I’m stuck at home, like most of you, and that’s okay for now.
It’s okay for me, anyway. I’m an introvert, who occasionally likes to be around people.
Social isolation or, better said, physical isolation, is a good “fit” for me. That said, time home alone for me means time to muse about what was, what is, and most importantly, what might be!
That last part—what might be—is intensely interesting to me, and something I love to ponder. In recent days, in my pondering, in my phone conversations with family and friends, and in what I’ve learned through the media, I feel I am going down a promising path:
What might be better, post-coronavirus?
Here’s my first go at visualizing a better world to come, and something I like to call: 50-plus things to do to make the world a better place (instead of being bored sheltering at home).
Please read, try what feels good to you, and pass it along. This is me sharing my delight with you. If you do pass it along, I’d love to hear what has been fun or useful for you. And, if you have other “Make the World a Better Place” ideas, please share them. I hope there’s something fun and growth-oriented here for everyone, and I hope we really are in the midst of creating a better world—one that works for everyone!
Thanks for reading!
1. Play intuition games
You can do this by yourself or as part of a group.
As an individual: each morning write down what you think might happen during the course of the day. Pay attention to your “funny feelings.” See what shows up.
As a group: play “I’m thinking of a number.” Start by holding a single-digit number in your head. Mentally, see it clearly on the screen of your mind. Hold it in your thoughts for a few seconds and then ask the other players to “catch the number” as you mentally toss it to them. This can be played sitting in the same room or from a distance.
You can also try the game, “See the Location.” Put a photo/magazine page of a location in an envelope. Again, concentrate on the image. Allow the “receivers” to draw (pencil and paper) what images flash into their minds. Unmask the photo and note what elements of it the “receivers” caught: a row of pine trees, a two-story home, even a directional line showing the lay of the land.
2. Take online lessons
Learn to play that guitar, harmonica, or trombone you’ve always wanted to play. Or, learn to operate your sewing machine, make sourdough starter, or…
3. Plan/plant your garden
What veggies, flowers, trees, or bushes do you want to grow? Can you order seeds or plants online? Draw up your garden plan and think about what seeds you already own (popcorn kernels, dry beans, cumin seed, sprouting potatoes, onions, garlic). Try planting what you have on hand. Seed packets from earlier years will still grow, but will have lower rates of germination.
4. Deep clean
Pick a location: under the kitty litter box, your child’s toy shelf, or one of your “junk drawers.” You don’t have to start with the basement or a huge project. Tackling a small area will feel motivating. Start anywhere.
5. Adjust your attitude
Look at extended isolation through the lens of “What Good Might Come.” Keep those “what good” thoughts in the forefront of your mind. Look daily for evidence that the good is showing up. Create the good options into being in whatever ways intrigue you, in whatever ways touch your heart or excite your passions. If you are a praying person, pray for that “good” to come.
6. Take a walk out in nature
Notice what’s new in your neighborhood and in your yard (what green shoots are poking up after a winter’s rest). Pick up litter as you walk. Pay attention to one of your senses while you walk: sight, hearing, smell, touch, even taste? Perhaps your sixth sense will kick in, too?
7. Practice drawing
Set up your own “still life” with anything that you have laying around (keys, iPhone, curvy vase, fruit—anything that calls to you). Grab a pencil and some copy paper. Don’t draw the objects, but draw the shapes that you see in their outlines.
8. Read a special book
Your “beach read,” the one you’ve been saving for vacation—read it now. Perhaps, by the time your real vacation comes around, you’ll be on the beach and reading its sequel.
9. Make TV time special
Plan ahead to watch the news show you like and trust most. Binge-watch a TV series, or try one episode per night. Pop fresh popcorn and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and a generous sprinkle (a lot!) of nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is delicious, has an addictive cheesy flavor, and is chock-full of B vitamins! Make TV watching a special treat rather than a lifestyle.
10. Cook something wonderful
Make a pizza from scratch with your own homemade yeast dough, homemade sauce, and all your favorite toppings! Bake cookies, learn to soak and sprout mung beans for salads, make your own yogurt. You have time. Try cooking whatever has been calling you.
11. Set up a tournament
Don’t just play games, but make up a tourney schedule with prizes for the winners (from your cleaned-out junk drawer!). Games can be played online (chess), at home with family, or in the backyard (a low-contact game like croquet-at-a distance could be a safe way to include the neighbors). Don’t forget to set up a jig-saw puzzle for a fun, on-going challenge. How about an online trivia night?
