Three-and-a-half months into COVID culture, six-foot spreads are still recommended, or even required. States that were opening up are closing some activities back down. We will spend more time alone or with many fewer people than we’re accustomed to seeing, especially in summer. This new way of living is a hard change, even with the occasional socially distanced patio picnic.
So how can we prevent our brain from nodding off into a quarantine daze of repetitive days? We’ve found it helps to explore opportunities for engagement, learning, and mindfulness.
Grab your favorite beverage, find your comfort zone (literally), and explore the variety of greatness available. Find a story that transports and inspires you, or a way to further explore a subject you already love, or maybe stumble upon a new interest or talent.
Appreciate the variety without getting overwhelmed
Herewith our collective recommendations will help you narrow all those choices down.
Educated: A Memoir is Tara Westover’s personal story of growing up in a survivalist Idahoan family and entering a classroom for the first time at 17; she now has a PhD from Cambridge and a #1 New York Times bestseller
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) shares a dramatic and amusing coming-of-age tale of 13-year-old boy who clings to a stolen painting as he navigates life after his mother’s loss
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz, a shamanic teacher and healer, shares what he learned from his Toltec ancestors – four simple codes to help us live more freely
Pandemic 1918 by Catharine Arnold provides a historical look at the notorious Spanish Flu that killed more than 50 million people
The Atlantic’s Recommended 20 Books to Read in Quarantine This Summer includes page-turners, quest stories, observations about life, and more
Explore the Five Books website for five book recommendations each from experts in a wide range of fields. (This site is fun to check out!)
Brain Pickings by Maria Popova on means to live a decent, substantive, rewarding life. Popova explores concepts through classic writings and art, connecting dots across genres for fascinating explorations
The Public Library of Science (PLOS) allows researchers and those curious about science the opportunity to access scholarly and scientific journals immediately and without restrictions
Kottke by Jason Kottke on “essential people, inventions, performances, and ideas that increase the collective adjacent possible of humanity.” Favorite topics include film, science, graphic design, and sport
Engadget on all things consumer tech news and insight covering technology, gaming, and entertainment
Serious Eats on high and low cuisine, ingredients, recommendations, recipes, culture, and more
The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes explores what makes people great via interviews with brilliant business minds, world-class athletes, and other influential people on the planet
Hidden Brain by NPR uses science and storytelling to help curious people explore the world
Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations shares interviews with thought leaders, best-selling authors, spiritual luminaries, and health and wellness experts to help bring us closer to our best self
Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard celebrates the messiness of being human and explores the stories and setbacks that make room for growth. Note: Dax is a funny guy
Music and the Brain by The Library of Congress looks at the newest research involving both cognitive neuroscience and music
Sound the bells for solitude!
Now is a moment to explore solitude in a new way. You might need to carve out a “do not enter” (mental and physical) space at home as noise overflows from family. Or an empty home may be too quiet, and finding peace within silence may take time and practice. Exploring our own minds can be the most enriching process of all.
Try 20 minutes in a darkened room with your favorite piece of music. How do you feel?
Sit outside completely unplugged and listen to the sounds around you. Watch the activity. Don’t judge; simply be present.
Try a walking meditation. Choose a simple route and pay attention to the feeling of each step as your foot touches the ground beneath it. Freely swing your arms or clasp them loosely behind you. If thoughts invade your space, bring your mind gently back to the feeling of your foot on the ground, to the sun or wind on your face, or to the smells around you. Don’t close your eyes. Be in the moment.
Find an app that helps with mindfulness, meditation, anxiety reduction, and better sleep. There are multitudes of choices; some we like include:
• Calm: Calm is the number one app for sleep, meditation, and relaxation, and is dedicated to mental fitness. The app offers guided meditations, music, video lessons on mindful movement and gentle stretching, sleep stories for children and adults, and more. The free version provides limited content; a subscription gives you all the goodness.
• Headspace: Among the highest-ranking meditation and wellness apps, Headspace teaches you how to meditate in just a few minutes a day. You can try the app for free before deciding if a subscription that unlocks the full library of courses is right for you.
• Insight Timer: Browse the number one free app for sleep, anxiety, and stress, and enjoy 45,000 free expert-guided meditations that focus on 200 topics ranging from Cultivating Creativity to Alternative Medicine to Kids Sleep.
• Unwind: The Unwind Anxiety app is slightly different than apps dedicated to mindfulness and mediation. It specifically provides a step-by-step program that helps you notice and prevent the conditions that lead to anxiety.
Start a project or two! Working on something, whether it’s painting a landscape, perfecting a recipe, refurbishing a dresser, or learning how to design a website, is a great way to enjoy solitude, stay engaged, and find some flow. Projects are especially great when you find yourself with more time than usual in isolation. Check out YouTube for a multitude of how-to guides.
Busy is not the same as fulfilled
We have been schooled on how to stay at home safely and intelligently. In fact, the COVID-19 updates can be mentally exhausting. Here are some tips to help the brain rest, prepare itself for whatever comes next, and restore some of those feel-good emotions we associate with summer:
Turn off the news now and then and take a break from all things pandemic and politics
Sit down and enjoy a meal, whether it is take-out, delivery, or home-cooked deliciousness, without your phone or other digital device. Light a candle and play some music
Listen to the the latest, or a classic via Audible, which has made hundreds of audiobooks free during this time. Enjoy!
Study up. If there is something you have always wanted to learn more about, why not now? Many of the world’s colleges and universities have created vast libraries of online curriculum.
Move your body. A closed gym and lack of regular exercise can impact your mood as well as your physical health. A little dance in the living room? A walk in a nearby park? Stretches on the porch? Everything adds up, and it all helps.
Maybe you just need a nap.
Most importantly, continue to do the things you love, and maybe more of them! And, shrug off any guilt that you should be more productive. There is no right way to “be” in a pandemic other than as healthy, kind, and happy as possible.
Go ahead, live a richer life.