21 small feel good things to try this month

Meresiyana Cimpaye with the Banana Trees she bought from the profits of her Graduation Programme cash transfer, at her home in Bukinanyana, Cibitoke, Burundi. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Concern Worldwide
Meresiyana Cimpaye at her home in Bukinanyana, Cibitoke, Burundi.

They say it takes 21 days to make (or break!) a habit. So we’ve compiled a list of 21 small feel-good things to try this month, in the hope that by March, doing things that are good for us, and the world, will be instinctive. Plus, it’ll make lockdown a whole lot more enjoyable.

Here’s a list of feel-good things as recommended by the staff at Concern.

 

1.Practice gratitude

Start every day with gratitude by writing down three things you’re grateful for. Check out this 100 days of gratitude journal if you need a bit of structure. 

2. Meditate

Alternatively, start every morning with a gratitude meditation – those can be found on YouTube (but make sure it is add-free or else it’s really jarring!), and there are a few apps such as Insight Timer and Calm. It can help you feel really positive and is a brilliant start to the day!

3. Swap social media screen time for an hour of reading instead

Ideally, you’d get stuck into a great book, but here are some great new stories we’ve got up on our website to get you started in case you don’t have a book to hand.

4. Take up running

This one is easier said than done, but there are some brilliant apps out there – like Couch to 5K – that can make running enjoyable for even those that have never run before. Plus, it’s a great way to get outside for your daily exercise. Just be sure to take every day in your stride.

5. Or cycling!

Influential women and traditional healers bicycle maintenance training session. Photo: Musa S Kamara.
Influential women and traditional healers bicycle maintenance training session. Photo: Musa S Kamara.

Read here how bicycles are playing a vital role in spreading the message about Covid-19 prevention in Sierra Leone

6. Get creative in the kitchen with new recipes

Cooking is not only great for your mental health (seriously, because it is an act of patience, mindfulness, and an outlet for creative expression, cooking has been deemed as incredibly therapeutic) it’s also great for your stomach and physical health. So whether it’s a wild and wonderful new creation, or simply a different take on a cottage pie, getting creative in the kitchen will definitely help you to feel good.

Which leads us nicely onto number six…

7. Bake bread 

Ok, so we know everyone is doing this already, but there really is something satisfying and relaxing about getting your hands stuck into some dough.

Check out this super easy recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall below. We promise this isn’t a pain (well, unless you’re in France…). The mixing of ingredients takes 5 minutes, you knead for 5-10mins, leave the dough to rise for 1-2 hours in a warm place, then hey presto! You have bread dough. Plus, you can also make pizza out of the dough – the eating of which is also a small feel good thing in our eyes.

Here’s what you knead

  • 250g white flour
  • 250g strong white bread flour (you can mix the flour to whatever portion you like, for example you can add in a bit of wholemeal, around 100g, but not too much as it can get quite dense)
  • 1.5 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried instant yeast (you can buy sachets from the supermarket)
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 325ml water

In a bowl, mix the flours, yeast, salt and water to form a sticky dough. Mix in the oil, then turn out on to a clean work surface and knead for 5-10mins until smooth and silky. (Alternatively, if you have a mixer with a dough hook, mix the flours, yeast, salt and water on a low speed, add the oil and knead for 10 minutes). Don’t worry if the dough is a bit sticky, you can add some flour while kneading, but it wants to be a bit sticky. Shape into a round, and leave to rise in a clean bowl, covered with a plastic bag or tea towel, until doubled in size (around 1-2 hours).

Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes at around 170 fan (or until brown and there is a hallow sounds when you tap the bottom of the bread).

This makes one big loaf, or you can divide it by two to make a couple of smaller ones depending on your tin size.

8. Shop consciously

Shop at a local farmers market to cut down on plastics and packaging waste, as well as supporting local businesses. Alternatively, pop a few things in the food bank box in your local supermarket when you go shopping.

