In the past few years, I’ve found myself exploring more ways to create a greater, safer and, most of all, a healthier place for myself to grow and thrive in. Nothing can shake you better than the moment you become conscious about how every action you do impacts, one way or another, the health of your brain, your mind and your body.
In that line of thought, I let my curiosity and hunger for answers to lead me towards people who could inspire me to enjoy life more, and towards things that could give me a sense of self, a purpose.
Needless to say, technology does have a toll on me, like a full grown millennial. It can be a blessing many times, but it also creates plenty of friction and causes me anxiety. And for someone who works in marketing, it really can be frustrating to be so “connected” every single day. The challenge to find “off-screen time” is real, even when I don’t work, because the habits are already there.
When all you want is to hit pause
As I was journeying through gaining back control over my own creativity, my passions and my personal space, I found yoga, I found writing again, I found a reaaaally amateureque style of painting, I found a pleasure in cleaning up the house, I found more music than ever, but more importantly, I found time, where I could connect better with my inner world.
So if you feel like you’re losing control over your well-being, hear me out. Start believing in healthy boundaries. Like: who has access to your space and time, who and how they can lay their opinions on you, how is your work intervening with your personal world, how much of your “alone time” is actually spent in togetherness with yourself, and so on.
And then, when you’re finally in your zone, there are some really cool activities that might help you unwind and enjoy your present moment, in a conscious, creative and even effective way. Check some ideas below.
1 | Grab a pen and start writing – any form of writing
First off, let me just say this: you don’t need to be “talented” at writing. Everybody can write something – anything. And it’s not even about talent or literary proficiency here. It’s about you putting down on paper the things you observe about yourself, the world, your thoughts, your feelings. Why not even invent things? Characters, situations, worlds, plots and so on.
Either you write in rhymes or not, you can try and learn more about writing poetry. Or maybe if you like building longer phrases and developing more epicly-structured stories, where you drop in some fictional characters, or even real ones that inspire you, give your imagination a chance to explore itself and wander among words and worlds.
Another great way to become more self-conscious and even track your own evolution through time is journaling. Make it a ritual, where you dedicate a few minutes, an hour or more, if you like, of your time to check in with yourself. At the break of day, before you start your daily activities, write down 3-4 things that you have in mind at that moment – how you feel, what do you want to accomplish during the day, what mood do you want to set in etc.
You can also try this practice before bedtime, like a short retrospective over the day that had just passed, with all the highs and lows. It’s pretty therapeutic, believe me. This way, you can observe different patterns, triggers, what stresses you or what calms you, where you put your focus on more.
Anyway, the key here is to simply let yourself play with words, no pressure attached to it, just you, the pen and the paper. That’s all.
2 | Painting
Oh, this one’s really fun. Especially if you have kids, because… do you remember how we used to draw and paint when we were kids? Phuu, it’s the best playtime ever. Brushes or no brushes, putting colors on paper, on fabrics – or, if your walls like it, your walls – can be so satisfying and even meditative.
If you’ve ever been to a modern art museum, you must know by now that anything can turn into SOMETHING. Even a blank canvas with two and a half lines on it. So let your mind explore, let yourself play.
It’s clear not everyone has the same thought process, so you might be a color-fusion kind of person or the kind that paints the same vase of flowers over and over again since kindergarten or you have a more geometric vision, and you must do just that: express every bit of creative feeling that might subside in you and let your hand flow over that canvas.
As long as you don’t overthink it (a.k.a. judge your “painting skills”), this can be a very relaxing process.
3 | Gardening
This one was an important part of my #quarantinelife, which, to be honest, I’m quite proud of. Not too far in the future, I’ll be eating fresh peppers out of my balcony and, oh, if you could taste the fresh mint, rosemary and basil straight out of my urban mini-garden.
Many people have come to this type of activity while stuck at home and, quarantine or not, let me tell you it’s so therapeutic and joyful, you might want to make it a long term household pastime.
While gardening, you can enjoy some nature bathing right at home, breathing in life from the plants you surround yourself with and care for. That’s like constantly feeding yourself with positive energy and calm, for the process of planting flowers or herbs in your garden and diving into every step can be very meditative.
So go plant some flower seeds or your favorite herbs and watch them grow. You can even journal about them and observe their evolution. Not only you can benefit from the fruits, the oxygen or the view of them around the house, but you’ll find great joy in seeing them evolve from day to day.
