes will give you helpful information such as the calories you burn, the speed at which you cycle and your heart rate. The exercise bike is the perfect first stop for first time home gym owners interested in giving their stamina a boost.
4 – Make the most of the sunshine
It can get quite disheartening to see the sun vanish so quickly in winter, but it’s no coincidence that vitamin D deficiency is also linked to bone issues, hair issues, fatigue and depression. This is why it’s so vital to try and aim for an hour a day outside, preferably during the morning. You aren’t giving your body a fighting chance if you don’t give it the light it needs to thrive. Keep reading for ways in which you can make getting your fix of vitamin D more enjoyable.
5 – Try organising walks with your support bubble
The Gov.uk website states you are permitted to walk with your household bubble, as well as one person outside of your bubble for essential exercise. This is great news for those who don’t get the same level of satisfaction from digital interaction, as well as the countless numbers of individuals who struggle with loneliness. Meeting with someone close to you for a socially distanced stroll could be the thing that helps raise your mood. It’s not always made clear what is permissible and what isn’t by the government, so it’s a shame that many people don’t even know this is legal, particularly those who live by themselves or those who struggle in abusive environments.
6 – Learn how to cook your favourite meals
There has never been a better time to learn how to cook. The digital market boasts an impressive array of recipe books, many of which are focused on lean eating. As someone who has purchased a number of low-calorie recipe books since lockdown, I can’t sing their praises enough. You can’t replicate the satisfaction of cooking your own meals with your favourite ingredients. Once you master the basics of cooking, it opens up a whole world of creativity that can keep you occupied for days.
7 – Browse YouTube workouts
You can add fitness to the list of things made easier by the Information Age. Since the first lockdown, many fitness icons and trainers have brought their expertise to the net for easy viewing. YouTube was always an ever-expanding haven for these kinds of videos, but the pandemic has seriously boosted their numbers. There are practically thousands of videos on virtually any specific exercises and they’re only a search away. Our own CEO Gavin Townsend has a YouTube account focused on fitness and nutrition. Whether you have questions about workouts or want to find the correct posture for an exercise, you’ll be sure to find at least something worth your while on the net. There is a whole world of fitness in your pocket at all times, so happy hunting. Keep in mind though that YouTube is an open forum, so it’s probably best that you do your research on the content at hand.
8 – Practice mindfulness
Living in the modern world can be a bittersweet rollercoaster. We’re now more susceptible to new information than ever, constantly stimulated by a digital landscape that never slows. Though the internet’s convenience is unparalleled, it can get overwhelming fast. COVID’s global takeover has dominated the headlines since it broke out last year, creating an aura of uneasiness for the future across all your electronic devices. Mindfulness could be an effective tool to ground yourself in the present. There isn’t a set method to benefit from living in the moment, I would recommend you start by focusing on your breath and immersing yourself in everyday tasks you’d normally breeze through on autopilot. Even something as simple as savouring every bite of your meal could set you on the path to mindfulness. The next time you find yourself outside, try to take notice of the small things in your life.
9 – Get out in your garden
I’ll admit that this isn’t the best time of year for it, but those of you with an affinity for the great outdoors know that a little garden maintenance can be a great way to de-stress. For a lot of people, it’s satisfying staring out of your window after a good day’s graft in the garden (especially if you’ve managed to fit it all in before another winter downpour). Even if you’re reading this during heavy rainfall, you can use the time to plan a garden makeover for better days. There are plenty of vegetables that you can grow in winter too, so give it some thought next time the sky is clear this lockdown.
10 – Start planning for a home gym
It’s no secret that Gymbeing knows a thing or two about home gyms. Since we started selling our stock in 2020, we’ve gone on to supply over £1,000,000 worth of home gym equipment. It is the safest and easiest way to start your fitness journey, providing you with peace of mind in both health and quality. The unpredictability of the gym environment during this COVID storm is impossible to prepare for. By making the jump to your own home gym, you’re supporting your fitness goals in any circumstances. We sell our equipment on this website and there is a wide selection to choose from.
11 – Write up a nutrition plan
It can be very easy for your nutritional quality to spiral during lockdown, but you can give yourself a chance by making a clear and tidy plan for your nutrition. Try and aim for three meals a day, with a large breakfast to start you off for energy. After breakfast, try and decrease the quantity of food on your plate, starting from lunch and getting even smaller in your portion by dinner. If you don’t know where to start then read on, as we look at the best methods for planning a healthier diet this winter.
12 – Cut unhealthy eating habits
One of the first things you can do to formulate an effective nutrition plan is to evaluate what you’re currently eating. You know the deal by now, try and cut as many fried, fatty and salty foods from your diet as possible. Also attempt to limit your intake of carbonated drinks, as they’re pumped full of sugar. Drinking these will supply you with a short burst of energy but will leave you tired in the long run. These drinks are also packed with a host of additives that will do you no good whatsoever.
13 – Take it in turns cooking dinner for your household
This one is more for fun than anything else. If you live with your family, see if you can all cook separate meals, assigning a specific day to a specific person. This is an easy way to ensure meal variety, whilst also involving your entire household in something enjoyable. Bonus points to any households or couples that can get on board with a healthy meal kitchen makeover; as I’ve suggested already, working together on your physical wellbeing with someone you trust can help make the ride a lot easier.
14 – Take probiotics
Simply described as friendly bacteria, probiotics can be taken in many different ways. They’re often added to yogurts (as well as other fermented foods) and can be ingested in pill form. Probiotics are purchasable at a host of different health & wellbeing stores as well as supermarkets. They balance out the bacteria in your gut, control symptoms of digestive issues and keep your heart healthy. This won’t be the last time a supplement is recommended on this list- keep reading.
