We’re all well aware of quite how challenging this past year and a half has been so the end of lockdown here in the UK and a return to greater normality has come as a welcome relief to all.
We’re still exercising caution here as a family and continue to wear masks outdoors as well as in stores etc as per the guidelines and we’re not attending crowded places nor are we holidaying abroad this yeat so while not everything resumes for us, what truly matters has, as we slowly reunite with our family and friends, reconnecting in person once again.
The repurcussions of this period will of course take time to fully materialise for both ourselves and our children. We all require some space in order to truly come to terms with what we’ve collectively experienced, directly and indirectly: the adversity and loss, the extreme pressures of homeschooling alongside parenting and work (for those of us lucky enough to have retained our jobs), and of course, the disruption and lonliness we’ve experienced as our lives felt unrecognisable, and for so long.
Now, as we cautiously embark on resuming our ‘old lives’, we face a period of acclimatisation and equally, rediscovery, of ourselves, our relationships and our new goals.
I hope we don’t forget the important lessons the pandemic has taught us: to guard our time and energy fiercely, to remember that life is short and precious and to nurture those we love.
Below I share some happy-making activities that have seen this family through the slower, more trying days which we will continue to pursue. I hope they offer you a pick-me-up when you might need it.
There’s never been a more important time to prioritise mental and physical health.
Get your sweat on
Walking is wonderful (hello Forest Therapy and hugging trees in the great outdoors) but it’s vital to raise your heart rate a few times a week for optimum health so why not consider progressing from a slow stroll to a power walk or building up to a run? We regularly play rounders and tennis or run around the playground together and for at at least 20 minutes at a time, and swimming lessons have started up again now the Leisure Centre is open, a sport which works all of the muscles.
There are also trillions of home workouts on YouTube available for free if you’d rather get sweaty at home. We’ve moved the treadmill and exercise bike from our bedroom into the garage along with some weights, creating a make-shift gym until we can convert the garage into an office, gym and bedroom in the near future. If you’re stuck for space, why not add a desk cycle under your desk, so you can exercise while you work. A standing desk is also a good way to keep moving while you work.
Nothing beats board and card games
I love the PS5 as much as the next ‘mum gamer’ as my kids call me (ironically I think) thanks to my obsession with PacMan but throw me some Snakes and Ladders, Uno, Guess Who, Charades (the wannabee actress in me loves this, unsurprisingly) or a round of Dobble and I’m one happy mama. The kids love the undivided attention we give them while we’re playing and we all inevitably end up crying with laughter, usually at Alexander’s excellent impressions during Charades and Peter’s terrible ones. I believe this is what psychologists mean when they advocate for ‘quality family time’.
Yes, it exists, kind of. I mean all baked goods are pretty calorific to be fair so should be consumed in moderation but making some simple food swaps using wholegrain ingredients instead of refined ones and rustling up puds with less sugar in them and far more fruit can make a huge difference to how wholesome your treats turn out to be.
Why not make my healthy crumble where I create the crumb using large rolled oats instead of flour, ‘mushing’ them with butter and a little brown sugar which I then use to coat a layer of whatever fruit I have in the house.
Yesterday, I scrambled together two handfuls of dried fruit (chopped figs, apricots and dates) with frozen blueberries, fresh pears and quarters of Braeben apples which I plonked onto a greased baking tray and covered in a little water before topping with the oaty crumb. The gooey, caramelised dried fruit coupled with the tartiness of the apples and pears and the toasty crunch of the crumb was so delicious, that I indulged in another serving today for brekkie. So easy, so good.
Pick up a paintbrush
…Or do anything creative. Losing all sense of time as you paint, write or sew is a soothing balm for the soul. There are literally millions of tutorials online if you want to try something new and treating yourself to some art and stationery supplies (The Works is great for bargains) might give you the push you need to start harnessing your creativity. We all start at the start, remember, so why not learn a new skill?
Honing your artistic side helps to keep your memory sharp and can also be cathartic so you can to work through your worries. As well as returning to my love of painting during this period, I’ve also practised my French and Greek almost daily for the past year, using the app Duo Lingo (I have the paid subscription but there is a free option). Just a few minutes a day can literally open you up to a whole new world.
Watch something funny
Yes it’s an obvious point but we so often forget the easy access we have to laugh-making media at the touch of a button be it Netflix, Prime, Youtube, TikTok, FB Watch and a million other platforms I’m not cool enough to know about (yet). Last week, I introduced Oliver, 11, to the classic that is Bridemaids as it celebrated a decade (I always wail with laughter at the wedding shop scene), and I’ve recently rediscovered the Ch 4’s sharply written Fresh Meat over on Netflix (I can be found re-living my uni days most nights thanks to it, once the kids are in bed). There’s also the intentionally cringey but hilarious mockumentary People Just Do Nothing about a group of 30 somethings running a pirate radio station, as well as unmissable family faves such as the surreal police series Brooklyn Nine-Nine and the multiple award-winning American Family you can find on Netflix, too.
So, what brings you happiness?
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