Spare Time And Mental Wellbeing

spare time

I know there’s been a lot of chatter on the internet and on TV about what people are doing with their spare time during the lockdown, but to be honest I’m not finding I’m having much “spare” time at all!

For starters, we’re still working, which I’m very grateful to be able to do. And then we’ve just had a newborn baby arrive back at the end of April.

The lockdown hasn’t made this any harder, particularly, though I suppose we do miss being able to have the grandparents and family around to help a wee bit. And just to meet the little fella!

We’re taking turns about at night with the baby, so even if it’s my night off, I’ve not got a lot of energy left for reading before bed. But I’m trying!

In our current Special ⁠— number 191, which is on sale now ⁠— I put together a piece with Dr Trish Macnair about looking after your mental wellbeing for a longer life.

There’s some great advice in that page, and the beauty of it is that some of the wisdom is super simple. Learn to be idle, do something creative, start a new challenge.

The School Of Life

I’ve been slowly reading through Alain de Botton’s recent book “The School Of Life”. The actual School Of Life is an organisation that offers classes, online courses, books, events — all sorts — to help folk live a happier, more fulfilled life.

The premise of this book is to share some of the best insights from the School’s work in bite-size form. Which is handy, as I’m struggling to read more than a couple of pages at a time at the moment without dropping off.

Alain argues that we spend an incredible amount of time learning about things. How cars work, new languages, history, how to build stuff. But we dedicate very little time and energy to learning about ourselves.

And we’re also a bit rubbish about being kind to ourselves.

There’s something reassuring about being told to go easy on yourself. It’s pretty common for us to go harder on ourselves than we would on anyone else, so it’s nice to hear.

Here are some of my other favourite nuggets from the book so far:

What is success?


He’s actually done a talk on this that’s available online.

Alain argues that it’s a modern idea to blame yourself for having had bad luck in your life.

In history, if you lived a normal, decent life but bad things happened to you, it was considered tragic. You were considered unfortunate (it’s what the whole artistic genre of tragedy was about).

You weren’t considered a failure.

These days we tend to think that if you’ve done well, it’s because you’re good, and if you’ve ended up at the bottom of the heap, it’s where you deserve to be. This affects how we treat each other, and is clearly not true. Bad things happen to good people and vice versa all the time!




Again, these days a lot of people prize frankness to the point of tactlessness as a forthright, ambitious and admirable characteristic.

Politeness is in danger of getting overlooked as old-fashioned, but it’s crucial to all of us getting along. Diplomacy is much under-rated!

As is kindness. Life isn’t a competition, he says, nor a fight to the top of the pile.

It always pays to be nice and give people the benefit of the doubt.

The Importance Of Staring Out The Window


Folk are starting to realise how much creativity and thought comes about in daydreams.

Children know it, but we forget it as grown-ups — though fiction writers might still have the technique.

It’s just like birdsong during the coronavirus; we can hear the birds now, when we only could hear traffic before. It’s only when you’re quiet that you can hear some of the important things floating around your head!

This is just the tip of the iceberg in the book. All in all, I’m finding it a real tonic in these weird times. Well worth a read.

Here’s hoping you’re all coping well and being kind to yourself!

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Alex Corlett

Alex is the "Friend's" Features Editor, working with the talented Features Team to bring you everything from cryptic crosswords to financial advice, knitting patterns to international travel and inspirational real life stories. Always on the hunt for a new feature idea, Alex also enjoys cycling and loves a good tea room.