The Coronavirus pandemic has got us bundled up in our homes tighter than a snowstorm or thunderstorm would have us. Staring at the same walls, the same furniture, and the same people every day can get monotonous and boring. Sure, we can choose to play with our pets with different toys each day or binge-watch a different actor’s movies, but where’s the stimulation? Where’s the brain-prodding that we need to keep our minds healthy, happy, and active? At the beginning of the pandemic, I was struggling with finding ways to keep my brain engaged and attentive. It was too easy to veg out all day in my bed, watching my favorite TV series or watching a certain cinematic universe’s films one after another, only getting up to find food and use the bathroom.

By about the end of May, it dawned on me how destructive this pattern of behavior I had developed was. I was effectively wasting my time away when I could be doing more to keep myself engaged and stay healthy during isolation at home. One of the best resources I found actually came from Chris, my Northern Irish friend, whose own government was creating resources to aid its citizens in promoting mental stimulation. Here’s what they recommended and what I did after reading the list:

Maintaining a Healthy Diet

It wasn’t a surprise to me that maintaining a healthy diet would be a recommendation for good brain health, but what did surprise me was how difficult this was to accomplish. American food is far less healthy than European food due to the FDA’s more relaxed restrictions on certain additives and preservatives that are known to cause cancer and other troublesome long-term issues later in life. Through research, I learned the importance of organic labels and their fight against some of these harmful additives like GMOs.

Armed with this knowledge, I used grocery delivery apps to stay safe and order organic foods and whole fruits and vegetables that I then used in some of my own recipes. Just a simple search engine query can produce results for hundreds of thousands of healthy and delicious recipes using any combination of ingredients you have on hand. Compared to the junk food I was eating earlier in the year I find myself feeling much more full and less snackish during the day thanks to my better habits.

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

Who could’ve guessed this would be on the list as well? Exercise has so, so many amazing benefits to physical and mental health that scoffing at it as a recommendation does far more harm than good. For me, I did my best to walk around lesser-traveled neighborhoods and stay on sidewalks where there was no one else, sometimes crossing the street if needed. Light jogging or walking is all it takes to get the heart pumping and blood flowing and the good benefits rolling.

Another option some of my friends have been taking advantage of is home gym programs! You know, those DVD box set programs that were all the rage a decade ago, where you follow along to someone on screen telling you what to do and how to do it. Browsing Amazon or searching for them from a reputable fitness center company has given them a different style of workout but also a more fun option compared to walking or jogging every day.

Brain Games and Stimulation

This was my favorite category to read when I first read this webpage because of its recommendations. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was likely doing no good for myself by watching TV series and movies and not doing anything of use for my brain, but some of the suggestions were activities I had done before that I didn’t mind restarting. “Stretching” your brain muscles by doing a daily puzzle (like crosswords or solitaire) or playing games like chess or strategy computer games that get you thinking help keep your mind moving and active. In addition, making sure you’re being social as much as possible will help you feel less lonely, especially if you’re able to voice or video call with friends and family. I also signed up for a service like SkillShare which gave me access to thousands of individual lessons I could watch to be inspired by or learn a thing or two from. This section is the most diverse for a reason; there’s plenty to do to stimulate your brain. It really boils down to you as an individual taking action and starting.