15 – Take omega 3 capsules
Omega 3 fatty acids are so beneficial that there isn’t much they don’t support. Usually found in fish and flaxseeds, omega 3 can help with brain and eye function and help prevent heart disease. Omega 3 also helps with combatting depression, ADHD in children and more. They can be found in capsule form in most good health & wellbeing stores. The capsules are perfect for anyone who doesn’t normally eat or enjoy fish.
16 – Take digestive enzymes before dinner
The digestive enzymes found in our bodies are vital for breaking down foods, accelerating the chemical reactions that allow us to absorb vital substances into our bloodstream. The capsules mimic these natural enzymes, so it’s important that you take them with food. This easy digestion helps eliminate the bloated feeling following meals. Overall, digestive enzymes are a great way to ensure you’re getting the right stuff out of your food. This product, much like the aforementioned supplements above, can be found in health & wellbeing chains near you.
17 – Try zinc supplements
Here’s another recommendation for a supplement on this list, but zinc earns its place here by being hugely impactful in supporting the immune system (namely against viruses). As if that wasn’t enough of a reason to do some more research, zinc can boost your sense of smell and taste, two areas hit hard by the coronavirus. Red meats and poultry are two common zinc rich foods, so with a balanced diet you’re already off to a good start. If you feel like you’re lacking in these areas, or just feel they’re in need of a boost, zinc is for you.
18 – Remember the importance of Vitamin D
Sure, we’ve already talked about vitamin D, but that’s a testament to its importance in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It is found in seafood, so tucking into a fatty fish like salmon can set you off on a strong start. Mushrooms are another surprising source and are perfect for vegan diets. Vitamin D tablets are a must for anyone who doesn’t think they’re getting enough in their diet. Quite a few of the tablets on offer are derived from animals, so be careful if you do decide the supplements are for you. Always ask or read the container before you buy them. This brings me onto my next piece of advice quite nicely.
19 – Check your labels
We’ve all curiously scanned through the contents of our favourite meals before, but it’s hardly at the top of most people’s priorities, especially when we’re hungry. Meal deals implemented by most supermarket chains consist of sandwiches riddled with E numbers, drinks high in sugar and a pack of crisps to top it off. The supermarkets in question depend upon an influx of early shoppers, or people coming in for their lunch breaks. It all comes back to a matter of convenience, with most people buying this food in a hurry. This lockdown marks a change in our routines, with the large majority of us stuck with too much time. Use this opportunity to scout out the ingredients in your favourite foods and be sure of what you’re eating, you could be unpleasantly surprised.
20 – Stretch before workouts, stretch before runs, stretch more!
Stretching is another often disregarded technique with benefits you could be missing out on. It can be tempting to rush straight into training, but without the proper warm-up you could be setting yourself up for failure. Stretching before exercise could prevent a serious injury from occurring whilst working out. Anyone reading this could probably name at least one person in their lives (if not themselves) suffering from back pain. The correct stretch could alleviate this, according to experts. Stretching can also be used post-workout to prevent any resulting pain over the following days. If you find that your muscles are too tight, then a stretch could be just what you need. It helps with flexibility and can decrease tension. Simply put, if you are working out and not stretching, then you’re doing yourself a disservice.
21 – Focus on your posture
A difficult habit to form but an easy one to keep, posture is the mortal enemy of the modern-day human being. We spend an alarming amount of time hunched over in an unnatural position- truth be told I only noticed this myself whilst considering this entry. The reality is that many of us allow the pressing chaos of our daily responsibilities to override our concern for proper posture, coming home just to slouch on our sofas. This trend needs to change. With the incorrect posture, you could be missing out on an effective set whilst training or losing the benefits of a healthy run. Without proper posture, we put undue strain on our muscles and skeletal structure which can lead to injuries whilst training and issues later on in life. A lot of the pain that we feel as the years pile on is a direct result of our neglected posture. For an easier time in the future, be sure to sit up straight and be wary of the way you walk.
22 – Trial a wholefoods diet
You’ll remember in a previous entry I focused on checking the ingredients we shovel into our bodies, but a wholefoods change is the easiest fast track to a perfect diet. The key is to only buy single food ingredients such as chicken breasts, eggs, nuts, vegetables and fruit. By only buying unrefined, natural foods, you can be sure of what you’re eating and won’t pack on the pounds as easily. Bulking? Then you can make mega portions of wholefoods to create delicious and guilt free recipes. Once you get into the habit of prioritising these foods, you’ll notice the difference in your energy and health. As strange as it seems now, once you’re hooked on wholefoods, the idea of a greasy takeaway will be easy to turn down.
23 – Exercise in a way that you enjoy
I’ve written an extensive article on this topic before, but it is well worth repeating: if you want to succeed at exercising and keep a solid habit of it, then you need to ask yourself what works for you. Too often, people fling themselves into unforgiving routines that are way outside of their comfort zone. Whilst it may be important to push your limits, (see below) it isn’t viable to overload yourself in a long-term sense. What works for someone else may not work for you, there are so many factors involved in fitness that there’s no one size fits all solution to physical progress. If you want to build healthy training habits, then you can start by deciding what exercises work best for you. For more information, read my blog on ‘working out your way,’ found on the blog section of this website.
24 – Try and find your limit
At the risk of sounding counterproductive, if you don’t push yourself, you’ll never know what you’re capable of. The fine line between comfort and stagnation is difficult to gauge but listening to your body is the best way to draw it. To put it all simply, increase your weights, reps, sets etc if you no longer feel challenged and take it down a notch if you find you’re working too hard. The more you experiment with exercises and edit your routines, the further you’ll advance in your goals. With plenty more time to experiment this month, see if you can surprise yourself.
