Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of our lives during COVID-19, we should try to concentrate on all the fun things to do in lockdown. In this post, I share 10 positive things that have happened to me since the pandemic hit earlier this year.
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. All this means is that if you make a purchase through one of the links I have provided, I will earn a small commission as a result but the cost to you will remain exactly the same.
Many of us have struggled with our mental health throughout lockdown. Adapting to all the changes that a global pandemic brings about is not an easy thing to do – even when you’re in good psychological health. If we haven’t suffered financial difficulties, increased workloads, or social isolation, we’ve had to deal with the pressures and strains of home schooling and family relationships or a concern for the health and happiness of loved ones.
It’s all too easy to focus solely on the negative aspects of our lives since COVID-19 hit, that sometimes we forget about the positive outcomes. I may not have been able to travel overseas since March, my blog traffic has taken a serious nose-dive (which I doubt it will ever recover from), and my social calendar has never been so empty, but in many ways the slower pace of life has been good for me.
A lot of positive things have happened to me this year, and I have discovered countless fun things to do in lockdown.
I hope that, by reading this, you can too.
Fun Things to Do in Lockdown
1 | I cultivated my own indoor jungle
To be completely honest, I’ve never been very good at keeping plants alive. I have a few cacti and succulents that have soldiered on in the face of adversity, but the majority of the houseplants I’ve owned have not been quite so resilient.
I think my problem lay in the fact that I treated them more like ornaments rather than living organisms. I never dedicated enough time to learning about their natural environments and how best to replicate them in my home. I forgot to water them for months at a time. I failed to monitor their well-being. And when they began to look poorly, I gave up on them rather than attempting to nurse them back to life.
Things all changed when, a few weeks into lockdown, I discovered Patch Plants.
Founded in 2015, Patch Plants is an online garden centre for the urban gardener. Not only do they sell plants (and can deliver them to you, wherever you are in the UK), but they also offer helpful tips on how to care for them. You can filter your search by how easy a plant is to care for (I started mine with the ‘almost unkillable’ filter) and each plant’s page offers useful advice on the amount of light it needs, the room in which it will feel most at home, how much water it favours and whether it requires regular misting. Patch have also published a free ‘Houseplant Parenting Course’ on their website, which is broken down into 11 bite-sized videos that also include information on safety around pets, choosing the right soil, re-potting, pruning, and winter plant care. You can even contact a plant doctor if you have a specific concern.
And the best thing? Each plant they sell has been named – Susie the Snake Plant; Rapunzel the Devil’s Ivy; Bertie the Boston Fern – which immediately brings them to life and gives them a personality of sorts.
It didn’t take long for me to make the decision to spend a bit of the money that I would normally have spent on travel, on a few new houseplants from Patch. The fact that I was spending more time at home during lockdown (working from home two or three days a week) meant that I had more time to dedicate to looking after my new house guests.
I started off with Susie, Sharon and Aggie, and – between my own additional purchases and birthday presents from friends – I have now expanded my collection to include Bertie, Cassie, Rapunzel, Fleur, Pippa, Fidel, Penny, Chaz, Ellie, Wallace, and Xena. The great news is that, months down the line, they are ALL still alive – and all still healthy!
If you’d like to give Patch Plants a try, you can get 15% off your order (£50 minimum spend) by purchasing via this link.
Oh, and if I haven’t convinced you enough, I guarantee that the beautiful photographs on their Instagram feed will.
View this post on Instagram
2 | I discovered some wonderful new running routes
The day that I flew back from Sri Lanka (a trip that I had to cut short due to COVID-19) was the day that the UK entered a full lockdown. For the foreseeable future, the only reasons we were allowed to leave home were:
- to go to work (if you’re a keyworker);
- to shop for groceries, medicine and other essentials;
- to exercise outside (once a day);
- to provide care or help to a vulnerable person; and
- for any medical need.
Seeing as though I was initially only going into work for one day per week, once I’d got enough groceries to last me a few weeks, I would’ve been stuck at home for the remaining six days of every week, had I not decided to take full advantage of reason number three – daily exercise.
