How to amuse yourself at home during a pandemic

As you have probably already heard, a state of emergency has been declared in Japan as in other places in the world and over a third of all the people on the planet are under some form of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic (see the previous post in this series to read about the situation in Japan at the moment). Lots of us are suddenly spending most, if not all, of our time at home. Everything feels very unsettled and uncertain, and we are all having to adapt to these changes.




Shibuya Crossing, the busiest pedestrian crossing on earth, before and after the state of emergency was declared.


If you are stuck at home at the moment unsure of what to do, I have compiled a list for you based on things I have done in the past and on the things I have been doing recently. Perhaps it’ll give you some ideas of what you can do. 


N.B. It is very easy to fall into the trap of watching YouTube videos all day, but I promise that it won’t satisfy you very much in the long run. Why not use this time to do something creative and productive that you might not have otherwise had the time to do? 


In no particular order, you could:


1)Write, rehearse and perform a play.

I used to do this all the time with my siblings and friends. In fact, I still do. Don’t take it too seriously (although one might say that one can never take fun too seriously), write something that will make you laugh and perform it for an audience of your choosing.


2)Make a video.

Why not record your play? Or film a comedic monologue? Or why not start a YouTube channel?


3)Invent your own language.

This idea will perhaps only appeal to some of you. Decide on what sort of language you would like to invent. Make a list of new words. Choose an existing script to write it in or invent your own. Decide on grammatical rules. Will your language be written in Chinese-like characters, or a latin style alphabet? Will your language have grammatical genders? A case system? Will it have 5 different words for hair depending on how good your hair looks that day?



4)Make your own board game.

Why not make a Japanese version of scrabble? What about a game in which you have to escape a plane crash by answering trivia questions? Why not make a board game that uses your new language? What about a game in which you have to make a tadpole grow into a frog by correctly answering a series of questions?


5)Cook something complicated.

I’ve made cinnamon cake, Bosnian burek, spicy Chinese dan dan noodles, quiche, and chocolate cake within the last few weeks.


6)Make a den like you used to when you were little. 

Hide in there and forget about your troubles for a while.


7)Explore new music.

Perhaps you’ll discover your love for 1970s Welsh music, 1990s Serbian music or mid 20th century central-European composers. 


8)Try to lucid dream.

But do this with caution. Or, you could start trying to influence your dreams by thinking of the thing you want to dream about as you are going to sleep. Keep a record of your dreams, you might find it very illuminating.



This is always a good idea when you don’t know what else to do. Sway around the room to old Iranian classics, or jump up and down to some 1960s rock and roll. Just put something on and dance, you’ll feel better for it!



10)Pretend to be an animal and have your friends/family/housemates guess what you are.

My favorites are “the Maggot” and “the Gecko”. What are yours?



Set aside between 30 and 60 minutes a day to clear your mind and calm yourself. I promise you it will help you approach everything else you do in a much clearer, calmer and more positive way. There are lots of resources online, choose a style that suits you best. 


12)Listen to BBC Radio 4’s podcasts.

If you’re fed up with trying to amuse yourself with my ideas, why don’t you sit down with a bag of sweets and listen to some of Radio 4’s excellent radio podcasts? For investigative journalism, I recommend the podcast “Intrigue”. For current affairs, “From Our Own Correspondent” and “Crossing Continents”. For radio plays, I recommend “Gudrun”, a drama about an ancient Icelandic warrior-heroine based on the Icelandic sagas.


13)Learn a language, or improve one you already speak.

I’m improving my Serbian and have started on Persian. There are so many excellent free online language learning resources (For Persian, see If you live with people who speak languages that you don’t (for example, in a sharehouse), why don’t you offer to teach them a language you know if they teach you a language they know?



14)Read about an ancient civilisation.

I’ve recently been drawn into the world of 11th century Iceland. 



15)Watch the birds from your window and learn to identify them by their calls, feathers, sizes and so on.

If you’re not from Japan, you may find some of the birds outside your window intriguing! A friend of mine recently played me a voice recording of an “exotic” bird he kept on hearing outside his window, and was surprised when I told him that it was a pigeon.



A kingfisher and three ducks near where I live


16)Play hide-and-seek.

If you feel like revisiting your childhood, recruit your  housemates to play with you. If you live alone, you could skype a friend, tell them to look away as you hide somewhere in the frame, and then get them to guess where you are! Or, if you don’t have much space at your disposal, hide a small object such as a thimble, and make someone look for that.


17)Read a book!

This one doesn’t need much explanation. 



18)Write a book.

Have you ever thought about writing a book? Well, now’s the time! Just do it.



Me doing what I love (photograph taken last summer)



I love drawing because it allows me to be silent and calm and it’s very satisfying creating things, wouldn’t you agree?





20)Make a mask (or other such useful objects).

You could follow an online tutorial and make masks for yourself or for someone else who needs them.


21)Write and record a song.

Even if you’re rubbish at singing (like I am), it is good fun (and possibly very funny) to write and record your own song. You could record it on a free software such as Audacity, on a free app on your phone.


22)Plan a future journey.

Now is not the time to travel. But one day in the near future the time will come when we can travel again. Take out a World Atlas and let your imagination run free. Where have you always wanted to go? Perhaps all this time in isolation will help you to see things more clearly. Perhaps it will make you even more enthusiastic about living life in the most exciting way you can!



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