4 | Redecorating
Spring always inspires me to make changes of scenery here and there, because… well, the association of season and mood is pretty obvious, isn’t it? So let’s just call this “the perfect time to give a new feel to your home”. Maybe change around the placement of certain objects or add a bit of texture to your walls. You know, play a little “interior designer” game. Unless you really are an interior designer and this made you smirk. Or heavily roll your eyes.
Anyway, here are some ideas for a wannabe / self-made interior designer, that just wants to chillax:
- Move some furniture around; a chair, a lamp, turn the sofa to a new angle;
- Add some new plants to your home
- Put some paintings on the walls
- Change the photographs you have framed with new ones
- (re)Paint the walls
- Change the carpets or the curtains
- (This could be a great time for the real interior designers to step in with some other cool tips & tricks on the subject 😀 Thank yaaa!)
Nevertheless, any small change could make your home feel like a new space. So let’s keep playing, folks.
5 | Decluttering & organizing
If you have a drawer, a room or boxes filled with random stuff that you never find a use for or even forgot you own, then that’s the sign you need to declutter and organize your home. Come to think about it, clutter is the main reason for our anxious modern lifestyle. Clutter around the house, on our bookshelves, on our desks, in our drawers, in the fridge, in the pastry cabinet, in our minds etc.
Having a chaotic setting in the spaces we live and work in brings up a huge negative effect over our well-being, causing us anxiety, distraction, frustration, making it really hard for us to relax, to focus when we’re working and even inhibiting our creative drive. That’s even more relevant to those of you who have been working from home during this pandemic and the living & working space are one and the same.
But how do we do this “organizing and decluttering thing” and actually “unwind”?
To some people (the hoarders), cleaning up, decluttering and organizing stuff can be quite stressful, because they feel extremely attached to the things they own, like favorite toys from childhood, clothes they wore on that special occasion, “my lucky (ugly) sweater”, shoes they never get to wear, various sets of plates and glasses they received as a gift, and so on.
So here are some ideas to help you declutter in a relaxing way:
- First of all, start small. Take one thing at a time. Like the kitchen cutlery drawer. Refresh and re-arrange all the knives, spoons, forks. A room is too much to start with? Maybe try the lingerie drawer first. You have too many memorabilia items spread around the house? Collect and filter them by relevance in a small box.
- Don’t buy new things unless they’re really necessary. And if you do buy them, throw some old ones away. Or recycle them.
- When you stop using an item, clean it up if it needs to and put it right back where it belongs, so it doesn’t pile up.
- Start a charity ritual: every month, you get to donate a bag of things that people in need might find more useful. During that period, every time you step into an item that you always push away or that you haven’t used in a long while, you put it in the Donation Bag. At the end of the month, you donate them and make someone happy. And that includes you too.
There are many other tips & tricks to a healthy decluttering & reorganizing process, but let’s just save them for a future article and move on to some other cool and creative ways you can get a good chillout session.
6 | Sewing / knitting
If your grandma was like both my grandmas, sewing and knitting were some of their favorite activities, especially in the winter season. The calmness on their faces, the stories around the fire, in the presence of a new pair of wool socks that were being made, compares to almost nothing in this world. Precious memories.
Imagine just how meditative this actually is. It helps especially if you feel constant distraction at work, for this activity can calm your mind and help you focus better. Plus, at the end of it, you might get a new scarf or a new pair of winter socks.
7 | Singing / Dancing
Pro tip from a vacuum cleaner performer: put some headphones on, play your favorite karaoke music and sing like no neighbours are home. And don’t be afraid you might sound like a broken record.
Sing and dance out loud, really live the melody and just have a good laugh with yourself while you acknowledge you might not win World’s Got Talent, but who the golden-buzz even cares? You’re having the time of your day and just intend to keep it that way. (See? Even rhymes come easy when you write’n’sing. Plus, singing and dancing will release some of those good hormones that make a blast out of an otherwise… regular day.
(for some fun & inspiring singable songs, follow LAUREL on Spotify)
Needless to say, any kind of creative activity you choose to spend your time on, I have only one advice for you: be present. Let other thoughts and worries to slide by and just give your full attention to your craft, whatever form it might come in.
So what is your favorite pastime? Write your thoughts in the comment area below. The more ideas for creative time, the better! 🙂