What Do We Do With All This Free Time?

A blessing and a curse. I think of all the times I've heard people use time as an excuse not to get something done at home.  Now if you're one of the many living in quarantine, you have nothing but time on your hands.  This is a great opportunity. Embrace it. And feel no guilt about all the things you do for yourself.  Energize yourself with long naps. Stay in your pajamas all day. Binge watch Netflix shows you've been adding to the queue. This is the perfect time.  When this is finally over, which could be months from now, you'll have new ideas about things.

Sarah ban Breathnach shared in her book, Simple Abundance, the following entry on March 21. (This is a great book by the way. It will definitely move you to feel better about yourself and the world we live in).
For most of us, doing too much feels normal. In any 24 hour period, we're constantly pulled in a dozen differnt directions- work, children, personal relationships, chores, errands, friends, family, finances, promises to others, health concern, deadlines, and our own unfulfilled dreams and desires- which leaves little time for reflection, renewal, and recreation, the holy trinity of balance. Lets start thinking of them as rites of passage to contentment. ...One of the more delightful ways to find balance is to realize that not everything that needs doing has to be done today. 

On my office wall, I have this poster, created by Karen Horneffer- Ginter for a Huffington Post piece in 2012. She created it to remind herself and others to take a break.  As I look at it daily, I am reminded to use my energy positively. Maybe it will inspire you too. Most of these are self explanatory, but I thought I'd dive deep into some of these things, because we all have a long break ahead. Well, except for all the people working in necessary jobs like healthcare, transportation, groceries, etc. And they definitely deserve thanks for what they are doing.

1. Learn Something New

Ivy League universities and other organizations are currently offering free classes. Here's a round-up of 28 courses put together by Parade.
Coursera is offering a course about the COVID-19 which starts tomorrow.
Some chefs have gone to instagram to offer live cooking demos.

2. Meditate

For a beginner, check out Deepak Chopra on YouTube.
Sadhguru is an Indian who does live chanting with meditation and hopeful messages.
More about the different ways to meditate at Mindful.
I stayed at an ashram in Trivandrum India and learned from a yogi

3 Read a Book

Celebrities have offered free storytelling times. You can find out about these and other online resources in this USA TODAY post.
You may have a little free library in your neighborhood.  To find them, put "little free library" in Google Maps or go to Little Free Library. You can drop off books to share with others while you pick up something new to read.  All types of books and DVDs are welcome.
Omar at our front yard little free library a few years ago

4. Write in a Journal

Even Oprah writes in a gratitude journal and confesses it has changed her life. All you need is a notebook, though you can buy a fancy journal and some gel pens if you feel the urge.  If you're not sure what to write about, list 5 things every day you are grateful for.
To help you go further, look for journal prompts online.  Many people have lists if you just google them.  Writing things down helps to process emotions and can get you further in projects you've wanted to tackle for a long time.

Some journaling prompts to get you started

5. Color with Crayons (or gel pens)

Why let kids have all the fun? You can color alone or with your family.  When I spent a summer in Ethiopia a few years ago, I believe coloring saved my sanity. Don't have a coloring book on hand? Download coloring pages for adults. You can also doodle or create mandalas.
Adult coloring can be very calming

6. Make Some Music

It's just enough to get out an instrument you already know how to play and make your own music. If you want to try something new, try Garage Band or Groove Box.
Udemy has a 21 day free course to help you play the guitar.
There are YouTube videos available for many other instruments, so just browse online to try something new.
You can also sing. I have fond memories of my mom singing. She would put on records from musicals like Carousel, My Fair Lady, and Oklahoma,  and sing all the time. You're not only feeding your energy, you're making memories with your family and friends.  Feeling confident? Share your musical gift with others on YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook.
The whole family can join in

7. Do Some Gentle Stretches

We all need to stretch EVERY DAY. I do a program called Classical Stretch, which is a combination of yoga, tai chi and gentle stretching. If you have a local PBS station, you'll probably find it there for free.  If not, you can purchase a membership for online access or buy DVDs.
Maybe you have a yoga app already. If not, here is a comparison of what's out there.
Want some ideas for stretches?Here's a short free YouTube session from Heather Robinson that I do when I'm traveling.  It will make you feel great in just 10 minutes.

