I spent 3 days testing WikiHow’s ‘ways to have fun at home’
Now that the Cambridge term has gone, what else is there but wikiHow to bring structure to our lives?
I have spent the past week realising that, although week 5 me could think of nothing better, being isolated at home sucks. A lot. My day consists mainly of trying to figure out what to do in between meals; namely crying, listening to dramatic music and writing soppy letters to my boyfriend. Being unoccupied means that it is hard not to dwell on what the next few months will bring, and dwelling brings more tears. So, to take my mind off things, and try and get myself out of my future-dwelling, tear-filled funk, I spent 3 days testing wikiHow’s ‘Ways to have fun at home’. WikiHow splits this into five categories: playing childish games, having creative fun, relaxing at home, creating adventures at home and learning for fun – and it may come as no surprise that number 5 didn’t really appeal…
Day 1 did not start off particularly well. The official news that next term is cancelled set off a mammoth crying sesh, and a slightly embarrassing conversation with my friends via Facetime that went something like this:
Friend 1: Are you okay?
Me: *muffled crying noises*
Friend 2: Her term’s been cancelled
Friend 1: Ah that explains it
Friend 2: Well, you know it could be worse, you could be pregnant
Me: *muffled crying intensifies* I CAN’T GET PREGNANT I’M GOING TO BE CELIBATE FOR MONTHS
Once my friends had done an admiral job of reminding me that that really wasn’t the problem to be focusing on right now, I got out of bed.
Activity 1 – Do a puzzle
To ease myself into this whole “having fun” business, I decided to start with a simple, low effort one. An early hurdle hit after Irealised that we don’t have any jigsaws at home. Not to be put off by this, I did one online instead. It was okay. Doing it online means that you don’t get the satisfying feeling of the puzzle piece slotting into place, but the website I used did have a snazzy timer feature, which made me a bit more invested.
Activity 2 – Colouring
Technically Wikihow suggested drawing, but being creative still seemed like a bit too much effort and I will defend colouring to the grave. It is one of the most relaxing activities I know – I did it while listening to an audiobook and had a blissful two hours of escapism. You can be as messy or as precise as you want, and you actually get a real sense of achievement once you’ve finished something. There are hundreds of colouring books and pages online if you don’t have one already, any of the ones by Johanna Basford are beautifully detailed, and great if you’re a perfectionist.
Activity 3 – Baking/cooking
Having relaxed myself enough with the colouring, I was feeling brave enough to try some more advanced fun-making methods, and jumped boldly from ‘Playing childish games’ to ‘Having creative fun’.
With concerns about food shortages playing on many people’s minds at the moment, this is also a good way of being creative with the food you have at home. We had some sausage meat left over from Christmas, so I decided to make some sausage rolls. All you really need is sausage meat and puff pastry (if you’re feeling bake-off fancy you can use an egg to glaze them). Puff pastry can be bought very cheaply, or alternatively you can make it using flour, salt, butter, lemon juice, and iced water. Being both lazy and an inexperienced baker, I just used some pre-bought stuff we had in the freezer.
Again, like the colouring, baking (or assembling’, as a more apt description) completely occupied my mind. For a good hour, I didn’t think once about what was going on in the outside world. I felt less anxious, and creating something felt like I had done something positive, rather than just mope around all day.
Activity 4 – Build a fort
I had secretly been dreading this one. As a clumsy, impractical Engling, devoid of help from her Engineering friends, this seemed like a recipe for disaster. After a quick bit of useless online research, I tentatively started on my blanket fort. It turned out that the online recommendation of holding the blanket in place with heavy books didn’t work in the slightest, and I spent a good 30 minutes trying and failing to suspend it from the top of my wardrobe. In the end I used drawing pins instead, not great for the plaster, but by this point I was too frustrated to give the walls much thought.
The satisfaction once my fort was fully constructed was immense! I felt untouchable, unbeatable. I boastfully sent pictures of my creation to all my friends, my ego only slightly bruised when they didn’t seem that impressed. I would highly recommend this as an activity! It took a bit of time, but once it was done, sitting in my little fort actually felt so nice. Don’t listen to people who say this is just for kids, fort building is something that can be enjoyed by ALL. I intend to keep mine up as long as possible, a little sanctuary for the upcoming months.
Activity 5 – Gardening
Mum was extremely excited to put me to work on this one. I was a bit more dubious. In my mind, ~fun~ gardening happens in the sun – for context, I live in Wales, a country that the sun has a vendetta against. Regardless, however, I donned my coat and wellies for some simple lettuce seed planting with my mum. As expected, it was ABSOLUTELY FREEZING. The type of cold that you can bare if you’re constantly moving, but that doesn’t lend itself to gentle gardening. Sorry Wikihow, maybe I’ll try again nearer the summer?