12. Build a compost bin
Use two-by-fours and some screening material for three sides and a top. Perhaps a sliding front door to keep out critters? Look up plans online to help you keep your yard waste out of the landfill! Give your kitchen scraps a new life while also enriching your soil. Find some bird-house plans too, while you’re at it, which can be made with scrap materials and empty cans of paint.
13. Give your house plants some love
Trim out dead leaves. Rinse dust off leaves under gently running water or wipe leaves with a damp cloth. A warm, sunny day is great for taking root-bound plants outside and re-potting them into larger containers. Perhaps some of your plants—ivies, spider plants, wandering jews—can be rooted in water or soil to start new plants. Look online to learn the right technique for propagating each type of plant.
14. Sew creative
Get out your sewing machine and leftover fabrics (cotton or cotton/poly blend) and make napkins. Create beautiful table decor, and waste fewer trees!
15. Spring painting
When it’s warm enough to have windows open, it’s perfect weather for house-painting. A new refreshed kitchen or bathroom awaits. Painting a room is the easiest way to get a new look.
16. Start a “Honey-Do” list
List small home repairs that you already know how to do (or perhaps, repairs that you can read up on or that you can do with the assistance of a YouTube video). Try the repair you find most interesting first. It will get done well and fill you with confidence to tackle another.
17. Send “Encouragement Letters”
This is also called “holding up the mirror” for another so they see themselves as you see them. Imagine if you knew you would never see a favorite person again. Wouldn’t you want them to know the feelings of high esteem you have for them, for their dedication, their creativity, their deep kindness, their gifts of any kind?
You can share those feelings now, in a letter, and watch the person blossom as a result of seeing themselves through your eyes, as the amazing person you see them to be. Write your feelings in a letter, rather than sending an email or having a conversation. With a letter, the person will be able to hold it close and read it over again and again until they truly take in your words.
Say all that you think is special and wonderful, all the traits you admire in them, all that they are now, and all they are growing to become. Say every positive thing you can think of, with one qualifier: Don’t offer “half compliments,” like “You’d be so special if only you would____.” What you are sharing here is the positive qualities you do see in this person, so they can see themselves through your lens. This is powerful! So send that letter, and make a deep and positive difference in someone’s life!
18. General yard work/play
Springtime is prep-time. Rake up any remaining fall leaves, trim away old stalks (check first though, as some plants have flowers or fruits that grow on the old growth, like hydrangeas and some berries). Generally, spring is the time to clean dead plant material out of existing garden beds, to let perennial plants have space to grow (watch them emerging and unfurling), and to plant seeds everywhere else.
19. Take up journaling
It’s a great habit! Write 15 minutes per day to begin, and work up to three hand-written pages of your thoughts. You are not writing the Great American Novel. This is a daily “download” of whatever comes to mind. Even if you have no desire to become a writer, a daily download journal will enhance your creativity, awaken your self-awareness, and strengthen your self-confidence.
Here are some journal “prompts” to start with: “My earliest memories are_____;” “My most joy-filled day would include____;” and my all-time favorite: “If time and money were not problems, what would I choose to do, to be, to create?” Feel free to sub “good health” or “attitude” or whatever “problem” keeps you from doing, being, and creating to your fullest.
20. Plan for a neighborhood garden share
If I am excited to plant a yard full of pumpkins, and I have neighbors who are equally excited to grow tomatoes or zucchinis or flowers, or to raise chickens for fresh eggs, and we all choose to share our bounty (from our fruit and nut trees, too), then we will all enjoy and all have plenty. Print up flyers and put them in your neighbors’ doors (with your address, phone number, and email for contacting you back). Neighborhood organizing at its finest!
21. Home treasure hunt
Look through your home and note what you have that you no longer want or need, that you know your friend or neighbor or co-worker would love. Pull that item out, put the person’s name on it (or, gift-wrap it if you’d like), and save it to give to them, with love. This could include such “treasures” as special dishes, jewelry, family heirlooms, cuttings/starts of plants, bottles of wine, special vinegar, or other pantry items, garden bounty, clothing, accessories, or books.
22. Teach (or attend) “Fun School”
What has your child, grandchild, or your neighbor’s kid always wanted to learn about? Can you help them do that learning? What books, background knowledge, hands-on expertise do you have? Can you help guide the child’s online research? Can you create or play games that teach about that topic or that explain the basic principles of that subject?
