In today’s English lesson, we talk about things that can help keep you happy. Winter in the UK can be cold and wet, with a lot of your time spent indoors. So we British are quite used to keeping ourselves amused and entertained indoors. However, this winter we will miss an important part of the recipe that keeps us happy, we won’t be going to other people’s houses or having people round to socialise with.
We’ve talked about how short the days are in the UK over winter and how we can end up leaving home in the dark and coming home in the dark, not really seeing the outside, in several previous podcasts.
But this winter is going to be a little different in the UK, with lots of talk about lockdowns and stopping social gatherings. So spending some time planning what you are going to do about this is probably a good idea.
Keep Going. Your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life. Keep going. Tough situations build strong people in the end.
⭐ Roy T. Bennett, Author, The Light in the Heart
We are all different and what makes us happy is going to be a personal thing, so today I’m going to list several things I’m going to to to keep me happy over the UK winter, you might like some ideas or none of the ideas, all I ask is that you think about it before winter sets in, take care of yourself and have a plan to stay happy.
Lockdown Ukelele Socialise
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Hi and welcome to this podcast from Adept English. This is one of your two weekly podcasts – your English lesson for today. Why not try the imitation technique for language learning, as we go? If you find certain phrases or sentences in this podcast that you like, you could practice repeating them to yourself – try to repeat the words exactly as I say them. Here goes.
One of the things I’ve talked about before about living in the UK, is the changing light levels throughout the year. And I’ve discussed previously how people who come to live in the UK from places in the world where it’s much sunnier – well, they can struggle with the British winter, the darkness and the shortness of the days.
If you’re born here, especially in the north where the winters are worse and there’s less sun, then arguably, you’re used to it, it doesn’t bother you. You don’t look upon the idea of winter as something negative.
The problem is that winter and low light levels can affect people’s mood – their mood, M-O-O-D means their level of happiness or sadness. Low light levels, because it goes darker earlier, but also because if it’s a rainy day, it may not get properly light here - it can mean low levels of Vitamin D – which you get from sunshine.
I’ve mentioned this recently – in the context of the virus and the pandemic – because Vitamin D appears to help your immunity and it can be hard to get enough of it in the winter. But also low winter light levels can cause the condition known as SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder, where your mood becomes lower in the winter months.
So it’s good to look after yourself in the winter. And if you’re further north than the British Isles – perhaps you live in Norway or Sweden or Finland, then your winter difference is even more dramatic – and you’ll be familiar with the problem.
Now this winter, when it’s quite likely that we’ll be facing further lockdown, further restrictions, it’s difficult to think ahead and not imagine that this winter is going to be hard. It’s one thing when we’ve all been in lockdown over the summer, when there were perhaps lots of opportunities to go outside and enjoy the garden, be in the sun.
It’s different to think of being locked inside during the dark days and the bad weather. Now I’m not really affected by the winter – it doesn’t bother me. But even I’m thinking ‘Mmm, maybe I’ll be looking forward to spring this year’.
So what sorts of things can we do, to make sure that the winter, especially a winter potentially in lockdown is still enjoyable?
Well first of all, on the subject of Vitamin D and sunshine – in the UK we are all low in Vitamin D in the winter. We just don’t have enough of it, particularly if you have dark skin. So it’s a good idea to take Vitamin D in a pill or tablet form – they don’t cost much. And it’s even more sensible in the current situation to help your immune system, help your body fight off any viruses.
Your body also makes Vitamin D – when you sit in the sunshine, so get out whenever you can and have some skin showing, so that your body has a chance to make Vitamin D. Just drinking a cup of coffee, sitting out in the morning sun will help. And if you’re affected by low light levels, then you could buy a sun lamp. They’re a specialist thing to buy – but may be a good thing to buy for some people.
But what else? Well, if you’re in the UK, people find it’s often fine this side of Christmas. There are celebrations to look forward to, like Halloween and Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night. And of course, Christmas is a really big thing and a big celebration.
People can find the autumn side of winter OK, but struggle with January and February, when the weather is bad, but there isn’t much going on or seemingly much to look forward to – and if you’re like me, January is the time when you do your tax return! So that doesn’t really cheer you up either!
Probably what many British people do is make their homes really nice and cosy for the winter. If you think of the heating being on and possibly a log fire – that means an open fire – or a wood-burner. It means having nice comfortable places to sit and relax, with cushions and blankets, so that you can relax in warmth – that’s what ‘cosy’, C-O-S-Y means. If the weather outside is horrible and it’s dark, if the inside of your home is nice and warm, it can be really comforting.