25 – Recognise the diet fads
This is more of a warning against any flavour of the month diet that finds itself plastered on the front page of your favourite sites and newspapers. I mentioned earlier in the article that you should exercise caution whilst navigating the online fitness labyrinth and here is why: anyone can post anything. Proponents of new fads can be found crawling out of the woodwork to swear by them unconditionally, creating an echo chamber consisting of self-described experts. Of course, all these people are spreading misinformation unchecked. Once a fad goes viral, it won’t lose steam for a while. Like the dietary equivalent of the “Blue Monday” bandwagon, a popular diet can end up causing more harm than good once it reaches the mainstream. A recent example of a troubling diet fad would be the divisive “carnivore diet,” purporting that the key to healthy living was to purge everything besides meat from your plate. Before long, droves of ‘experts’ latched onto this fad without evidence. I really shouldn’t have to say more, the lack of fibre or any variety of nutrients speaks for itself.
26 – Try a new item of food every week
This is an obvious one, but an excellent way to diversify your diet. Take note of the food down at your local supermarket or butcher’s. See if you can do some research on different foods that have caught your eye and give them a chance on your plate. I live at home with a vegetarian and was pleasantly surprised by the food he offered me several months back. It’s never been more important to keep your food intake varied this winter.
27 – Be sure to praise your accomplishments
Take a moment to stop and think about everything you’ve achieved since the virus triggered our first large scale lockdown. A lot of you may not feel like you’ve achieved much, but in reality, you’ve triumphed in adversity. Our routines, hobbies, livelihoods and relationships, as well as our mental and physical health have been in constant flux for nearly a year. We’ve all been tested in one way or another. We’re not out of the woods yet, but if you’re healthy and surrounded by people you love then give yourself some credit.
28 – Be wary of stress eating
We all have ways of coping with this lockdown and obviously not all of them are going to be healthy. Boredom has long been linked with overeating and we’re in no shortage of boredom worldwide. Don’t think you’re the only one struggling to keep the fridge closed- It’s happened to us all in the past year. One way that I’ve balanced my habit is by finding healthier alternatives to snack on. My VIP snack comes in the form of hummus and Ryvita rye bread thins. Polishing off whole packets of the right stuff doesn’t feel quite as guilt inducing, so be honest with yourself and be careful of your binging.
29 – Cut caffeine
Another simple one, cutting out caffeine can grant you the restful sleep you’ve been missing out on for months. Although caffeine is a perfect short-term boost, it isn’t something to abuse, too much caffeine can lead to complications with digestion, anxiety and most certainly insomnia. Be honest with your intake: is it impacting your energy levels? If so, it’s probably best to tone it down. It’s important to note that the key is moderation here, as caffeine also boasts some health benefits. To give yourself that fresh feeling, try substituting a morning coffee for a warm shower with a big breakfast.
30 – Watch your water intake
This is absolutely vital. It’s recommended that you aim for at least two litres of water per day. If you implement intensive cardio into your routine, replenishing your lost liquid is a must. Your body can benefit from water in so many ways that it warrants its own article just to do it justice. If you find yourself lacking in energy or struggling through your day, a glass of water could very well be the answer. Try to drink water by itself, with no additives. A lot of energy drinks and squashes are saturated with sugars that make drinking them counterproductive. Aim to buy a water filter to ensure you’re drinking as pure as possible.
31 – Turn meals you hate into meals you love
Hate is a strong word for this next entry but I’m sure everyone reading this article has a food they just don’t get on with. In all honesty I always found omelettes difficult to stomach, I didn’t like them on their own, nor did I like the flavour (or lack thereof in my case) so I started experimenting with my cooking. My distaste for plain omelettes resulted in my all-time favourite breakfast: the Spanish omelette. By simply adding sliced potatoes (and some feta) I was onto a winner and I haven’t changed my breakfast routine since. My point is, anything worth eating can be made palatable by a little bit of creativity. Don’t like veggies? Mix them in with your meat and potatoes then add a little sauce of your choice to the mix, you’ll be glad you did.
32 – Try out HIIT
HIIT, or high intensity interval training is a form of exercise characterised by explosive bursts of cardio followed by a minute or so rest period. It has often been heralded as one of the most effective ways of burning fat, need I say more? HIIT can be achieved whilst cycling, on runs and with any other cardio based workout. Try this on your treadmill or bike for a solid example of a HIIT workout-
Warm up for five minutes at a comfortable pace, then go flat out for five seconds. Wait a minute then do the same for ten seconds. Repeat this process but increase the burst period by five seconds each time until you reach thirty seconds of flat-out cardio. From there, work back down by five seconds each interval, then cool down for ten minutes. You will feel the results instantly, it’s not easy but it works and you’ll see your stamina skyrocket.
33 – Invest in walking boots
Alternatively, don’t invest in walking boots and watch the marshy ground swallow up your favourite trainers. If you’re going to be walking through the wilderness this lockdown then boots are a must, your wallet will thank you, your trainers will thank you and with any luck you’ll buy a pair that lasts. It’s worth noting that ice is no joke during this period and a good sturdy pair of boots with grip can go a long way. With hospitals full to bursting with COVID patients, it’s not worth the risk tripping and falling somewhere dangerous, so grab a pair of walking boots and explore without limits.
34 – Aim for five portions of fruit & veg a day
The more sceptical readers among you might roll your eyes at this one but remember that it wasn’t created just to be discarded as a cliché. The logic behind the five-portion guideline was to pack in as many combinations of nutrients as possible. Stop taking the guide literally and see what nutrients specific foods offer you. This way, even if you don’t reach five portions exactly, you’ll still be benefitting your body’s functioning in a number of ways.
35 – Throw out the scales
Weighing scales are an excellent way to keep track of our progress, but they also double up as a daunting distraction from our long-term goals. It can be very easy to obsessively track your progress, but by weighing yourself daily you’re doing yourself no favours. If throwing the scales out is a bit too extreme for you, then at the very least try to limit your usage. It’s best to weigh yourself once a week, if that. By weighing weekly you’ll have a more accurate indication of your weight change, but if you can’t resist checking up more than that, it’s definitely best to throw them out. Obsession over your weight can quickly develop into a deeper mental struggle if you don’t acknowledge it.