23. Try meditation
Find an online, guided meditation to listen to—one that “feels right” to you, and try it. Close your eyes. Follow the narrator’s directions in your mind. Usually, there’s a story line and some interesting “gifts” that come. Or, learn to meditate quietly on your own.
Meditation can be as easy as sitting still, eyes closed, breathing deeply and slowly, and allowing your mind to become a blank slate. Enclose any thoughts that do show up in a “word balloon” and allow them to float away. Interesting bits of information may show up in your quieted mind, or you may simply end up feeling refreshed and rested. If you’d like, play meditative background music, or set a timer for 5-15 minutes to signal the end of your session.
24. Move 20 things
This is a Feng Shui “cure” for removing stuck energy. Try out new furniture arrangements, move your art or accessories around. Group things for maximum (fun) impact by theme, or color, or just because you like them together. Sorting through piles of paper and recycling what you no longer need counts, too! So does rearranging cabinets and drawers. Good stuff!
25. Bake something that smells divine
Cinnamon, lemon, yeast, almond, chocolate, raspberries—pick a smell and fill your home with its lusciousness. Enjoy the taste, too!
26. Try-Something-New Day
When you’re home for an extended time, with no regularly-occurring breaks in routine (work week vs. weekend, school vs. Sunday School, daily schedule vs. vacation schedule) there are no built-in markers to show the passage of time. Each day blends into the next. What if you create your own days of the week to creatively mark time? Here are some examples. Feel free to create your own.
Sunday: literally a day to be out in the sunshine.
Monday (from Moon’s Day): a day to focus on the night sky, to study astronomy or astrology, and to spend time after dark observing the night sky. Here’s to telescope time!
Tuesday (now Twos-Day): a day to place focus on pairs—two-egg omelets, card games where twos are wild cards, pairs of shoes (time to polish them). Keep going and find your own double-ideas.
Wednesday (or Why Not Day? Also known as “Try-Something-New Day”): try a new recipe, read a new blog, take up a new hobby, or whatever calls to you.
Thursday (Chores Day): a day for dusting, sweeping, washing clothes, and picking up, in general.
Friday (Fried Foods Day): what can’t be made tastier by deep-frying? Pan-frying is good, too.
Saturday (a Day to Sit/to Have Sat): a day to do restful activities, like read, play board games, chat with friends, whatever calls to you.
27. Play “Restaurant”
Set a special table with tablecloth and cloth napkins, your best dishes, some flowers, candles, and maybe a fruit centerpiece. Have pleasant background music playing and the lighting low (or at a comfortable level for your eyes). Invite your family to dress up and to “dine out,” to appreciate all the special details that make the night unique. Perhaps the food will be a family favorite or something new in flavor? This would be a good night to have a special conversation: about your favorite childhood experiences of restaurants, camps, family get-togethers, performances, or a conversation about what everyone is experiencing in this time of being home together.
28. Touch is so calming
Pet the cat or dog. Pat your child’s back, or give your spouse a neck or hand massage. How about doing manicures and pedicures?
29. Campfire night
Tell a “round-robin” story while sitting around the fire pit (the fireplace, a campfire, or sitting inside with some candles lit). Sit in a circle. One person begins a made-up story, tells it for a bit, then, at an exciting point, they “throw” the story to the person seated to their left. The story can even be “thrown” mid-sentence for effect! The person to the left must “pick up” the story where it was left off and keep it going until they are ready to pass it to their left-hand neighbor. The story will circle around until it comes to its logical (and often hilarious) conclusion. Don’t forget the toasted marshmallows!
30. Write your elected officials
Tell them what’s on your mind—and be specific about how they can best represent you. Email and phone calls are great, too.
31. Sort through family photos
Figure out who everyone in the photos are and write names, dates, places on the back of the photo in indelible ink (non-fading, non-transferable). Make sure your pen is a soft-tip and not a ball-point pen. A ball-point or a pencil will damage your photos, embossing your written lines through to the front of the photo.
Are there some photos you’d like to frame and display? Ready-made frames are fine except, don’t allow old photos to directly touch the glass. With old photos, the photo emulsion can become stuck to the glass, ruining the photo. For old photos, have a mat separating the photo from the glass. How about creating some scrapbooks for you or someone else?