A photograph feet in wool striped socks by the fireplace. Relaxing at Christmas fireplace on holiday evening. An English lesson on keeping happy in a British lockdown winter.
And when the focus is on indoors, you might want to do home-improvement, like putting a new coat of paint on your walls, buying new cushions, rugs or pictures to make it nicer. Personally, I like lamps – I don’t like a main light in the middle of the room. I like to have a number of different types of lamp in a room, then I can vary the lighting.
I even have a strip of coloured Christmas lights, all year round in my lounge – just because it makes me happy. And of course, as you would expect, I have houseplants so that I can still do some indoor gardening in the winter!
Getting back into cooking is another activity which is good for the winter. Making soup or bread, baking cakes – or using up those apples and plums and the...from the autumn harvest in puddings that’s good.
I find that when it gets cold in the autumn, I really enjoy casseroles and things which have been baked in the oven and which have been cooked a long time. Making food and home cooking - it’s very comforting – and it can be healthy as well as unhealthy food.
For me, I’ve just started running again. So I’m doing HIIT training – H-I-I-T or High Intensity Interval Training. That’s worth researching. If you haven’t come across this idea for exercise before, it’s very quick, you don’t need to spend very long doing it. And it delivers maximum return for your effort. So even though I’m inside, working from home and not going out as much as normal, just taking this bit of exercise makes me feel a lot better.
Making sure that you’ve got things to do inside, when the weather’s bad, is also important. At the moment, we can’t go out and socialise and we can’t have people to stay or visit as much. So having indoor activities that we enjoy is really important.
Of course, we all enjoy being on our phones - and the internet is important as a way of staying in touch with people in this current situation – and staying in touch with what’s happening. But it can also waste a lot of time, if say you’re on social media all the time.
Of course, there’s Netflix and Amazon Prime – or whatever service you might subscribe to – so that you can watch a series. In the UK at the moment, we’re finding that we’re watching old series because there’s not much new coming out. But that’s OK, it gives everyone a chance to catch up with a series they’ve always intended to watch, but never got around to it.
Currently we’re watching Fargo from 2017, which we’ve never watched before. And of course, reading and books are a great way to pass the time too.
But aside from books, films, series and the internet, other forms of hobbies and interests, things that you can do indoors are really important. I like landscape painting. The rest of the year, gardening takes over as my main interest, but when it’s too cold to go outside, I get back to my landscape painting. So ‘to paint’, P-A-I-N-T, can mean painting your walls, decorating – but also means when you make art.
I like using Acrylic paint – think of David Hockney. But generally ‘making things’, doing crafts or making models or art is rewarding. This could include all kinds of crafts and making things – knitting, woodwork, metalwork, collage. But if there’s an activity which gives you pleasure, which you can get on with indoors, without the need for anyone else and which helps you pass many happy hours – then that’s got to be a positive.
Such activities, are called ‘hobbies’ in English – things you do for interest. That’s H-O-B-B-Y in the singular and H-O-B-B-I-E-S in the plural. Hobbies are important - they can be like really good, old friends. They wait for you to return to them, sometimes for years – and then it’s like you’ve never been away and they can give you so much enjoyment.
Other activities? People sometimes are rewarded by making music. I have a piano and I can play, though I haven’t practised for a while. But you could have on hand a guitar, or a ukelele. It’s something that you might pick up and play in odd moments through the winter. People may just like to play music and you can buy all kinds of sheet music online. Or sometimes people’s hobby is to make their own music.
Or how about learning to write programs on your computer? Or what about creative writing? They say everyone ‘has at least one book in them’. So if you find you’re indoors and you haven’t much to entertain you this winter, why not start writing? You might be surprised where it takes you. Ignore the part of that quotation which says ‘But in most cases that’s where it should stay’. That’s Christopher Hitchens, if you want to look that quotation up!
Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that's where it should stay.
⭐ Christopher Hitchens
And of course, last but not least, work on your languages. What better way to use the time than improving your English? And you can do that, in the comfort of your own home. There’s no better time than this winter to buy our Course One, Activate Your Listening and use this course to really improve your English. And if you combine that learning with an online language partner – sign up with Conversation Exchange to find somebody to practise your English with on Skype or Zoom. You’ll be unstoppable! Make the lockdown work for you and use the time!
Anyway, I hope that I’ve given you some ideas, some inspiration for how you might spend your spare time this winter, especially if you’re stuck indoors more because of the pandemic. Adept English giving you English lessons, free English lessons online. And for these English lessons, YouTube is also a good place to go, so you can see the written words as you listen.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.