9. Take a walk at sunset every day

As the lights go on indoors it can feel like it is dark outside. Taking a walk at this time reminds us that it is actually still light outside which can boost the mood and bring feelings of positivity. Each day, the walk will be a couple of minutes later as the days grow longer and the spring approaches.

10. Have a bath

One of our staff members has been taking a lot of hot baths to pass the time through the winter. And while she hasn't made any soap yet, she’s making bath bombs. We bet that’s an explosion of calm and feel good vibes! (Just be mindful of how much water you’re using of course)

11. Pay it forward’

One of our colleagues in Northern Ireland ‘pays it forward’. For him, there is a pizza place where you can donate £5 and they’ll provide pizzas and donation to homeless charity. However, he also does it on his own terms – and you can too – by paying for an extra drink and asking the cashier to give to the next person who orders that drink. Even if it’s just a simple cuppa, we’re certain it will make their (and your!) day.

12. Campaign!

There have been a number of articles since the new year talking about civil society campaigning being good for mental health, so we thought we’d make it easy for you!

Join thousands of others who campaign with us for effective aid that helps the world's poorest people.

13. Feed the local ducks

Feeding the local ducks (and, in the spring, their ducklings) is very calming and they are especially appreciative in the winter!

14. Top up on Vitamin D

We’ve already touched on this a little bit, but we can’t stress enough how good it makes you feel to get out into the winter (and hopefully soon, spring) sun for a little bit each day.

But, did you know, egg yolks are a brilliant source of Vitamin D too?

Lemlem Tesega sets the pecking order for her chickens in Ethiopia. Photo: Nick Spollin
Lemlem Tesega sets the pecking order for her chickens in Ethiopia. Photo: Nick Spollin

Share the love this Valentine's Day and give a family free range over their future with this life-changing gift.

15. Talk to or help a stranger

That can be anything from stopping the car to let someone cross the road to having a socially distanced conversation in the supermarket about the difference between chicken eggs and duck eggs (this happened last week to one of our colleagues, and she said it brought a huge smile to her face).

16. Listen to new music

To get out of his music routine and have a small good feeling, one of our colleagues created a playlist (Spotify) based on a song by African Artists Unite called “Stand Together”.  He listens to the playlist during work or, more often, when he has some downtime to change up his usual rotation of music and podcasts.  With so much staying the same in lockdown it’s nice to hear good music that changes up your usual Spotify recommendations.

 

17. See the (wood from the) trees

Getting out in nature came up a lot when we asked our colleagues for small feel good ideas, but in current times this can be hard! But if being surrounded by the same four walls has made it difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, this one is particularly important. Even simply looking out the window can help calm the mind, so remember to take the time to look up and out when you can.

'Elementary school, tall trees and summer wind' in Seoul, South Korea. Artist: Yun Seok Chang
'Elementary school, tall trees and summer wind' in Seoul, South Korea. Artist: Yun Seok Chang

And, if you’re tired of looking out of your own window, why not try someone else’s

18. Volunteer

This one is a little trickier at the moment, but there are still some brilliant opportunities out there - and definitely, more will be coming up! At our Concern shops, we are always looking for more volunteers when they're open. In the meantime, you can read about the amazing people that work to keep them open and safe when we can.

19. Take a challenge...the Ration Challenge!

Ok, so you can't do this in February. But later on this year, you can take the Ration Challenge - where you eat rations, raise money and save lives. It's really that simple.

For a week we ask people to eat the same as a Syrian refugee living in a camp in Jordan, based on food packs distributed by the Ration Challenge’s local partner organisation. By raising money, you’ll help bring emergency food, hygiene kits and life-saving support to the people that need it most.

Take the Ration Challenge

20. Dance!

Like no one, not even your lockdown buddy, is watching. We love this video of Kataina in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

21. Smile

Even if you’re wearing a mask, smile. We promise it helps.

Joana Luis, 65, photographed with her family's pile of supplies received at a distribution in Ndeja, Mozambique. Photo: Tommy Trenchard
Joana Luis, 65, photographed with her family's pile of supplies received at a distribution in Ndeja, Mozambique. Photo: Tommy Trenchard
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