36 – Stay away from your mirrors
Similarly to the snowballing scales obsession, it can be very easy for us to worry about our physical appearance. When we look into a mirror, we can find ourselves obsessed with specific parts of our body. When we do this, we’re not seeing ourselves as a human being, instead solely homing in on our perceived flaws. If this sounds like you then it’s probably best to acknowledge that we’re all perfectionists in one way or another, magnifying our faults past a healthy point. Once you’ve chucked the scales, go back and grab the mirror too.
37 – Don’t overload yourself physically
This next one is tough, because fitness momentum is a very empowering feeling. First time fitness fanatics might find themselves hooked on the feeling of a workout. The first lockdown saw many people able to train around the clock, with rusty gym veterans shaking off the cobwebs and throwing themselves into a heavy routine. The issue with this is that many people pushed their limit too far and found themselves burnt out. Acknowledge that you have more time but keep a steady pace, don’t overdo your workouts. It’s better to restrain yourself than it is to get forced onto the figurative sidelines with an injury.
38 – Reward yourself after workouts
A simple but effective way to motivate yourself, setting rewards can bring the buzz that you need to power through a heavy workout. Try assigning cheat meals after certain training sessions to give yourself something to look forward to. Alternate your workouts with hard sessions and calmer sessions to allow yourself some respite. Whatever you motivate yourself with, make sure it’s a bright enough light at the end of the tunnel. If you’re too strict then you’re at risk of burning out.
39 – Don’t neglect your cheat days
This is an important one. If you’re too hard on yourself, then don’t be surprised if you do burn out. By allowing yourself at least one cheat meal or snack per week, you’re making a vital compromise. This compromise is important, as it provides a structure to your diet. You can ignore the urges for a snack all you like, but it just leaves you vulnerable to stress eating the minute your structure falters. Eat smart, that means not depriving yourself of a reward every once and a while.
40 – Figure out what is costing you most
Subscription services can be ruthless, annually screwing you out of money when you need it most, with hidden costs you could do without. Food can often be costly, with all the small products adding up steadily after a big shop. The reason I bring both of these points up is because finances can be stressful. COVID-19 has added a whole new layer to our spending habits, with impulse buying on the rise and digital marketing pulling out all of the stops to capitalise on lockdown boredom. There is nothing worse than checking your bank account and realising your balance is less than you thought, so try using this time to plan your finances. Check out where your money is going and you might be surprised at how much you can save this winter.
41 – Try a hypnosis CD
The power of the subconscious mind is extremely understated, we often don’t realise just how much it is working against us and our self-esteem on a number of important issues. If we don’t address these deep-rooted insecurities, they can become reinforced by our own mind without us even realising. Fortunately, the aim of hypnosis is to make our subconscious mind cooperate with us. Stripping back the common preconceptions of hypnosis, you’d be amazed at just what it could achieve for you. In laymen’s terms, the subconscious has a huge part in our self-perception. When we listen to hypnosis CDs, the narrator is presenting our subconscious mind with positive suggestions which are then taken on board. The result is often a natural burst of confidence in whatever issue the CD addresses, in topics such as reducing anxiety and helping with sleep.
42 – Find yourself a workout partner
There is something different about teaming up with a gym partner. Together, the two of you can motivate each other and offer support and advice to help mutually reach your targets. It can be hard to find the strength to carry on training sometimes and the support of a partner can make the difference.
43 – Track your progress with before and after photos
This approach is admittedly a double-edged sword; on one hand, it’s the best way to put your success into perspective, on the other hand it means you really need to commit to your fitness journey. That being said, when you finally compare the two photos after a gruelling period of hard work, it’s a great feeling. For some people, these photos can be a great motivator. Speaking from experience, I found this approach to give me a real push to improve my physical wellbeing, I’ve no doubt it could provide the push you need, too.
44 – Purchase the right clothing for your fitness needs
Gymbeing has supplied clothing for nearly two decades, so we know the value of proper fitness apparel. Whether you’re on a walk, on a run, or attempting heavy HIIT, it’s good to have the right kit. Save yourself some time and browse our own clothing range found on this website. Certain pants and shorts are manufactured to avoid chafing of the skin and are perfect for bike riding. Buy yourself a pair of those shorts and you won’t look back.
45 – Try a cold shower (Just make sure you have the heating on)
I can only speak for myself, but as a student on the freezing cold shower hype every morning before lectures, I certainly felt the benefits. I feel it’s important to open with my endorsement because for many people this idea is ludicrous, especially during winter. I can understand this mindset, but the truth is, there are way more health benefits to a cold shower than you’d think. Not only does a cold shower alleviate muscle pain, but it also increases blood circulation and increases energy levels. The cold shower is perfect for a post workout cooldown and preventing soreness. It is even said to enrich your hair and skin. If you’re still not convinced, then I don’t blame you, but the science is there. If you do try it out, do yourself a favour and keep the heating on.
46 – Try yoga
Yoga is often cited as a sort of physical cure-all, but it isn’t hard to see why. Regular yoga workouts can benefit your flexibility, posture, joints and strength. Being linked so closely to mindfulness means it works in tandem with your mental health to provide a feel-good practice for both body and mind. We’ve talked about the benefits of stretching already, so it should come as no surprise that yoga ticks so many boxes.
47 – Be wary of dairy
Let’s get this out of the way first, many dairy products such as milk are a fantastic source of nutrients such as protein calcium and vitamin D, this much is true. Unfortunately for many lactose intolerant individuals, milk is more trouble than it’s worth. Lactose intolerance is a result of one’s inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in dairy products, namely milk. When this happens, it can result in cramps, diarrhoea and bloating. If this seems familiar, then it might be best to monitor your intake of dairy and cut it out accordingly. There are plenty of milk alternatives.