8. Read Poetry/Write a Quick Poem

If you need inspiration or want to take poetry writing deeper, check out these free courses online. Or even more at Class Central with a diverse offering including Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
I wrote a couple Haiku books to go along with photos I had taken. Maybe you can find inspiration in your photos and do the same. Haikus are easy to write...basic 5-7-5 syllables in 3 lines.

9. Dance 

Turn up your tunes and move! It's that simple to get the blood pumping and lift your spirits.  Now that you have time, you could also learn some new moves from YouTubers. Just the other day, we put on Singin' in the Rain and my son learned to dance with Gene Kelly, so don't overlook the value of old musicals. Michael Jackson is also a favorite of my son. Can you moonwalk? This might be a good time to learn!

10. Engage in Small Acts of Kindness

This is harder to do in isolation so think outside the box. Pay for another person as you go through a drive thru. Ask your neighbor if they need something from the grocery store. Share those paint masks from your basement with health care workers. Write a letter to someone you appreciate. Buy gift cards from local businesses that have closed their doors but sell online. Here's a good kindness blog post to inspire you.

11. Read or Watch Something Funny

Barnes & Noble shares their list of Funniest Books Ever Written.
NPR has 100 Funny Books by readers. There is some overlap. What would you recommend? Leave it in the comments.

My son loves to watch America's Funniest Home Videos. He longs for an opportunity to make a winning video some day. We have often been known to go crazy watching funny cat/dog videos on YouTube.
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee at Netflix is fun, or check out the Carpool Karaoke playlist at YouTube.
Here's a list of 25 best comedies- how many of these films have you seen?

12. View Some Art

You can pretend to fly to some lovely city and avoid standing in line. All for free.  Travel & Leisure shares 12 Museums to visit virtually, with links. Or check out Google Arts & Culture Collection- so many great spaces to enjoy.
Some of the art at NYC Metro Museum of Art

13. Create Your Own Coffee Break

Are you missing your Starbucks? I certainly miss our favorite baristas, but I am learning to make our favorite drinks at home using Chowhound- complete with photos and recipes. And with Taste of Home, we are making our own fancy sandwiches and tea pastries.  Yumm.  Help me with the weight gain!!
Try a new recipe!

14. Call a Friend

Even with family living in the same city, we are unable to see each other in person now, so we've been using Facetime for people close and near. It's been a Godsend. Skype and a regular phone call are easy options. WhatsApp has been great for recording messages for friends living in Ethiopia. I love keeping in touch with our friends. It's the simple gift that gives to both parties. My neighbor has set up weekly Zoom events for our neighborhood.  How clever and easy.  She just e-mails the link and everyone who wants to join can click the link at the scheduled time.

15. Listen to Some Music

You probably already have some good tunes in your phone, but have you checked out Spotify's hilarious CoronaVirus Self Isolation Playlist?
Billboard keeps an updated list of live online performances and where you can find the artists.
NPR is doing the same with some different artists. Not sure how long these specific links will work, so if they aren't working, go directly to Billboard or NPR. Very cool that so many celebs are giving concerts for free.

16. Listen to a Guided Meditation

We listen to Kenneth Soares' bedtime guided meditations at Insight Timer every evening, but he also has a free YouTube channel if you want to subscribe and hear his very soothing voice any time of day.
There are other apps that do the same thing like Calm, Headspace, Aura, and 10% Happier.
Catch a guided meditation at Deepak Choprah's website or download his Daily Breath Podcast.

17. Take Deep Belly Breaths

If you've never done yoga, you probably have no idea just how therapeutic this kind of breathing can be.  I've even seen people set timers on their phones to remind them to do this during the day.  Here's a useful YouTube video that shows what we learned from a yogi in India called Adham Pranayama. The man is shirtless so you can see the ribcage and diaphragm.


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