From keep fit to sex: how Guardian readers have boosted their mood during the pandemic

Everyone needs a release from the stresses of lockdown life. Readers share the ideas that work for them

Garden shed fairy lights

We bought some solar-powered garden fairy lights and set them up on our garden shed. We can see them when we are having dinner or letting the dog into the garden. It means that, during the day, we have the fun of the flowers and, at night, twinkling lights. They remind me of the stars, another mood-lifter – stargazing puts everything in perspective. Nicholas Vince, actor and YouTuber, London

Ella Van Loock feeding the birds in Pollok Park, Glasgow
Feathered friend ... Ella Van Loock feeding the birds in Pollok Park, Glasgow. Photograph: Ella Van Loock

Feeding the birds

I have been going to my local park – Pollok Park in Glasgow – and hand-feeding the birds with seeds. My friend started doing it and posted a video, so one day I went with a bag of seeds and soon had birds land on my hand to investigate, including coal tits, blue tits and great tits. They came swooping down, clasped my fingers with their little feet and then you could feel the whoosh of their wings as they flew away again. You have to be really still and quiet for them to come, so it’s like a form of meditation. I have taken four people to hand-feed the birds and it lifted their moods, too. Ella Van Loock, primary school teacher, Glasgow

Cooking and dancing

Baking and cooking while dancing to big band music in my apron has really boosted my mood over the past year. There’s something transcendent about creation and turning simple ingredients into something complicated and tasty. And the upbeat dancing around and being silly in the kitchen is really wonderful on the dreary days. Tom North, bank teller, Massachusetts, US

Exercise videos

Everyone told me that exercise videos would make me feel better and I initially I scowled at them and went back to my laptop. But they worked! I signed up to a fitness app and joined one of their plans which instructed me on the 20- to 40-minute video I should do four days a week. I now feel so much better. It’s a nice way to disconnect from my screen after work; I feel stronger and I am much less grumpy. Some videos consist of just stretching exercises, but I still feel better afterwards for having moved, and my various aches and pains from spending much of the day sitting also seem to have mostly cleared up. Hannah Sewell, software engineer, Sheffield

Cycling the Thredbo Valley Trail in New South Wales
Cycling the Thredbo Valley Trail in Kosciuszko National Park in the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales. Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan/Getty Images

The joy of cycling

Living in Australia’s alpine region, normal recreational activities such as bushwalking, swimming and skiing in the mountains have been curtailed by state border closures. Ski season was cancelled. I have never been a serious cyclist, but upgrading to a new gravel bike gave me the mood boost to counteract the lockdown blues. I have discovered more than 100km of local cycle paths and I now ride three to five times a week. Swimming in the nearby Murray River has been an occasional summer pastime for the past 60 years but with the pandemic came a renewed appreciation of this refreshing and relaxing experience. It’s now an almost daily activity, putting the mind in a good place before we call our children and grandchildren in Europe. Stephen Jacobs, audiologist, New South Wales, Australia

Creating cover songs

I take part in a music creation challenge. Every month, a group of about 10 of us submit a song for someone else in the group to cover. The submissions are randomised and everyone has a month to create a cover version of the song they have been given. Then, the group meet on Zoom to listen through the submissions, have a laugh and experience the joy of shared creativity. The mood boost has been amazing for everyone involved. Matthew Trow, web developer, Oxfordshire

Having sex

I could say that baking or an impressive exercise routine are what had boosted my mood during the pandemic, but really it is sex with my partner. It is loving, indulgent, energetic and enormous fun. He lives alone, so is now part of a support bubble with me and my kids. This means that our sex life requires some rather precise planning – but when all the stars align, we feel very, very lucky. Anonymous, health care professional, Kent

An older woman playing a video game
I am a samurai! Whole new worlds open up via online games. Photograph: MixMedia/Getty Images


Gaming has allowed me to escape during the pandemic – not just from my house, but from my body and my mind. I am no longer a sixtysomething woman with a slight phobia of horses; instead, I have been a samurai, a warrior, a sword-wielding heroine, climbing, jumping or galloping across beautiful Japanese fields of flowers. Monsters do feature at times, but modern games are often beautifully designed and have plenty of time to stop and stare. When I come to save and exit, I am totally relaxed. Michel Blake, retired, Kent

The art of Charles Tunnicliffe

I stumbled upon the Charles Tunnicliffe Society by chance in the first lockdown. I had known of him as an illustrator of country scenes and wildlife, but now I am a humble disciple. He has given me cause for joy and pure escape, and I have become a collector, in a small way. Looking at books of his work, I can leave this troubled century, return to a less cluttered past, and see the world through his eyes. He has helped me find happiness in small things: sand in the sandwiches, burnet roses threading the dunes, the sight of a lone house sparrow in the garden after years of absence, a lamp in a window lighting the way home. I have spent months now looking at his art, reading his gentle words and looking at birds, which has inspired me to return to drawing, too. Debbie Murrish, retired, Liverpool

A log cabin in the woods in Alaska
Slowly does it … a log cabin in the woods in Alaska. Photograph: Greg Meland/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Unwinding to slow TV

I have been watching YouTube videos of people building log cabins, preferably using only hand tools, in the wilds of Alaska – it’s my own self–curated version of “slow TV”. Many an anxious night has been cured by watching a 40-minute video of someone converting raw materials into a cosy, private hideaway in the middle of nowhere. Reality bites when the issues of composting toilets and outdoor showers arise, but otherwise, the soundtrack of banging nails and logs being sawn has been my happy place throughout much of lockdown. Matt, public sector worker, Scotland

Video calls

My husband and I spent lockdown three apart, but we probably had more face-to-face conversations during this lockdown than the others, and it is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I look forward to chatting to him via WhatsApp video every evening. He always makes me laugh. He is doing a tough job, working at a hospital, and I am very proud of him. On Valentine’s Day, we watched a film together online and that has become a weekly tradition. I have lots of distractions at home – family, pets, countryside – but I look forward to our WhatsApp chats. Lucy Matthews, Somerset

John Lancaster playing his sitar
John Lancaster finds daily joy playing his sitar. Photograph: John Lancaster

Practising sitar

I have played sitar for about 12 years and visited India several times for lessons. The past 12 months have thrown all kinds of difficulties my way, but I have made time every morning to sit and look out the window while doing my sitar practice. I should have done this years ago, but as many late-starting musicians will attest, life gets in the way. Setting aside time, even if it means getting up extra-early, to start the day doing one of the things I enjoy most in life has completely changed my outlook. It has carried me through my grief over the deaths of relatives and friends, to a point where I believe everything will be fine. John Lancaster, sound engineer, Manchester


I started with a daily Headspace routine (which is free for teachers) and I now take part in Samatha meditation classes with the Samatha Trust, over Zoom. It is a chance to train the mind and take a step back from the chaos and trauma around us all now. The clouds of stress-induced brain fog have lifted and I genuinely feel like a new woman. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. Anonymous, teacher, East Sussex

Keeping a journal

When going through old belongings during lockdown, I came across a journal I kept in 2007, when I was nine years old. It was clear how much fun I’d had filling it in with lots of sparkly gel pens, petal presses and stickers. Keeping a journal now didn’t seem nearly as fun, especially since I only did it when I was stressed or upset. I decided to order some stickers from Etsy (which felt a little ridiculous for a 23-year-old) and I have had the best time using them since. It’s nice to be able to vent to my journal and then use a little sticker that says “Keep going!”. Those stickers have been a small form of joy during a stressful year. Moneeka Thakur, student, St Albans


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