48 – Cook in bulk, eat in portions
This is a favourite lifehack of mine. To avoid unnecessary trips to the supermarket, make huge portions of your favourite meals and store them in the fridge or freezer, this way you won’t need to constantly worry about time consuming meal prep. This advice comes with a warning however, as it’s easy to measure out giant portions on your plate without realising until it’s too late. Try and think small portions when cutting down on calories, that way you can always go back for seconds.
49 – Cut back on the booze
You don’t need me to tell you why this is a good idea during lockdown, but I can already hear your protests, hear me out. In this period of time, alcohol will be the crutch for many people struggling mentally, but it’s important to remember just how bad it is for kidney functioning, weight fluctuation and general cardio. If you’re struggling to imagine a world without alcohol, remember my three W’s: wallet, waist and wellbeing. You’ll have more money, more confidence and a brighter headspace. Alcohol is proven to deplete energy and you’ll see the impact once you start to cut back.
50 – Plan for freedom!
Probably my favourite entry on this list, we’re closer to beating the virus than ever before. The NHS Chief Executive recently revealed that England is now delivering 140 jabs a minute. Half of the over 80s demographic living in the UK are now vaccinated, as stated by Dominic Cummings. These optimistic figures bode well for everyone, so use this final lockdown wisely. Plan short- and long-term goals for body and mind to ensure that you can leave this lockdown in the dust once it’s over. Consider what you’ve missed the most because the coronavirus shadow is shrinking. Get on the phone with those closest to you and brainstorm the days to come, it’s all finally in sight.
51 – Buy a pet
Ask a pet owner what they love most about their pet and chances are, quite a few will keep you talking for an eternity. The companionship offered by animals is unrivalled. Pets have been linked to decreased blood pressure, stress relief and can combat loneliness. Your new friend could be the cure for a cluttered mind as you form a special and lasting bond this lockdown. Having a pet creates more opportunities to go out in the fresh air and teaches you vital skills such as patience and assertiveness. You could be the difference for an animal stuck in a shelter this year, giving them a chance to live a long and fulfilling life. You can start by enquiring with local shelters about animals in need of a new home.
Please remember, it’s a huge responsibility and a big expense. An animal is for life, not just lockdown.
52 – Cut social media usage
This is the big one. For better or worse (I’m inclined to think the latter) we are connected by our social media networks. We have access to the lives of our friends and family on a huge scale like nobody living before us. Remember though, we’re only seeing the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Our social media identities are unrealistic exaggerations of our own lives, cherry picked to present the images of ourselves we wish to expose to the public. The reality of social media is that nobody is exactly as they seem; this lockdown has restricted us in large part to these profiles, they’ve been our only form of contact for nearly a year. Nobody is going to want to seem weak on the internet’s largest spotlight and the need for validation and confidence has skyrocketed in the past year. The exhaustion of being constantly judged and invaded on an open forum has been normalised by social media. These places have become safe havens for corporations to monitor your every click and bombard you with information, it’s enough to drive most up the wall.
Not to mention, as tensions fly high over this period, you’ll be consistently exposed to negativity. Do yourself a favour and stop surfing these websites.
53 – Don’t abuse your body, abuse some free trials!
It was a day during Christmas lockdown like any other and not content with staring at my ceiling all day, I did the one thing most people only do by accident- I activated my Amazon Prime free trial. This set off a chain of mass activation and soon I had my Netflix, Disney + and Amazon Prime trials ready and waiting. These platforms are incredible sources of entertainment, between the three of them you’ll have enough to keep you entertained for days. Be very mindful that the trials are renewed automatically.
54 – Make the ultimate playlist
Are you a student? Get Spotify Premium, it’s a must. Spotify will open up avenues of music that you’ve never even considered, with playlists tailored to your listening habits. You’ll be amazed at the tunes you can find, it’s a must for anyone who lives and breathes music. You can start compiling your favourites together now and before long you’ll have more music than you can listen to in an entire week. There’s not much that can beat a relaxing night on the sofa with your favourite tracks. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that music has been a pillar of support throughout the pandemic. So what are you waiting for? Jam yourself happy.
55 – Be kind to yourself
A repeat entry? Yes, this bares reiterating. These times are unprecedented and the biggest challenge most of us will face in our lifetime. Think about the support you’ve given to family and friends over this period whilst also juggling the demands of your day. Give yourself some credit, you deserve it.
56 – Use the time to reflect on your ambitions
For so many of us, lockdown has been a catalyst of change. Sometimes, it’s only when we’re given the space to think that we realise how unhappy we are. Question what you need to achieve to put yourself in a better state of mind, ask yourself whether you’re fulfilling your potential. Last year gave us a chance to spend some quality time with ourselves and for some this was worrying. The good news is this is an opportunity to make the right changes. Write down a list of everything you want to achieve and everything you’re unsatisfied with. Sometimes, organising your thoughts on paper can be therapeutic. It’s always harder to make sense of things when they’re floating through your head.
57 – Cut toxic people from your life
Ok, so you didn’t see everyone you normally kept contact with last year; I’m going to play devil’s advocate here for a second, is this really a bad thing? Oftentimes, the only thing keeping us around toxic people is a sense of routine. We become so accustomed to the presence of those in our lives that it can be hard to tell the drains from the radiators. Ask yourself this: do you find that time away from certain individuals has refreshed you? If you never spoke to these people again, would it really bother you? We’ve had enough stress and drama to last a lifetime in a single year and now the door for change is slowly opening in 2021. Maybe the best thing you can do is keep old doors shut for good this year. Surround yourself in a circle that wants the best for you, it’s one of the healthiest changes you can make. If a national lockdown has given you a break from these individuals, then what does it say about them?