32. Energizing family meeting
Brainstorm some family goals and desires for this period. Here’s how: the official family note-taker will write all the ideas everyone comes up with—no matter how silly they might sound—for a set period of time (5 -15 minutes). Then look back through the ideas, searching for patterns (showing what everyone is gravitating toward), and look back at any of the “silly” ideas to see if they might contain the kernel of a great idea, a viable direction, or a surprise everyone loves. Make some family plans based on the ideas that excite everyone most.
33. Tell your story
Share with your loved ones about your childhood, about times you felt vulnerable, afraid, or in any way “othered.” Let them share their “other” stories with you, too. We all have felt this way at points in our lives. Share your stories with close friends and with your significant other. Share your stories of life’s exciting surprises, life lessons, or deep gratitude. Be sure to tell your gratitude stories to those who caused you to feel that gratitude!
Also, you can write a story from your life (this one is better done in writing, rather than by telling). Write about a time you felt victimized. Now, write the same “story” again, but this time from the perspective of what you eventually learned and gained from the experience, writing from the perspective of you as the hero or the winner in the story.
34. Check in
Whether in-person with those in your home, by phone, over Skype, or by leaving notes in your neighbor’s mailbox, see how others are faring, if they have needs you can help with. Most important of all, be the connection that keeps someone from feeling isolated, alone, unimportant, or unloved.
35. Be vulnerable
Share—with someone close, or with someone who could become close, or with a caring person—your worries in this time of pandemic. Feel lovingly heard. Return the favor and hear their worries. You may or may not be able to quell one another’s fears, but you will be sharing your vulnerabilities. You will feel a bond of closeness. You will feel supported, as will the other person: a win/win!
Check out Brené Brown’s TED Talk on vulnerability. This is the thought process that will get us through tough times together, holding one another’s hands (metaphorically speaking anyway).
And here are some vulnerability questions for deepening a love relationship.
36. Backyard camping
Tents, sleeping bags, a campfire in the firepit, roasting hotdogs and marshmallows, and telling age-appropriate ghost stories. Look up at the night sky and enjoy the stars. Listen for “critter sounds.” Get the whole neighborhood in on it by asking that all outdoor lighting be turned off so you can all see more stars.
37. Gather nature “stuff” and make art
Glue acorn caps, seed pods, sweet gum balls, leaves, small stones, or twigs onto a heavy paper, or cardboard, or onto a stretched canvas. Make a pretty design/pattern with your nature “loot.” And after the glue is dry, add touches of paint (metallics! brights!), title and sign your art. Hang and enjoy!
38. Create your own photo gallery
Get out your camera or phone and hunt through your house, your yard, or from your windows for interesting shots. Print up your favorites and display them—a gallery wall of your photo art. Look online at the work of famous photographers if you want inspiration.
39. Stamp-printed design
Cut shapes from sponges, carve a design into a potato half, or an eraser. Simple designs are good for this project. Using ink or liquid acrylic paint, stamp and print your shape, repeating it over and over, to create a pattern. Or, alternate print two stamps and watch that surprise pattern emerge. You can print on paper or cloth (to make a wall hanging).
40. Create a movie
Write your “script,” assign parts, create costumes, rehearse, and begin filming. This will become a fun reminder of a very strange time in history.
41. Take a sunbath
Sit comfortably in the warm sun (for a short period only if the sun is very hot or bright). Close your eyes. Focus on relaxing and allowing healing solar rays to cleanse your body. Visualize the sunlight melting away anything that does not support your highest health. See the Vitamin D you are absorbing strengthening your bones, reducing the risk of certain cancers, and more. Here are some other potential health benefits of Vitamin D.
42. Join up
Find an organization (online, in the mail, on the radio, from a magazine) that calls to you. Research what they do, and join. Find your special way to make a difference through this organization.
Cats, kittens, dogs, and puppies are all in need of good homes. Shelters are full, and in many, the volunteer staff is not being allowed in to help with the animal’s care for a time. Take an animal into your home to shelter them for this time, or perhaps, to adopt in the future.
44. Virtual happy hour
Or virtual coffee meeting. Or virtual lunch with friends. You get the idea. Be together in your usual ways, just from a distance, courtesy of the technology you have available (phone, Skype, or FaceTime).
45. Interviews for posterity
Call the grandparents, or the aunties and uncles (your beloved elder generation). Write out interview questions, ask and record the answers (with permission, of course). Be the “reporter.” Ask them about their childhood, their own parents and grandparents, their favorite classes in school (and why those were their favorites). Ask what they did on summer vacation. Were they in the military, where did they serve and what did they experience? Ask about their spouse and how they met and fell in love. Ask all the questions on your list, as well as the questions that pop into your mind as you are conversing. If you have permission, share the interview with your extended family.
