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Lockdown cabin fever? 56 tried, tested and terrific ways to beat the boredom

1. Draw your partner

If you live with someone else, draw each other. My boyfriend, a professional artist, has a gross advantage – so I hold the most atrocious pose possible to challenge him. Then I challenge the foundations of our relationship by trying to depict him in a fashion that won’t result in him dumping me. Our relationship survived the last time, although we almost died laughing. Laura Snapes, Guardian deputy music editor

2. Have a chutney-tasting competition

When you’re middle class and get to the age of 52, your friends make chutney and give it to you. A lot. I’ve got 14 different chutneys. My cunning plan to combat weekend lockdown ennui? A four-person chutney-tasting competition. Two freelancer parents, two teenagers at peak lockdown cabin fever, all blindfolded. Will it be the Brixton fig chutney or the Hastings pineapple and sultana that emerges victorious? The sad thing is, I haven’t looked forward to something so much in years. Mel Giedroyc, broadcaster

3. Play online chess

Every time you’re tempted to go on social media, go on instead and play a 10-minute game with a stranger. You can meet people around the world and then be beaten by them. I’m sure I’ve been ground into the dust by someone who was probably 13. It’s fine, though, because at the end you say: “Good game lol!” and feel good about the world. Josie Long, comedian

4. Film spring coming into bloom

My son told me that the cure for lockdown boredom is to rush up to a stranger in the street, then (from a 2-metre distance) ask: “What year is it?” and, on hearing the answer, scream: “Oh my God, it WORKED!” and run away. I don’t have the energy for that, so I suggest something that works well for spring. On your lockdown stroll, take a daily photo of the same tree, to curate a time-lapse image-succession of the tree coming into leaf. You can then use an editing app to create a video. Peter Bradshaw, Guardian film critic

5. Watch The West Wing

Martin Sheen in The West Wing

I’m watching the whole of The West Wing (seven series, 156 episodes) from the start again – and reminding myself how depressing it is that we don’t have a leader in the UK like Jed Bartlet, or a team around that leader like Leo, CJ, Toby, Josh, Sam and especially Mrs Landingham. Piers Morgan, broadcaster

6. Make your own paper and ink

Felix’s homemade paper and ink

I’d heard that you can make ink out of iron galls you can find on oak trees. I saw some when I was out hiking between the lockdowns, so I brought them home, found some good instructions online and made the ink. Then I thought: “Well, if I’ve made ink, I could make paper.” So I’ve been collecting the dead leaves off a New Zealand flax plant from my local golf course, which is now open to the public. I’ve been making birthday cards – unlike the ones bought in the shops, they will last for hundreds of years. Felix, East Sussex

7. Run off the beaten track

Sick of jogging along the same streets near home, or weaving in and out of exercisers at the park? Get some trail-running shoes with treads made to handle mud. For about £30, you can escape the asphalt for rain-sodden grass and puddle-filled woods. Paths? You don’t need no stinking paths. Phil Daoust, Guardian deputy features editor

8. Make cushions for friends

A Sharleen Spiteri blanket

I’ve been making cushions with the fabric my mum had been collecting over the years. I thought: “It’s two squares, how hard can it be?!” I FaceTimed my sister to show off my work and she asked me to make her some in specific shapes and sizes for Christmas – it has grown to making them for my friends from that. I can’t stop buying fabric now. My mum had taught me how to crochet a few years ago, so this lockdown I made a blanket: just simple granny squares, done with a chunky hook. Sharleen Spiteri, musician

9. Listen to Shame

During lockdown, you realise how much we rely on the world of the arts to make the endless hours pass. It’s strange that the government hasn’t done more to support the arts and the businesses within it that are struggling financially. For me, lockdown is about listening. I’m delighted that my favourite indie band, Shame, have done really well with their second album, Drunk Tank Pink. It’s brilliant, energetic and raw and it makes me happy. Mel B, musician

10. Watch some strangers get married

You may have tried exercise or meditation to get through lockdown 3.0, but may I suggest involving yourself in the lives of some strangers on E4? Married At First Sight Australia is on five nights a week, so even if you don’t have a schedule, MAFS does. It works best with a dedicated WhatsApp group to discuss dodgy hair extensions and epic rows, followed by a postmatch conference call. Nick Grimshaw, broadcaster