58 – Keep smiling, keep laughing
Here’s a fact for you, laughter releases endorphins and reduces stress hormones. It will relax your body and preoccupy your mind like nothing else. One study in 2017 found that laughter actively supports our most important cells and decreases stress. Find yourself a show or a film to laugh at or ring up the friend you click with the most. When you stop and think about it, laughter is one of the easiest ways to look after yourself this winter. It feels so good to laugh.
59 – Sort your sleeping pattern out
The NHS warns that one in three of us will suffer from poor sleep. Poor rest puts you at risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that these conditions are what we’ve spent a solid chunk of the article trying to avoid. For adults, it’s recommended that you get at least eight hours of sleep a night. Be wary of sleeping into the day with lack of routine, as lockdown facilitates a poor sleep schedule. On the flipside, a good night’s sleep can boost your mental wellbeing and slim your waistline. One of the biggest issues with sleep during a lockdown period is boredom. When we don’t achieve much during the day, we tend to drift and lose focus. You can remedy boredom by setting yourself at least three tasks to feel accomplished at the end of the day. Try to turn off all of your electronics at least half an hour before bed, your body will thank you.
60 – Start a podcast
Ever feel like you’ve got something to say? It can be anything, a passion for a particular field, an affinity for a specific sport or just an opinion you hold dear- chances are, there are countless people who share in your specific zeal. Starting a podcast is made quick, easy and fun by modern networks such as Discord, allowing you to record audio straight from a chatroom with you and your friends. There are podcast groups dotted around social media, with plenty of supportive experts willing to lend a hand. If your friends find they’re struggling with free time, your own podcast could be an excellent way to put your hours to good use.
61 – Try Udemy
What’s Udemy? An online database of masterclasses on a range of subjects. How does it work? You type in your topic of choice and browse a list of expert materials purveyed by real professionals, easy as that. They’re generous with discounts and you can access the site via your smartphone’s app. Whether you want to cook, learn how to code websites or try out a new instrument, Udemy is a solid choice. You’ve got all this free time, so give it a go before lockdown ends, it’s a world of knowledge made easy to digest.
62 – Contact your GP
If you still find yourself struggling mentally, then it might be worth a phone appointment with your GP. They can offer advice and support, referring you to the right medication or therapy for you. Don’t stay silent if you’re struggling because the help is out there.
63 – Ring Samaritans
They’re not the only support line in the UK, but they’re one of the most accessible. Even as their phone lines fill to capacity, the organisation works tirelessly to provide a judgement free ear in your time of need. 116 123 is the number to call. Whether you want support, advice or a friendly chat, give them a ring. Their phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
64 – Learn a new instrument
We’ve already talked about Udemy, but the musical route is worth exploring in depth. Second-hand musical equipment is circulating the net in incredible quantities, especially as so many people need the cash in these difficult times. One person’s forgotten relic could be your way into your new favourite hobby. The bottom line is that you don’t need to put yourself out of pocket to learn a new instrument. There’s an instrument for anyone and everyone out there, so find the one you like the most and take the chance on music this lockdown. This creative outlet could open you up to musical circles and new friends. It’s also worth noting that musical instruments are linked to a boosted memory, increased confidence and stress relief. Need I say more?
65 – Sell your unwanted items- declutter your house
A recent report from eBay UK found that the average UK household has £2,600 worth of unwanted goods, with more than half of those taking part admitting to throwing their items away instead of selling them. You’d be surprised at the cash you could bag from simply putting your items up for sale on the net. Amazon, Facebook Marketplace and eBay are all perfect places to sell your items. Another notable study found that a cluttered home can result in anxiety and stress, so the last place you want to be stuck in is a cramped home. You’ll feel a lot freer with more space to work with- you might even redecorate your home afterwards
66 – Keep a mood diary
A therapeutic way to measure your mood is to keep track of it in a diary of sorts. It’s an easy task: when you feel a dip or raise in your mood, simply note it down along with the date and time. This method can help you to identify patterns and trends in your mood, isolating thoughts and issues that could be causing you stress. It’s not a traditional diary (keep reading for more on this) but it is another way to understand yourself that bit better. With a wider view of your headspace, you can start to limit the things that stress you.
67 – Buy a traditional diary
Diaries have a certain stigma against them that is hard to shake, but the reality is that they can do wonders for your mental health. Whether they’re used practically as planners (for organising pressing matters) or personally, just to reflect on the happenings of your day, there’s plenty to gain from keeping a diary. Overall, it can help to centre your thoughts and keep your head above water whilst you wait out the remainder of lockdown.
68 – A socially distanced street party
This is more of an anecdotal offering, but it’s worth mentioning. Last summer, I had the pleasure of DJing a street party for my neighbours. The event was well received and just what was needed for all involved. Without breaching lockdown, we found a way to kick back and socialise from our own doorways. Winter makes these arrangements a tad inconvenient, but not impossible, wrapping up warm with a hot drink is recommended. For what it’s worth, we replicated the festivity for the Christmas period to great success. Street parties could be a great way of safely connecting with those you normally don’t see much of and is a great way to form new friendships.
69 – Support your local businesses
It’s no secret that the high street has been hit hard by COVID-19, as an overwhelming traffic of people turn to the internet to supply them with goods. Wherever possible, remember to shop local. A small trip for you could make the world of difference for self-employed business owners hit hard in lockdown.