Prior to lockdown, I was already running a couple of times a week (in addition to going to the gym at weekends), but sometimes it seemed more like a chore rather than an enjoyable activity. So, I decided to use lockdown as a means of turning running into more of an exploratory experience – my way of ‘travelling’ when I couldn’t actually travel.
Every day I’d consult the maps.me app on my phone and find a footpath that I hadn’t followed before, an area I hadn’t visited or a landmark I hadn’t photographed. The further I ran, the more adventurous I became with regards to the sorts of distances I was covering. On a few occasions, I actually left Shrewsbury altogether and ran out into a few of the surrounding villages.
Why, as I type this, is it making me think of Forrest Gump? 😉
The abundance of beautiful sunny days that we were blessed with throughout April and May definitely helped my motivation. As did signing up to the ‘100 Miles in May Challenge,’ which I ended up completing in 19 days!!
3 | I explored parts of Shropshire that I never knew existed
Over the summer of 2020 (or, more specifically, for six weeks after lockdown ended on the 4th of July), my friend Jayne and I walked a total of 93 miles across the beautiful Shropshire countryside. The experience of exploring Shropshire in more depth kind of began as a bit of an extension of my more local running adventures, but also came about largely as a result of our decision to walk the entire 84-mile length of the Hadrian’s Wall Path at the end of August.
Every weekend, in the run up to our Hadrian’s Wall adventure, we would set off early on either the Saturday or Sunday and subsequently spend the best part of the day exploring parts of Shropshire that we’d never visited before. We’d cover anywhere between 11 and 25 miles – the sort of daily distances we’d be up against on the Hadrian’s Wall trail.
We generally found our routes on Shropshire’s Great Outdoors, Walking Britain, GPS Cycle and Walking Routes, or Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre, and then followed the maps on our mobile phones. However, if you’d rather have a paper version of the route, there are a number of books available to buy.
I’ll be writing a more detailed post very soon about all the walks we completed, but what I will say is that I looked forward to our long walks at the end of every week, and I’ve now come away with a better knowledge and greater appreciation of the county in which I live.
4 | I switched to sustainable beauty brands and significantly reduced my plastic consumption
I’m not sure why really, but I know that lockdown encouraged many of us to take a closer look at our environmental impact on the planet, and to explore ways in which we could help to lessen this impact. Maybe it was simply because we didn’t have time in our busy lives prior to lockdown to consider this. Maybe it was because, in light of a global pandemic, the planet suddenly became more important to us. Or maybe it was because we felt more inclined to support smaller, independent brands with a social cause over larger profit-making corporations with questionable ethics.
But, whatever the reason, it’s undoubtedly a positive shift in society, towards a more ethical, sustainable way of living. And I decided that it was definitely something I wanted to get on board with.
Although I’ve been buying items from Lush for some time now, their prices have risen quite sharply in recent years – making their products more of a payday treat rather than an every day commodity. However, if you’re willing to do your internet research, it turns out that there are actually a ton of brands out there who are also making some amazing beauty products from natural and sustainable ingredients and with minimal (or zero) plastic packaging.
A few of my favourites are as follows:
- UpCircle. So-named because they up-cycle discarded food ingredients by turning them into beauty products. They use coffee grounds, fruit stones and chai spices, which contain ingredients that have powerful effects on the body – both inside and out. They also have a fantastic little referral scheme whereby you can get £10 off any purchase over £15. Click here to check out their products and claim your £10 discount. My favourites are their organic face serum made from repurposed coffee grounds and their chocolate charcoal chai soap bar, which is good for both the face and body and also smells amazing!
- Face Theory. Striking a great balance between science and nature, their products are especially praised by those with skin concerns like acne and rosacea. Most of the items they sell are now available in amber glass jars with aluminium caps – or 100% aluminium tubes which are easy to recycle. My favourites are their Freshening Face Wash with aloe vera and green tea, and their Green Tea Face Mask. You can get 20% off all products by making a purchase via this link.