46. Write and record a song
Write your lyrics, create your melody, assign everyone an instrument or a singing part, then rehearse and record. You could become a YouTube sensation! Plus, it’s a fun reminder of strange (and, in some ways, pleasant) times.
47. Research local history
Find out who settled the area where you now live. Did any historic events take place there? Battles? Underground railroad stops? Did any famous people live in your area? What was on the land before homes were built on it? Was it farmland? An orchard? A burial ground? Landfill? Native American settlements?
48. Take a relaxing tub bath
A warm-to-hot soak with some scented bath salts and soft music could lead to your troubles melting away. With your eyes closed, make your mind a blank screen. See if any new, interesting thoughts come to the very relaxed you.
49. Dance marathon
Spin your favorite records, queue up some bouncy YouTube videos, turn on your favorite radio station, or tell Siri what you’re looking for. Clear some floor space and jitterbug, twist, tap, can-can—make whatever moves you feel like busting. Here’s one that will get your heart pumping!
50. Become a radio historian
Listen to a new-to-you local radio station: National Public Radio (NPR), a community-supported radio station, a local college’s station, or an “underground” station.
There were plenty of comedy programs, too: “Fibber Magee and Molly,” “The Jack Benny Show,” and more.
51. Write/draw your own comic strip or comic book
It could be called: Life in the Age of Coronavirus. It could be written from your own perspective or from someone else’s: from an older or a younger person, from the perspective of your pet dog or cat, from the point of view of a past or future person, from a Divine perspective, even from the perspective of a body part, like your hand or your face. Any perspective will do. What other perspectives sound interesting to you? When deciding on the perspective you will use, consider that perhaps some are a better fit for a funny script and some for a more serious story.
52. Begin a new and perfect-for-you exercise regimen
Look at books, websites, or magazines, and decide which type of exercise feels like a good “fit” for you: belly dance is great fun, or yoga, Tai Chi, or calisthenics of any kind. Here are some exercise links to peruse from The Guardian and the XBX Plan.
53. Find a “chill out” space
Test out various spaces in or near your home: a room where you can look out a window with a tree, squirrel, or bird view; a cozy sofa with just the right light for reading; a porch swing where you can sit and chat with your neighbors as they dog-walk by; or a backyard hammock. Do you have a special-to-you room for sewing or crafting, a garage or work space, a sports-themed “man-cave,” a pretty bathroom with a soaking tub? Keep your “chill-out” space firmly in mind for the new version of rest and relaxation: the home-front getaway.
Is there a group you can make sandwich lunches for? Or a pot of soup? Ask if your neighbor needs milk or eggs when you are going grocery shopping. Are there deliveries your church or another organization needs made? Meals on Wheels, for example. Could you make check-in phone calls? How can you be of help? What ways are best suited to your temperament? For example: extroverts can make those phone calls and deliveries, as they are connection opportunities. Introverts: make those sandwiches, pick up those extra grocery items, drop them at the neighbor’s doorstep, ring the bell, wave, and smile. There are many ways to be of service. Why not do those that suit you?
55. Take a literary getaway
Read a travel novel or memoir, a mystery set in another part of the world. Be somewhere else (inside your mind).
56. Keep your sense of humor handy
Keep it conveniently stored in your pocket along with your fresh Kleenex! Make sure to smile (smiles can easily be seen at a distance of six feet or more).
Note all there is to laugh about: the restaurants that were offering free toilet paper as an incentive to purchase a carry-out meal from them. Consider my dad’s old line for that scary situation when the family toilet paper supply was almost gone: “You mean to tell me we’re all wiped out?!”
What other funny stories are you hearing during life in the time of coronavirus? Keep mental notes and be sure to share the jokes with grocery clerks, delivery folks, your mail carrier. Imagine the funny stories we’ll tell when we look back at this time from the future: how we actually did do spring cleaning, or how low our water bill became after the leaky faucet was finally repaired. We’ll tell stories of reconnecting with old friends and learning to bake sourdough bread.
Perhaps this sheltering-at-home will turn out to have been a great opportunity to make needed life changes? Perhaps, we will come to see coronavirus as God’s way of saying, “Learn to treat one another as you would be treated.” Perhaps, God’s sense of humor tends toward the “funny-ugh,” rather than the “funny-haha.”