70 – Try out a dating app
Ah, to be in your prime during COVID-19. I think I can speak for everyone in their 20s when I say that this last year has been a social black hole. The days of clubbing and carefree house parties feel like they existed in another lifetime. he thrill of meeting new people and clicking over a drink is a luxury I wish I could revisit. Getting separated from your mates before being fostered by a totally random group is a wonderful social oddity that I will never take for granted again. This brings me to my next point, why not try your hand at dating sites? I’ll admit that they can be tedious at times and nothing comes close to connecting face to face, but it could prove a great opportunity for your renewed dating life in 2021. I can already guarantee that other men and women have the right idea, just don’t put too much faith in these things. Your stock could be far higher than you ever knew, and these apps are free. Give it a shot, it could do wonders for your confidence this lockdown as long as you’re wary of social dependence on these apps.
71 – Take some risks (the good kinds)
No, I’m not talking about idiotic risks, just trivial ones. Have you ever wanted to trial a renegade new hairstyle? Ever wondered what your hair looks like bright red? Well now is the time to take a gamble on these things. Wear different clothes, order different shoes, do all the little things that you can regret in the safety of your own home. Speaking personally, I shaved my beard off in the first lockdown and grew my hair out- it was terrible. Maybe that last comment doesn’t help my point, but they’re called risks for a reason. Loosen up and get creative this winter. There will never be a better time to make a daft mistake. If you find a style that empowers you, then even better!
72 – Keep the house clean
We’ve already discussed the ramifications of a messy space, but I want to approach this from as different angle. It’s easy to fall into a trap of neglecting your property, your room, or wherever you’re keeping warm this winter, I know. A lack of routine makes the thought of such menial, monotonous housework feel pointless for some, but this is why you need to do it. If you can’t master the little things, then what makes you think you’re ready to take on the world after lockdown? Use this time to discipline yourself, keep your room, tidy and feel relaxed in the organisation, I promise you’ll feel better for it. Keeping your property tidy will help with your organisation skills and energy. Once you’re done reading this, go and clean that room we both know you’ve been ignoring, go on.
73 – Keep in regular contact with your friends
An obvious one? Maybe, but I know there will be those reading this article who have isolated themselves away from their support circle. Never stop talking to your friends and make sure to ring those who you haven’t heard from in a while. You never know what your call might mean to them. I recall a particularly taxing day where I couldn’t pinpoint the cause of sudden frustrations bubbling up. I was ready to go back to bed until I got a call from a good friend of mine. He didn’t realise it, but that call put me back on the right path. See what I’m saying about friendships? They really make a difference in troubling times.
74 – Make sure you learn to say no to people
So, we all have more free time now, great! Not always. Boredom can be a huge burden for some, friendly interaction is a great way of remedying it, but be careful- make sure you look after yourself too. If you feel that you really can’t manage a walk or a phone call, with a friend (and you’re just not up to it) then make yourself clear. You might have a huge desire to please other people but you’re no use to anybody when you’re burnt out. If you’re having trouble communicating how you’re feeling, then turn your phone off and come back refreshed a day later, it could make all the difference.
75 – Beware the sensationalism
Remember how this article started? Yeah, with a marketing ploy preying on fear. There is a lesson to be learnt as the scummier underbelly of informative media continue to exploit the uncertainty in our lives. Sure, it’s clever to keep up to date on COVID-19, but what isn’t wise is taking it all to heart. Headlines will manipulate any situation to fit their narrative, as long as you keep listening, clicking and buying newspapers. Remember that the people exploiting this situation are doing so to turn a profit, so don’t allow yourself to fall victim to their manufactured hysteria this lockdown. Be wary of any claims that don’t sit right and arm yourself with knowledge through your own research on a headline. Sensationalism’s worst enemy is a balanced perspective.
76 – Spark up an old friendship
Free time can be a blessing if you use it right, so why not use the time you have to reignite meaningful bonds? The sad fact of life is that we often go our separate ways with those we care about. If 2021 is the year of cutting toxic relationships, then it can also be the year we rekindle good ones.
77 – Read, a lot!
The book purists among you will probably hate me for this, but I find that having all of my books in one place is the best way I can get around to reading them, that’s why I use Apple books. It’s free on my smartphone and an embarrassing abundance of material is a simple search away. Lockdown has allowed me to get through dozens of books and counting. Reading is the perfect way to wind down before bed, with researchers stating a good read can help you sleep sounder at night. There are the obvious benefits associated with reading: increased vocabulary, better focus and stress relief, so give it a try tonight.
78 – Make a list of all your favourite qualities in yourself
You might find this surprising, but this suggestion might be one of the hardest things for some readers to do. Lockdown has shattered everyone’s confidence in one way or another, so it’s important to acknowledge how amazing you are. If you find complimenting yourself difficult, then simply switch perspective as though you were one of your friends. Think about what your closest pals value in you, what about you brings a smile to their face? You’ll soon find more than a few things you might not have considered beforehand. Never underestimate yourself, especially in a national lockdown.
79 – Take one day at a time
It got you this far, didn’t it? Be proud.
80 – Give yourself a tech cut-off point
Let me assume for a minute that you don’t like reading for whatever reason, my point about turning off your phone before bed still stands. Any artificial light, especially through a monitor or screen, can trick your brain into thinking it is daytime. Supposedly, sunlight and white light contain a concoction of wavelengths, each of these have various amounts of blue light in them. Make sense? You’re tricking yourself into staying up. If you’ve forgotten from earlier, lack of sleep is a main culprit in heart disease and obesity. Try and shut the tech off half an hour before you go to bed.
81 – Take an extended digital break
We’ve spoken enough about the mayhem of tech, social media and sensationalism on this article, but I hope at the very least you see the merits in taking a digital break. Remember, you control your tech, it doesn’t control you. Your friends will understand and if they don’t, let me refer you to number 57.