11. Read Shakespeare out loud

Try a Shakespeare sonnet each day, read aloud. There are 182 in total: the 154 published together in 1609, plus sonnets taken from the plays. The scholars Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson provide excellent insights. It can be hard going: some difficult, some impenetrable, some sublime. But it’s not time wasted. Precious, in fact. Joan Bakewell, journalist and Labour peer

12. Draw a My Little Pony

Tim Jonze’s pony portraits

I tried to get through the first lockdown by drawing ponies for my four-year-old daughter to colour in. Pathetically, I kept finding myself so impressed by my own unlocked artistic talent that each time I finished one I had to tell her that she wasn’t allowed to colour it in (AKA ruin it) after all. “I’ll draw you another one,” I’d say, but the same thing would happen. She has now accepted the situation, so we sit next to each other at the kitchen table, quietly drawing and colouring in our own ponies. It’s truly uplifting when you correctly capture the glint in their eyes – and as close as 24/7 childcare gets to reaching a state of zen. Tim Jonze, Guardian associate culture editor

13. Cook your way to better health

During what I now call the “Cummings lockdown”, I was diagnosed with diabetes. Type 2. The type you have to work at. Cooking became my life support and I threw myself into it with a convert’s zeal. Not everything has been a success: the camel on Christmas Day was a poor choice. But I am off the diabetes medication and chillies are my new sugar. Mark Thomas, comedian

14. Do the (very) small tasks

I recommend dedicating yourself, as I have done, to unsubscribing from all the email lists that you have signed up to that no longer fulfil your needs or that signed you up without a by-your-leave. Next, I plan to find, flatten and fold every carrier bag in the house and relocate them to one easy-to-access spot, that they may one day fulfil their porting destiny. I have no plans after that. Lucy Mangan, Guardian TV critic

15. Cook a recipe on the back of a random tin

Homemade fudge

Make the classic recipes hiding in plain sight on the boxes and tins in your food cupboards: the fudge on the condensed milk can; the marshmallow squares on the box of Rice Krispies. You will find yourself smiling into saucepans like Nigella. You will experience foreign and subversive feelings of Britishness, nostalgia, even pride. You will get fudge. Chitra Ramaswamy, writer

16. Make beats on your laptop

Music has always been a comfort throughout my life and, in recent spates of boredom, I’ve been passing the time by tinkering around with basic music production software and a keyboard, learning to make music for myself. It has been a calming way to get lost in something other than the news or work. Ammar Kalia, Guardian global music critic

17. Get chickens

There’s no time for boredom when, like me, you have four birds on the go. I am in love with all of them. Edna, Dusty, Mabel and Flo – or blue, green, red and yellow when I forget their names. They keep me occupied for hours. They are cooped up at the moment and in their lockdown through bird flu, but cleaning up bird poo and feeding them worms blows my tiny mind. Shaun Ryder, musician

18. Watch Bez become the new Joe Wicks

Last lockdown, I got fat, unhealthy and unfit. It was shocking. This lockdown I’m buzzin’: I’ve set up a YouTube fitness channel so everyone can watch and laugh, or join in. It’s called Get Buzzin’ With Bez. Let’s have it! Bez, dancer and musician

19. Look up at night

I try always to look at the moon and stars before I go to bed – clouds permitting, of course. Even just a few seconds of focusing outwards lifts my mood. Rebecca Front, actor

20. Try a writing exercise

Write an appreciation of the last work of art you remember being moved by in a gallery or museum. Describe it from memory, not from a screen image. Try to put down as many visual details as you can, what they made you feel and what it might mean. The effort to bring that experience to life in words is one way to get out of the moment – it may even get you started on your lockdown novel. Jonathan Jones, Guardian art critic

21. Train your kids to be massage therapists

This lockdown, I’ve trained my daughters to walk on my back. My younger is the perfect size to deal with the tension in my shoulders, while my elder does the lower back. As I lie face down, I can really focus on The Masked Singer. Last time, I guessed Mel B and Glenn Hoddle correctly and felt a huge sense of achievement. Katherine Parkinson, actor

22. Watch Curb Your Enthusiasm

Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm

With the state of everything, I’ve been more concerned with staving off a nervous breakdown than beating boredom. I’ve managed this by rewatching Curb Your Enthusiasm and doubling down on my grumpiness when I’m not having to force myself to be cheerful on the BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show for work. Greg James, broadcaster