- Inanna’s Daughter. If you can get past the slightly weird, doesn’t-really-roll-off-your-tongue brand name, you’ll find some amazing vegan, ethically sourced shampoos and conditioners that are great for your hair but without the plastic bottles. Although I’ve found quite a few solid shampoo bars that my hair loves, I’d been looking for an effective solid conditioner bar for what seemed like forever. Every single one I’d tried either left my hair greasy and limp or in a tangled mess. That was until I tried Innana’s Daughter’s peppermint and patchouli conditioner bar. All I can say is wow! Check out the reviews online if you need any more convincing. I also love their lemon and frankincense conditioner bar.
- Smol. I’d seen Smol advertised on social media and it had piqued my interest in their products, so as soon as I came across a free trial, I was all over it! Smol make laundry capsules that are both cruelty-free and plastic-free, as well as being super compact so that they can be delivered through your letterbox. I also love that the scent lingers on my clothes for hours! Want to give them a try? You can also get a free trial by signing up via this link. Smol also make dish wash tablets, fabric conditioner and concentrated surface sprays.
- Wild. Wild is a new, sustainable natural deodorant that’s aluminium free with compostable, plastic-free refills. There are six scents available – Coconut Dreams, Orange Zest, Bergamot Rituals, Mint Fresh, Rose Blush and Lavender Haze. Personally I’m loving Bergamot Rituals. You can order their products as a one-off purchase or you can save over 15% by signing up to a flexible subscription. If you’d also like to give Wild a go, you can get 20% off using this link.
5 | I completed my longest (to date) multi-day hike
Although I’d already undertaken several multi-day hikes in the past – Mount Toubkal, the Inca Trail, Kalaw to Inle Lake (Myanmar) and six days of walking in the Picos de Europa – the Hadrian’s Wall Path was actually the longest (distance-wise) multi-day hike that I’ve ever completed. And I think that it was only as a result of all the training Jayne and I did during lockdown that we were able to finally tick this National Trail off our list.
It’s one of the UK’s easiest (although ‘challenging’ would be a better description of the middle section) long distance walking trails and, as the name would suggest, follows the line of the Wall built in the second century AD by order of Roman Emperor, Hadrian. The wall formed a defensive barrier that was in use for 300 years until the Romans finally left our shores in the fifth century. If you’re a history buff who loves the great outdoors then this hike is definitely for you!
For those of you who are interested, here are 10 things nobody tells you about walking Hadrian’s Wall. Alternatively, I will be publishing a comprehensive guide to the Hadrian’s Wall walk very soon, so keep your eyes peeled! And don’t leave home without purchasing a copy of this Hadrian’s Wall book.
6 | I successfully grew my own vegetables
Aside from growing some carrots as a child that would have looked right at home in Morrison’s Wonky Veg Box, I’d not really had the chance to practice my gardening skills until I moved into a house that actually came with its own outside space. Ok, that was three years ago. But it’s only throughout lockdown that I’ve actually had the time and money available to work on developing that outside space.
When I moved in, the entire back garden was lawn – with the exception of a small patio the size of a postage stamp. I’ve now got a much larger patio that’s great for working, socialising and soaking up the sun, along with four decent sized raised beds which I’ve used for growing a combination of plants, flowers and vegetables.
I grew chillies and rocket from scratch, and spinach, beetroot, lettuce, leeks and broccoli from a few seedlings my friend Katy gave me. I’d forgotten how much joy watching plants and vegetables grow can give you.
Next year, I’m planning to add carrots and courgettes into the mix.
7 | I learned the benefits of working from home
I’d never worked from home prior to lockdown. Whilst members of staff in other departments were given their own laptops and, oftentimes, work mobile phones as well, the powers that be at my organisation had always believed that our department simply could not perform their roles from home.
But, lockdown has forced every one to re-assess everything, and we’ve since discovered that – although there are some functions that can only be performed in the office – the majority of tasks our department are required to undertake, can, in fact, be done remotely.
