From appreciating silence to the joys of cooking: 13 life lessons we've learnt from a month spent at home

Newfound rituals and learning to embrace the small things are a couple of lessons we’ve picked up at 'The National'

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For many people, this week will mark one month at home due to the coronavirus crisis. Four weeks since workers set up that dining room table desk, since restaurants and bars closed their doors, since the world slowed down.

You will have popped to the shops or perhaps to the pharmacy, but if you are one of the thousands of people working from home, these past four weeks will have been largely spent within the confines of your own four walls.

Spending a month at home has meant a complete change of routine, affecting everything from the way we socialise to the way we exercise and the way we do our jobs. And these shifts will have taught us a thing or two, whether that’s about ourselves, our homes or the people we live with.

Here are some of the biggest lessons people working at The National have learnt from a month spent at home …

Noticing the little things

I have two frangipani trees in my garden that were uprooted and replanted when we moved house a few months ago. Neither reacted particularly well to the move and it looked for a while like they wouldn’t survive. Over the past few weeks, I’ve watched as tiny leaves started sprouting along every branch and then developed into welcome clusters of green. In the normal hustle and bustle of daily life, I barely would have noticed – but in this time of stillness and quiet, I’ve had the time to chronicle this most basic of natural phenomena.

– Selina Denman, head of magazines and travel

Noticing her frangipani trees start to sprout brought Selina Denman great joy. Selina Denman

Step outside on the balcony when it’s raining and breathe in the smell. Likewise, close to sunset, go out, or open a window, and listen to the call to prayer. You might not be able to go out into it, but you can still take time to notice the difference in the environment outside day to day.

– Louise Burke, homepage editor

Appreciating the silence

I am appreciating the quieter world... No planes, no noisy roads, just natural sounds. Wow, who knew birds were so loud? Hearing the wind howl, or the general sound of water. It’s quite refreshing.

– Jason Von Berg, mobile app editor

Puzzles are cool

The last time I did a puzzle was probably 30 years ago. It was just not something that would ever occur to me in adulthood. But the last few weeks have yielded lots of time to take up new and unexpected pursuits, and a puzzle borrowed from a neighbour has proven to be a welcome companion during evenings in isolation. It has become something of a ritual for me – a way to keep boredom at bay while exercising my brain. I have never fared well at traditional meditative practices, but this feels as close as I’ll get.

– Selina Denman

Rediscovering the joys of cooking

In the past month I have spent at home, my husband and I have begun to dust off our old pots and pans and cook meals from scratch once more. Take-outs are reserved for a once-every-so-often treat, while we’ve been rediscovering old recipes from our past. Soups, stews, curries and fresh pasta are dishes we now cook on a daily basis, encouraging us to spend more time in our kitchen – and more time together as we prepare meals with renewed care and attention. We’ve also taken more care to create healthier, fresh dishes, spending weekends poring over cookbooks rather than slumped in front of Netflix.

Emma Day has perfected a lemon drizzle tray bake. Emma Day 

However, a newfound love of baking is certainly counteracting those nutritious choices. After all, the downside of isolating is that there’s no one to share that lemon drizzle traybake (designed to serve 20) with but yourself.

– Emma Day, deputy features editor  

Rituals and habits are really important

Discipline and mindset is everything. When you’re inside on your couch all day, it’s very easy to sit there from morning until night, racking up a grand total of 29 steps and using all of those to go to the fridge. It takes a real concerted effort to do a workout in your bedroom or pace your living room while you’re on a Zoom call, because you’re in your place of comfort and not in your usual gym environment. So learning to force myself to move and stop eating Mini Eggs non-stop has been a real battle of sheer willpower.

– Ashleigh Stewart, culture editor

Make your bed as soon as you get up, have a set time for exercise and meditation, take proper lunch breaks away from your work space, if possible.

– Louise Burke

It’s important to talk

Talk to people. I’ve felt quite low and demotivated on many occasions, but what has helped is knowing that we’re all in it together and that we just need to check up on our people, our colleagues and our families more.

– Jason Von Berg

A month at home has meant many more family catch-ups. Sophie Prideaux 

I have spoken to more friends and family members on the phone or via video chat in the past few weeks than I had in the past year, and it has brought me so much joy. Usually, with time differences and hectic schedules, it can be so hard to find a time to sit down and really catch up. Most of my interactions come from hastily typed WhatsApp messages or rushed voice notes. In a strange way, I feel more connected to them than ever.

– Sophie Prideaux, assistant features editor

There is nothing more comforting than an old favourite

Despite there being an overwhelming choice of shows and movies at the click of a button, I can't help but return to reruns of the things I've seen a thousand times. I watched Notting Hill for the 1,026th time recently, and even though I knew it line for line, it made me feel so happy. It's a real comfort blanket when I am feeling anxious, and while I know I could be discovering new things, there is so much joy in rediscovering your old favourites.

– Sophie Prideaux

There’s such a thing as too many apps 

Although the many apps that have landed in our laps thanks to Covid-19 may seem like they’re streamlining work and enhancing communication, I fear what they’re really doing is giving us the illusion of efficiency. Instead of decluttering our professional objectives, we’ve simply moved the clutter around to different mediums and, in some instances, making for a more complicated world where we all assume that there’s equal knowledge about certain apps and how to use them.

Cody Combs, social media journalist 

Pets are a blessing if you live alone

Having more time to bond with my cats has also brought out new behaviour in them. They spend much more time sitting close to me: i.e. on my desk when I’m working, or wanting to sit on my lap if I’m in the lounge.

– Louise Burke

Letting go of Fomo 

It's very easy to wake up each day and think that it's the worst thing ever because you can't go out to dinner or to the movies or see your friends. But I've had to try and alter my mindset to view things positively. When else in life would you, and everyone you know, be forced to stop and relax for weeks on end? It's basically eliminated the concept of Fomo (fear of missing out). Plus, my friends have always lamented at how slow I am to make it through Netflix series, so I feel like I'm finally redeeming myself on that front.

– Ashleigh Stewart

Sitting all day in an office isn’t as bad as sitting all day at home

We thought we were over-sitting when working from an office, where coffee breaks, walks to the washroom, meetings and one-on-one chats with colleagues abounded. I’m sitting a lot more at my home desk now that going outdoors, working in isolation and digital meetings have become the new norm; even the washroom is but two steps away!

– Panna Munyal, lifestyle editor  

It’s hard to switch off

I work a lot more at home. It’s tough to find a balance between switching work off and personal time on.

Jason Von Berg 

Accepting my bare face

It may sound trivial, but I’ve learnt to really accept my make-up-less face. I’ve always been conscious of my freckles and bare skin, but after a month without foundation, I’ve learnt to embrace them. In fact, when I did put make-up on for an Easter brunch in the living room, it felt strange seeing myself in it. A welcomed role reversal.

– Sophie Prideaux