23. Try a poem a day

When my husband, John, died last year, boredom and grief joined forces. They are noisy, constant companions. To drown out the cacophony and to fill the huge, aimless space where our life together used to be, I read poetry: Galway Kinnell, Anne Sexton, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, John Donne. Inspired by poetry’s quick route to the heart, the conversations in my head began to take shape and form poems of my own. They’re private and preoccupying. They don’t even rhyme. Most of the time. Janet Ellis, broadcaster

24. Get a hot tub

My wife bought a hot tub for lockdown and we’re never out of it. It has Bluetooth speakers and we make Spotify playlists and sit in the bubbling water with only our heads exposed to the freezing weather until our skin becomes pruned and has the consistency of wet soap. Craig Charles, broadcaster

25. Make videos for your family

Ade Adepitan

Our first baby, Bolla, was born three weeks ago. My wife and I set up a YouTube channel called Adepifam. We’ve made 20 films, sharing our journey through her pregnancy. Bolla is my mum’s first grandchild and it has been a great way for her to watch our journey through lockdown. Ade Adepitan, former athlete and broadcaster

26. Discover history YouTube

I’ve been watching YouTube videos to learn about historical events and keep boredom at bay. Specifically, I’ve been learning about how costumes for The Crown were researched and constructed. There is so much information out there, on almost any subject – it’s wonderful for dull moments. Barbara Hulanicki, fashion designer

27. Have an Elton John power half-hour

Elton John in 1984

I have taken to doing something I call an Elton John power half-hour. As soon as I turn off my work computer, I open a low-alcohol beer (other beverages are acceptable) and blast out a string of his hits while dancing around my living room. I always start with Daniel and end on Sad Songs Say So Much – which very much speaks to now. It’s a wonderful release. Jenny Stevens, Guardian commissioning features editor

28. Document the species on your daily walk

I try to spot a species in the gardens, fields and hedgerows that I’ve never noticed in my neighbourhood before. It might be completely suburban – a monkey puzzle tree in a garden – or an exotic visitor, like the flock of fieldfares I was delighted to hear calling by the old railway line. There is always something unexpected to discover. When I can’t identify something, I take its photo (easier with a weed than a fast-flying bird) and seek help from friends or social media. I’m starting a “local patch” species list, too. Patrick Barkham, Guardian nature writer

29. Keep a diary

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been dipping into Pepys, but I find keeping a diary is one way to beat boredom. I started on New Year’s Day and, even though there is no live theatre and social life is minimal, I find plenty to write about: sport, politics, books, telly. I don’t do it daily, but it is a good way to keep a cultural record and overcome ennui. Michael Billington, theatre critic

30. Take joy in colourful dressing

Priya Elan

Lockdown has dissolved my lifelong rule of only dressing in dark, muted tones. Now I put on tie-dye joggers accessorised with rainbow Crocs, or wear an aubergine-coloured rollneck with a gold chain. Dressing has become a balm: it makes the days feel less repetitive and it energises me. Unexpectedly, I’ve found that dressing like no one is watching gives me motivation. Priya Elan, Guardian deputy fashion editor

31. Start cycling

I finally bit the bullet and joined a cycling club after the last lockdown, mainly to shift my newly acquired spread, but also to get my Zoom-induced seized joints on the move. It has been a godsend. Although club rides have been put on hold, doing rides with others gave me the confidence to get out and explore on my own. I love the sense of freedom a bike gives you; it takes me back to my childhood, when I would spend all day exploring far and wide and discovering new places. Plus, it helps me sleep. Maxine Peake, actor

32. Watch A Teacher

I’ll have to give you a TV suggestion, of course, so watch A Teacher on BBC iPlayer. It’s about a teacher in her 30s who has an affair with her 18-year-old student. It’s a straightforward story told with amazing insight and depth. No tricks. Just honesty. A brilliant piece of work. Plus, it’s in half-hour episodes, which are perfect for little breaks – if you have anything to break from, that is. Russell T Davies, screenwriter

33. Find your local giraffes

I go to the outer circle of Regent’s Park and stop opposite the entrance to London zoo, where the giraffe enclosure is clear to see from the road. Sometimes, the giraffes will parade; other times, they throw shapes from their windows. It always lifts my spirits. If you are not within walking or cycling distance of London zoo, find a giraffe enclosure near you – or a substitute on YouTube. Arifa Akbar, Guardian theatre critic

34. Try a Stephen Fry audiobook

Audiobooks have got me through. They allow you to astrally project out of a lockdown living room into adventure. In my case, this involves Stephen Fry narrating everything ever written by Arthur Conan Doyle. Tom Watson, former Labour MP