And, so it was that I started working from home – four days a week initially, and two or three days a week nowadays. It did take a bit of getting used to, but I tried to follow the advice I’d read online and – much as I was tempted to stay in my PJs all day and work from the comfort of my bed – I got up and dressed as I would do on a normal work day. I set up a dedicated work space at my kitchen table and ensured that I had all the resources I needed within easy reaching distance. I turned Absolute Radio on – something that I can’t get away with in the office. At least, not for too long 😉
When the weather was nice outside, I was even able to take my home office out into my garden, plugging my laptop into the outside socket that Stu had installed for me and shading the screen with a sun umbrella. I swear I got one of the best suntans I’ve ever had simply by working out in my garden for a large majority of the week throughout lockdown.
Working from home also greatly improved my productivity (I didn’t have the same distractions that I do in the office) and my work-life balance. Although I don’t normally have a long commute into the office (I can walk from my door to my workplace within half an hour), even not having to travel that short distance made a huge difference to the free time I had available to me each day. Say, for argument’s sake, I worked four days a week at home from 23rd of March to when lockdown restrictions were lifted on the 4th of July, that’s an extra 60 hours of time that I didn’t have before!
And then there were things like getting my boiler serviced or letting the workmen in, which I would ordinarily need to take the morning or afternoon off work to accommodate. Even little jobs like hanging the washing out, prepping my evening meal, running the hoover around or watering my plants could be done during my coffee break or lunch break.
Living closer to town than my office is based, I could also run errands in town on my lunch break. I had time to go for a run before I started work or at lunchtime, and I was actually here to accept deliveries – where normally I would have to get larger items sent to mum’s and cart smaller items home from work.
I just wish this could be my new way of working on a permanent basis.
8 | I re-visited my Spanish lessons on the Duolingo app
Ever since I completed a GCSE in Spanish just before I flew out to South America for six months and had three weeks of intensive Spanish lessons in Bolivia, I have been attempting to learn the language on and off for years. I cannot afford to take regular lessons here in Shrewsbury, so I’ve been relying solely on myself for motivation. Sometimes it’s worked, sometimes it hasn’t. And the problem is that you need to make regular progress with language learning, or you don’t end up making any progress at all.
Once the Tories had been voted back in, and with Brexit looming ever closer, a close friend of mine and her family began planning a move out to Spain. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to re-visit my Spanish lessons. We could learn the language together. So, we set up a Facebook group for this purpose and I reinstalled the Duolingo app on my phone. I made it my mission to maintain my streak and complete at least one short lesson every single day.
9 | I ticked off a number of well overdue home improvement projects
I’ve already alluded to the big garden project, and this was the primary home improvement project that Stu and I finally completed over lockdown. However, I was also able to put the finishing touches to my living room, paint an accent wall and source few new pieces of artwork for my bedroom, turn my bathroom into a veritable jungle, and find the perfect cast iron period fireplace for my dining room.
I’d like to completely redesign my dining room, replace the carpet with a laminate floor and get some lighter, more modern pieces of furniture and a proper dining room table, but home improvement projects are expensive and I haven’t managed to save up enough money for that one just yet.
10 | I began to appreciate the little things in life
In a year when so many people have been furlogued or made redundant, I feel grateful for still having a job, and for having one that allows me to work from home wherever possible.
Yes, I may have had to go into the office two or three times a week (which does increase the risk of infection somewhat), but in these bizarre and unsettling times, I have welcomed that social interaction and that very much needed sense of companionship. Working from home full-time when you live on your own and there is a full lockdown in place can become a very lonely existence once the initial novelty has worn off.
Lockdown has also made me appreciate the fact that I now have my own garden. Up until just over three years ago, I lived in a second floor flat with zero outside space other than the window box Stu built me to keep my fresh herbs in. I can only imagine how much of a different story lockdown would have been for me, had I been couped up inside my flat all day when the weather was so glorious outside.
And I realise that I am very lucky to have family and friends who live nearby, and who I have been able to see throughout lockdown – either by going running or walking with them, or by incorporating a stop at their house for a ‘doorstep chat’ into my daily runs.
To finish this post, I’m stealing a quote that my boss posted on Instagram, because I think it sums up this strange and surreal year pretty well.
“This is not the year to get everything you want. This is the year to appreciate everything you have.”
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