82 – Breathe
Oxygen is required for every single system in your body. Taking control of your breathing can help with sleep, digestion, cognitive faculties and more, yet we tend to neglect it. The reality is, taking control of your breath is one of the easiest ways to improve all around functioning and also clear your mind. This is quite honestly one of the easiest things you can do on this list and it slots in well with yoga and mindfulness. Be wary of the way you breathe, then take a few more deep breaths for good measure.
83 – List all the things and people you’re thankful for
Doing this could readjust your perspective of your entire life. Start small and before long you’ll have a full list.
84 – Consider self-employment
We’re all skilled in one way or another, but so many of us are held back simply because we don’t find our calling. Lockdown is the perfect time to start planning and saving for a business of your own. If you’re motivated, driven and aware of your chosen area, you could find a way to make cash doing something you love, or at the very least, something you’re really good at. It’s not an easy road, but it sure is rewarding. Gymbeing CEO Gavin Townsend has recently launched a mentoring programme geared towards helping people of all ages reach their goals. This could be the first step to your self-employed journey.
85 – Get your music, art, writing or products out there!
The truth is, it’s never been a better time to be an independent artist. Lockdown has changed the status quo of entertainment, with the main players scrambling at the start of the pandemic. Online hubs such as Bandcamp and streaming services such as Spotify allow musicians to release their sound to the world, whilst many artists have been given plenty of free time to refine their style. Since the world changed, we have depended upon independent artists for our health and wellbeing, they deserve the recognition that they’re currently experiencing.
86 – Treat yourself
Buy yourself something you love, no matter what it is. Find a way to get to the heart of your passions. It’s not a long-term fix (depending on what you buy) but we all deserve a treat every now and then.
87 – Give someone you know a random compliment
It’s an easy thing to do, but it can make the world of difference to someone who needed to hear it. Everyone has taken a beating mentally and you never know how someone might be feeling. Sometimes the smallest gesture makes the biggest changes.
88 – Say hello to people you pass on the street
Like the last entry, you never know what a person is going through or how they’re coping in this lockdown. A simple socially distanced greeting could give you both the interaction you need to keep smiling.
89 – Get a colouring book
A friend of mine put me onto this activity and I can certainly see the appeal. There are various books based on an ever-expanding list of topics and series with varying difficulty. There’s something satisfying about choosing the right colours for the right places, carefully completing a whole page and admiring your hard work afterwards. Colouring is said to ease tension and stress, as well as helping hand eye coordination.
90 – Use “I could” instead of “I should”
The words you use matter. If you’ll recall, the subconscious mind is a tricky beast that will take cues from your every action and reaction. It can be easy to brand your deepest subconscious with negative thoughts and suggestions that inform your every move. Sounds daunting, but there are definitely things you can do to help yourself. Let me show you an example: when you use the word “I should,” you’re directly placing pressure on yourself to perform a set task. If you want to do your subconscious a solid, use ‘I could’ instead. You’re directly affirming freedom of choice, taking the pressure off yourself and building your confidence and sense of control. Try looking for things you say or phrases you use that could put your subconscious at a disadvantage, then replace them with positive alternatives.
91 – Never compare yourself to others
If you feel other people have their lives figured out in this period, you’re dead wrong. Bringing it back to my iceberg analogy, you’re only seeing what people want you to. We can’t ever see the journey that others are travelling in its entirety, so it’s up to you to focus on yours. As long as you get up and feel like a better person than you were the day before, you’re doing grand.
92 – Don’t obsess over COVID-19
It’s everywhere, it’s all you’ll ever hear about. It’s every headline, every debate and every social media clash. Try and keep your time to yourself, don’t get swept up in the endless speculation and remember that we’re winning the battle.
93 – Build a fire (and cook something on it)
Ok, this seems like a weird one, but stay with me. Building your own fire is satisfying in a way that not many other activities are. Fire building can connect you to the outdoors like few other things can. There’s something deeply satisfying and entrancing about a fire you’ve built from scratch. I’m speaking solely from experience here, but a baked potato cooked over a fire hits different. Just make sure you wash your clothes a couple of times- if your significant other asks why the house stinks, you didn’t hear it from me
94 – Establish daily habits for your morning
Those of you who have woken up to an argument know that it can set you on a warpath for the rest of your day. Once the mood has been set by conflict, you’ll be fighting a losing battle against your schedule until you go back to bed. There are certainly ways to combat this- writing up a morning routine is the best way to keep you focussed. Try to give yourself positive tasks, such as reciting positive affirmations or reading a chapter of your bedside book. The importance of a good start can do wonders for your mental wellbeing this lockdown.
95 – Wash your hands
Remember, this is a happy and healthy list. Don’t neglect cleanliness just because it’s been a year since the virus broke out. Remember 2020 as the year that set the new standard in maintaining personal hygiene.
96 – Learn a new language
Devoting your time to learning a new language is deeply rewarding, presenting you with real opportunities in your near future. Duolingo is an app that makes language learning both fun and relatively easy. You can download it on your smartphone for free, with a premium service should you wish to take it to the next level.
97 – Buy yourself some house plants
There’s something charming about owning a house plant, but the benefits of being a plant parent extend past aesthetic benefits (to the point it’s actually really surprising). Indoor plants have been shown to improve mood, reduce stress, increase productivity and even benefit your attention span.
98 – Plan a virtual gig
This is another one for the musicians. What better way to boost your mood and the mood of others by putting on a gig using social media. Facebook has a feature which allows users to go live with their devices. People can drop in to listen whenever they please and you’ll be showcasing your skills, a good time for everyone involved.
99 – Let the bad days come and go
As we come to the end of the list, it’s important to realise that bad days don’t last forever, every new day presents the possibility for a fresh perspective. With all that said, sometimes we have bad days for specific reasons and on other days we have them for seemingly no reason whatsoever. Whatever the case, remember the mantra ‘this too shall pass’ nothing is permanent and the one thing we can always count on in life is change. In good and bad, another day is waiting for you.