35. Set up a 70s film club

I’ve set up a Friday night cinema club just for me. I’m working my way through the New Hollywood movies of the 70s (The Last Detail, Shampoo, Five Easy Pieces). It gives me something very specific to look forward to on a night that would otherwise be just like any other night of the week. I’m transported to another time. Goes well with dinner and a martini. Sarah Habershon, Guardian art director

36. Start making a collage

Jenny Offill

My teenage daughter often asks if we can make art together. She’s a very good artist, but I, sadly, am a very bad one. Recently, though, we found an art form I can manage. I have a book called Curious Moments, which is an archive of press photographs from 1900 to 1967. It contains wonders such as the world’s tallest man meeting the world’s smallest woman and monkeys being suited up for space. Ever since I agreed to cut it up to make collages, my art has improved miraculously. It is strangely soothing to cut things out with tiny scissors – and strangely soothing is what we are looking for these days. Jenny Offill, author

37. Start a lockdown band

Luckily for me, my band Elbow have been writing remotely for years and haven’t stopped. I also formed a lockdown band with Nathan Sudders (the Whip), Ben Christophers, Alex Reeves (Elbow, Bat for Lashes, Dizzee Rascal) and Pete Jobson (I Am Kloot); we will have a really out-there album for release in no time. Guy Garvey, musician

38. Create a mini sauna

Kwame Kwei-Armah

My top tip is to buy a portable infrared sauna. Yes, I know I said: ‘Buy a sauna,’ and this will not be attainable for everyone. The particular one I’m talking about costs about £200, it is small enough to keep anywhere in your house and you can fold it up. I stand in it, up to my neck, sweating at 65C for 30 minutes each night. It has really stopped me going stir-crazy. Kwame Kwei-Armah, writer and Young Vic artistic director

39. Play a rowdy card game

During this lockdown, I’ve gone back to playing one of my favourite childhood card games: racing demon. I love it, because it is wonderfully simple, but totally immersive, fun and fast. To win, you have to have intense powers of concentration and think very fast. The more you play, the quicker you get. While it almost always ends with good-natured shouting and even shoving, it is a brilliant way to take your mind off things. Louise Minchin, broadcaster

40. Travel the world through cinema

Some friends and I have been watching a film from a different country each week, going through the alphabet. For Denmark, we had Festen; for Iran, it was Under the Shadow; for Japan, Shoplifters. We chat about the films on Zoom afterwards, which has been so nice. Chris, Manchester

41. Read Aldous Huxley

Johnny Marr

Aldous Huxley has kept me on a relatively even keel through the lockdowns. It’s a shame that he is known almost entirely for Brave New World and The Doors of Perception, for, as monumental as they are, his essays are perhaps even greater. There are six volumes, going up to 1963, in which he takes on everything from science, the Enlightenment, silence, technologies, the perennial philosophy and much more. He’s easily one of the world’s greatest ever thinkers, an actual genius. Johnny Marr, musician

42. Take up the ukulele

I’ve started ukulele lessons via Zoom with a local teacher. He’s been really encouraging and I’ve gone from not being able to play a single chord to learning some recognisable pop songs and Christmas carols. It has worked surprisingly well remotely and it has been nice to put something in my diary each week other than work commitments. Lizzy Dening, writer

43. Be receptive

The heron waits on the roof of next door’s shed, eyeing up the pond below. Every morning, there he is, visible from my bed. For days last summer, a hawk moth sat in the hedge, an astonishment whenever it opened its wings. And our two young dogs, whose pleasures are all in the moment, demand the same of me. All are gifts. The non-human world, even in south-east London, keeps me afloat, at least some of the time. Staying receptive and noticing what is around you in the everyday is the opposite of passivity, an antidote to boredom and panic. Adrian Searle, Guardian art critic

44. Make a collaborative quilt

Lucy (left), Vee and their baby, Asher, with a quilt made for them by Ruth Evans

I’ve been making quilts for lockdown babies who won’t get to see people for a long time. I’ve asked friends to post squares of fabric – some of them cut up old clothes, or embroider their patch or add applique. Then I sew them all together to give when the baby arrives, with a scrapbook of notes from everyone. I love opening the parcels and I get to watch rubbish TV while I sew. Ruth Evans, Cardiff