As I failed at the gardening, here’s a picture of me with my dog instead:
Activity 6 – Board Games
The fun was not yet over. After dinner it was time for some good ‘ole family board games. After a brief argument over what game we were going to play (Yatzee or Uno?), we got stuck in. Provided that your family aren’t too competitive, board games are the perfect way to relax after dinner and have some lighthearted fun. Unfortunately, my family is *quite* competitive, so there’s always the risk of things getting just a little bit too serious.
Activity 7 – Relaxing at home
After such a full and intense day of fun, I decided to try out a few of their recommendations from category number 3: ‘Relaxing at home’. Despite the fact that I had spent most of the past week in various states of horizontal ‘relaxation’ (or ‘napping’ as it’s more commonly known), I was ready for a bit more. Per wikiHow’s behest I ran a hot bath, lit a load of candles (burning myself in the process), and slathered a face mask on. To complete the atmosphere of sheer relaxation, I put on a calming podcast – I would highly recommend Fearne Cotton’s ‘Happy Place’.
Verdict – 5/5
For the first time that week I went to bed feeling not only relaxed, but also content. I’d had a full day of doing things and I felt GOOD. There’s nothing worse than going to sleep after a whole day of moping around waiting for bed, only to wake up and do exactly the same thing again.
There was no putting it off any longer. It was finally time for category number 5: ‘Learning for fun’. On closer inspection, it seems that wikiHow has a very loose definition of ‘learning’, as two of their suggestions,”surfing the internet” and “watching YouTube”, are basically what I do to avoid learning.
Activity 8 – Watch a TED Talk
Determined to give this illusive, fun type of learning a go, and knowing that in good conscience, online shopping and dog videos don’t count, I went with their fourth option. There are loads of TED Talks on YouTube to choose from, and I chose Bill Gates’s somewhat prophetic ‘The next outbreak? We’re not ready’, published four years ago. If you’re looking for something a little bit more uplifting, I also spotted one called ‘How to be happy every day: it will change the world’. While watching these didn’t give me the kind of escapism that the activities of the past two days had, I’d still recommend it. Again I felt good afterwards, because engaging my brain and learning something new (even though it had nothing to do with my degree) felt like doing something productive.
Verdict – 4/5
Activity 9 – Dancing
For activity 9 it was time to go back to category number 2: ‘Creative fun’. WikiHow claims that “You don’t need to go to a club. Your kitchen or living room floor can serve as the perfect dance space.” Promises indeed. If this worked, I thought gleefully to myself, I would be hailed as the saviour of students everywhere, offering an alternative to Wednesday Cindies.
As you may have guessed, this did not work.
First of all I refused to use either the kitchen or the living room, knowing that my efforts would be hysterically laughed at by my parents. Secondly, I realised quite quickly after the first few minutes of flailing about in my bedroom that I am the type of person whose dancing ability is completely dependent on the amount of alcohol in their bloodstream. WikiHow also suggests “using props”, but my own two feet were quite enough to contend with.
Verdict – 1/5 unless you’ve got a decent amount of coordination and balance
Activity 10 – Yoga/exercise
Okay, so technically this wasn’t actually on wikiHow’s recommendation list, but I wanted to end on a high! (And unfortunately their most promising category of ‘Creating adventures at home’, is reliant on having nice weather and other people around.)
As suggested by our wonderful welfare officers at Catz, I downloaded the yoga app ‘Down Dog’ which is giving out free memberships to uni students until July 1st. You can completely customise your workout, from choosing which level you want to which part of the body you’d like to focus on – I spent a lovely 30 minutes realising how inflexible I am! On a serious note, yoga is an amazing way to relax the body and the mind, something that we could all do with right now.
Verdict – 4.5/5 (0.5 taken off for the pain factor)
While all these activities may seem simple and obvious, they do actually help to take your mind off of things. Over the past 3 days, I have had fun. While it is not the type of fun that I could be having if I was out and about with friends, it is still something. Since the morning of day 1, I haven’t cried once. I have been busy, and so I have been content. Even if they seem generic, I’ve found that doing simple tasks to occupy yourself and take your mind off of things can really help your mental health.
I hope that you’re all doing okay. Please take care of yourselves over the coming months, and take courage from the fact that we are all in this together.
All image credits to the writer’s mum.