We know this is a challenging time for everyone and especially for students. It is not easy to be cheery after the zillionth Zoom call or when the weather is rubbish. But ‘it is always the darkest before dawn’ as they say and we have collected 10 great ways you can keep motivated and lift your spirits in the meantime.

1) Get creative with your daily walks

Do you feel like the novelty of your daily stroll has worn off? There are plenty of ways you can mix it up and get the most out of your daily steps. Give yourself a mini-mission with a different focus each time, like finding the coolest looking doors or manhole covers in your neighbourhood. If you are always taking the same old route, you could try getting lost on purpose and discover hidden treasures. Since you don’t need to rush on your daily commute to uni, you can use the extra time to get clued up on the local flora and fauna by using plant identification apps like PictureThis or identify birds by their songs using BirdNET.

Tracking your walks with fitness apps can help you find support and motivation from others or you can find new walks and places of interest based on your location with GoJauntly.

2) Jazz up your notes

Have you ever experimented with journaling? Yep, the secret diary you have kept in high school definitely counts. You may see it as silly looking back, but journaling can actually help you gain perspective and deepen self-awareness. The act of moving your pen across the paper can become quite meditative. There are many ways you can go about journaling: write about what happened in a day, try gratitude journaling or be more illustrative with your style. A cut-and-paste approach is a fun way of using tickets, magazines and other ‘scrap’ materials that would otherwise go in your bin.

From street signs to chalkboard menus to national ad campaigns, you can discover hand lettering everywhere, mastering drawing letters can help you spice up your lecture notes and score some admiring looks from your classmates. 

If you don’t have your way with words, pens and pencils, you can still create a simple a weekly schedule to keep you on track.

3) Learn something new

Loved ‘The Queen’s Gambit’? You don’t have to be a wunderkind to learn chess online for free. Learning chess helps to develop thinking skills, enhances mental prowess and directly contributes to academic performance in a variety of ways.

While we spend all day working or studying on our laptops, does it matter how we type? Yes. Touch typing allows us to write without thinking about how we are writing, freeing us to focus on what we are writing, on our ideas. Did you know that you can save up to 30% of your time, just by typing correctly? Pretty amazing. You can learn touch typing for free on Typing Club or Typing.com and it only takes an average 9 weeks for you to become a pro.

4) Get green fingered

You need plants in your life! Indoor plants don’t just look good – they can make us feel good, too. Studies have shown indoor plants boost your mood, productivity and help clean indoor air by increasing humidity & producing oxygen. If you are not particularly green fingered, you can start with succulents or (almost…) ‘unkillable’ plants like zamioculcas, a devil’s ivy or a snake plant and move onto more finicky ones such as herbs or building your own terrarium. There are plenty of places where you can order plants or subscribe to monthly plant box if you are up for a surprise. Caring for your plants is like a mini retreat for the mind, and it works every time.

Photo by Katya Austin on Unsplash

5) Try a new recipe

Having to do more cooking from home means many of us could do with a bit of cooking inspiration. Maybe you’re already the Jamie Oliver of your halls, or maybe you set off the fire alarm cooking pasta. Either way, this is the perfect time to expand your repertoire of meals (even if most ingredients come from a tin). Check out Jack Monroe’s website Cooking on a bootstrap for great, budget friendly bites or browse the BBC Good Food Healthy Comfort Food collection to find nutritious and delicious feel-good recipe ideas.

6) Add background ‘noise’

Lockdown has definitely made the world a less noisy, but our newfound quiet can also have an isolating effect. When doing routine or creative studying, low chatter and noise (such as the ambient noise at a coffee shop or in the student union) may be ideal for creative thinking. You can recreate soundscapes by using websites like Noises.Online where you can pick and mix ambient sounds to your heart’s content.

It isn’t impossible to imagine that classical music can be good for the soul, but good for your health? Studies have shown that listening to classical music has numerous positive health benefits, from reducing blood pressure and relieving pain to reducing your stress levels. Hop onto Spotify to find playlists and if classical isn’t your thing, you can try jazz or other chill genres instead.

7) Visit a virtual museum

Tired of binging on Netflix shows and looking for something more ‘cultured’? Thanks to Google Arts & Culture and other applications you can explore famous artworks in high-definition, museums street views, artist studios and landmarks with a few clicks.

Discover the British Museum’s collection through time, continents and cultures featuring fascinating objects in human history via an interactive experience.

From the diplodocus to the dodo, botany to butterflies, giant crystals to specimens in jars … the Natural History Museum’s vast collection in an interactive experience, Making Natural History, voiced by Museum researchers and curators.

8) Find your Zen

If you’re feeling anxious these days due to lockdown, you’re not alone. We are all facing more stress and uncertainty than usual. The good news is that practicing any form meditation, mindfulness or yoga of should put you on the right path to enjoy a less stressful lockdown and some serenity during these strange times.

Why not try Headspace for yourself and learn the essentials of meditation and mindfulness with our their free Basics course.  If you have trouble sleeping, the Calm app offers guided meditations and celebrity-narrated ‘sleep stories’, with calming tales from the likes Harry Styles, and actors Idris Elba & Cillian Murphy.

The UAL Social Programme Yoga sessions are now being livestreamed every Friday morning 9:00-10:00 am and you can book your free ticket on Eventbrite in advance.

9) Pay it forward: volunteer remotely

The lockdown has made many of us feeling a bit restless and cut off from the rest of society. A great way to reconnect and spend our time indoors more productively is to remotely volunteer. Studies have shown that when our mind is in a caring, compassionate state we tend to release more oxytocin, the ‘feel-good hormone’, which helps us bond with people.

Reading charity Bookmark allows volunteers to book flexible 30-minute virtual reading sessions with children who have no access to books, and help them to succeed in school, while with the NHS Volunteer Responder GoodSam app, you could provide simple yet vital phone support to people who may be at heightened risk of loneliness as a Check In and Chat Volunteer, It’s a role of particular importance at this time, while many people stay at home.

10) Get social with games

You haven’t got anything to do this Saturday? Organise a games night! The common room is still open for you before the 10 pm curfew for groups up to 20 people if you wear a mask and keep a distance. Cards Against Humanity now allows you to download and print the whole deck. If you prefer to not to mix or play with friends you don’t live with, there’s a wide range of online games websites and apps you can try out too. AirConsole is a super fun website that turns your browser into a game console and your phone into a gamepad using a code you and your friends can enter. 

The popular game, Among Us is an excellent way to have a laugh with friends online. Available on PCs and smartphones, it is essentially a social deduction game where most players take on the role of crewmates, completing tasks on a spaceship or base, while there are up to 3 impostors aboard with the main goal of sabotaging the ship and killing off crewmates. You can create a game and ask your friends to join the match using a code.