45. Try an online poker game

Every couple of weeks, we’ve been playing poker with some friends on a free site called Poker Now. It has been something nice to look forward to and there’s a lot of fun buildup chat in the days leading up to the game. It has got to the point where we have fake names, walk-on music at the start of the game, catchphrases and somebody’s friend even did a Super Bowl-style half-time Zoom show for us. Eliza, Cornwall

46. Make your own television

Kamien Deane in his lockdown sitcom

I wrote, performed, recorded, edited and published a one-man lockdown sitcom, despite having no previous experience of writing, performing, recording or editing. All episodes were filmed in the corner of one small room of my small flat. It helped me, but also many of my friends, to beat the boredom, as they enjoyed watching it. Kamien Deane, London

47. Help at a vaccine centre

In the first lockdown, I volunteered with my local surgery, delivering medication to people who live in nearby villages. For some housebound and sheltering residents, I was the only person they saw all day. I’m volunteering again, this time at our local vaccination hub. Once more, it’s been a very humbling experience, as I chat to the people who talk of their hopes for the future, the dreams of a more normal life and, of course, the ability to hold their grandchildren in their arms. Jenni Bradbury, north Cotswolds

48. Peruse Luke Unabombers’ Instagram account

This has been a constant source of inspiration during lockdown. Granted, listening to a middle-aged DJ from Sheffield talk about his favourite records, how to stave off negative self-talk and his hatred of the “namaste death cult” isn’t for everyone, but, for people who miss sweaty nightclubs and friends that take the piss when you buy expensive candles, this is a no-nonsense, much-appreciated intervention. Lanre Bakare, Guardian culture reporter

49. Memorise poems

Idris Khan with his piece Numbers

I heard somewhere that trying to memorise text is excellent for the brain, so I am giving it a go with poetry in lockdown. Each day, I have been trying to read and memorise one of the great Paul Celan’s later poems. The book is called Breathturn Into Timestead and it was introduced to me by the artist Edmund de Waal. I’ve always admired Celan and his struggles – and this book makes me understand him even more. Idris Khan, artist

50. Start a gratitude journal

My internal monologue was getting very boring. So, for five minutes a day, I started to write down some things I was grateful for. I write about the fleeting joys – the rainbows and snow days – and the big things – health – I should not take for granted. Now, every time my husband passes me a coffee – its foam created using our lockdown-acquired milk frother – I say: “I’m putting you in my gratitude journal.” Hannah Marriott, Guardian fashion editor

51. Bake with your kids

I’m such a foodie and I am really missing eating out. Baking treats has helped fill a bit of the void – plus I am eight months pregnant and therefore always hungry! My daughter loves it, too, and getting her to help out is a good way of keeping her entertained. It has been good researching different recipes to try and having those treats to look forward to as well. Rebecca Adlington, former athlete

52. Try an online truth mandala

I have been taking part in truth mandalas via Zoom. They are powerful group rituals from the environmental activist and Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy, taken from her book Coming Back to Life (written with Molly Brown). The idea is to honour our pain and love for the world together. I find they help me to realise and express my feelings, to connect with people from different places and to show up authentically in the world. Raphaela, Bristol

53. Move your furniture around

Laura Marling

I have been mostly rearranging furniture in the vain attempt to conjure some sort of aesthetic perfection, which helps in a hamster-on-a-wheel kind of way. As does putting up bookshelves to store the books I’m not reading. Laura Marling, musician

54. Take a pen and paper – and write

Watch The Bureau twice. Read novellas – try Veilchenfeld by Gert Hofman. Get a notebook and a pen, go offline for an hour and write down three memories. Then three extended thoughts. Teach yourself to make a farinata – there are many good recipes online. Ian McEwan, author

55. Make friends with Alexa

Alexa has got me through lockdown. I’m using her (in the nicest sense) to play me classic albums that I’ve never listened to – Van Morrison’s Veedon Fleece, Terry Reid’s River and Aretha Franklin’s I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You are just a few of my choices. It’s become an obsessive and unfulfilled search for the perfect song, one that will make my soul soar. Today, I asked Alexa for a classic album – she came up with Ultimate Manilow … Simon Hattenstone, Guardian feature writer

56. Watch the sunrise

Sophie Radcliffe

I’ve been getting up in the mornings to watch the sunrise – even in the winter, it’s amazing. It’s free, accessible and a great way to start the day. Every day looks different and it’s a good way to break the routine of lockdown life. I love being outside when the world is waking up – it really makes me feel alive, and grateful to be able to take a moment to breathe and connect with nature. Sophie Radcliffe, London

Source: TheGuardian