Even as the nation gradually starts to reopen after months of quarantine, COVID-19 is still likely to impact summer activities and entertainment. While the majority of states have lifted shelter-in-place orders on businesses, venues, restaurants and other public areas (with minor restrictions in effect), a report in The Washington Post urges people to be cautious of how soon they return to normal. A “surge of new infections” could break out if the process is rushed too quickly, the article continues.
With that being said, summer will look different this year. Vacations, theme parks, concerts and music festivals are on-hold. Beaches and other outdoor spaces have recently become more accessible, but many still require social distancing. This pandemic is by no means over — but that doesn’t mean it has to ruin your summer. Below are five hobbies to keep you stimulated and entertained, while maintaining a safe, respectful distance from large crowds and vulnerable members of the community. Bonus: some of these hobbies even allow you to bask in all that glorious sunshine you love about the season!
Start Your Own Backyard Garden.
There is something therapeutic about the feel of your hands in the earth as you plant seeds that will become vegetables, fruits and herbs over time. With trips to the grocery store less frequent, more Americans have started to grow their own food in recent months. But it’s not only a trend—your garden is a retreat from the stress and worries of this uncertain time. Whether it’s an outdoor space in the backyard or an indoor enclave on the balcony, a garden calms the mind and body. “Planting a seed with intention or touching the soil can be transformative. Go ahead and get a little dirty,” Suze Yalof Schwartz, founder of Unplug Meditation, adds. Some types of produce to grow in the summer include tomatoes, melons, sweet potatoes, basil, zucchini and cucumbers.
Learn to Play a Musical Instrument.
Have you been wanting to tickle the ivories of that keyboard in the basement or strum a few chords on that hand-me-down guitar? Now is the perfect time to dust off an old instrument, make sure it’s in tune and learn how to play. Research published in the Federal Practitioner Journal has found that playing a musical instrument can reduce anxiety or depression by creating an outlet for emotional release. Even if you’re not the most musical person or you don’t know to read notes, there are a number of free online courses, both to teach the basics and help you advance in your chosen instrument. For example, SkillShare offers classes for the piano, guitar, violin and drums, as well as voice lessons, sound design, music production, beat mixing and composition.
Spend More Time Exploring Nature.
As long as the applicable social distancing measures are taken, there is no reason you can’t still experience the outdoors. If you live in a mountainous region, check out a new trail to hike. If your home is near the water, find a low-traffic area to swim. If there’s a park and nature preserve in your town, explore the scenic views—or maybe even bring a book and picnic lunch to enjoy under the shade of a tree. As the Journal of the American Medical Association points out, increased access to green or blue space (e.g. earth and water) yields numerous health benefits for the mind and body. Nature can have a soothing effect on the nervous system to reduce chronic stress and inflammation, two main causes of disease, while boosting metabolic and immune function.
Get in Touch with Your Artistic Side.
Whether you write a poem, design a vision board, paint a sunset, bake a sourdough loaf or crochet a face mask, channel the artist inside you this summer. As with the other ideas mentioned above (do you sense a recurring theme here yet?), “creativity reduces anxiety, depression and stress, and it can also help you process trauma. Studies have found that writing helps people manage their negative emotions in a productive way, and painting or drawing helps people express trauma or experiences that they find too difficult to put into words,” notes author and entrepreneur Ashley Stahl. If you’re not sure how to release those creative juices, start with a few adult coloring books which you can order on e-commerce sites like Amazon with safe no-contact delivery.
Teach Yourself the Game of Poker.
You can either play online or coordinate a small group of friends to play around your kitchen table, but however you choose to learn, poker is an exciting diversion from all the tension of these past few months. If you are new to poker, don’t feel intimidated—there are many resources available to help you understand the basics of the game such as this article from Global Poker School, for instance. Because success in poker is achieved through a combination of luck and strategy, it does require practice, but that’s alright since free time is not too difficult to find these days. The social aspect of this game, whether on the internet or in person, is also worth noting. After so much isolation over the course of this year, poker can be an excellent tool for reconnection.
What hobbies do you plan on learning this summer? Do any of the options on this list sound enjoyable or interesting to you? Share your ideas, thoughts and feedback in the comment section below!