Smart Living | Lifestyle

Lifestyle | 05 Apr 2022

Switch off, unplug, relax: Five great ways to reconnect with real life

Technology makes our lives easier in so many ways, but every so often we need to take a break from tech. So here are some ideas to help you kickstart your digital detox.

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May) is focusing on loneliness, which many people struggled with during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdown isolation took its toll, despite the undoubted benefits of broadband connectivity.

So, now that the days are getting longer – and hopefully warmer – here are some ideas for getting out and about and away from your screens over the forthcoming bank holidays.

1. Take to the open water

Open-water swimming has become a popular pastime in many parts of the country – and for good reason.

Not only does joining a local wild swimming group introduce you to a new social circle, immersing yourself in icy water is believed to have numerous mental health benefits, including boosting your endorphin, ‘happy hormone’, levels and improving your ability to deal with stress.

It’s also good for sore muscles and circulation, as well as your skin.

A wetsuit is advisable, especially if you’re braving the chilly Springtime waters for the first time. But there are lots of places to hire one if you want to try before you buy.

From lakes and rivers to sea-water pools and lidos, there’s bound to be somewhere to take the plunge near you.

More info

The Wild Swimming website is a useful source of open-water swimming information – including the best spots in the UK and beyond. Swim England Open Water also has tolls to help you find local venues and clubs. And if you’re looking for a wetsuit to hire, click through to Tri Wetsuit Hire.

2. Interact with animals

Credits: Shutterstock Enterprise

According to the Mental Health Foundation, having a pet can improve your mental health by reducing anxiety and adding structure to your day.

But while not everyone can have – or wants – a pet, there are lots of other ways to experience the healing power of animals on a day out.

City farms, such as Vauxhall City Farm in London, are designed to let you get up close and personal with the sights, smells, and sounds of rural life, including those made by farmyard animals like sheep, goats, and pigs.

Outside the city, lots of garden centres and farm shops also have petting “zoos” where you can cuddle, learn about, and sometimes even feed the animals on site – including the many baby animals born at this time of year.

To supercharge the feelgood factor, why not volunteer at a local animal rescue centre.

More info

You can find out more about animal-related volunteering opportunities via the RSPCA and Blue Cross websites.

3. Enjoy a jubilant Jubilee

Credits: Shutterstock Enterprise

The year 2022 marks the 70th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II acceding to the throne, and there are loads of events planned to mark her Platinum Jubilee – including an extra bank holiday that will make the first weekend in June four days long.

The main festivities will take place on 2 June, when more than 1,400 soldiers and 400 musicians will join a London parade to mark The Queen’s official birthday, with events also planned for cities such as Chester, where a Military Parade and city centre sing-along are on the itinerary.

Many local communities are also planning street parties. And if you can get to Windsor Castle in mid-May, you could buy tickets for A Gallop Through History – a 90-minute arena theatre show involving more than 500 horses and 1,000 performers.

For a chance to catch a glimpse of the monarch herself, however, you might be better off attending Derby Day (4 June) at the Epsom Downs Racecourse. Tickets for the Jubilee Family Enclosure cost just £25 for adults, and kids go free.

More info

Find out more about the various Jubilee celebrations at the The Royal Family website.

4. Put on your walking boots

Stretch your legs with these walking and hiking apps

Whether you’re a keen hiker or just want new ideas for leisurely strolls, why not limber up with these useful and inspirational apps?

There are few things more invigorating than strolling down a beach with the salty sea wind in your face. And you might not have to go as far as you think to do it.

The UK is blessed with numerous stunning beaches and coastal paths – and they’re not all in holiday hotspots such as Devon and Cornwall.

If you’re near Kent, for example, the White Cliffs of Dover are a striking backdrop for a seaside jaunt, while Formby Point near Liverpool is often judged one of the country’s most spectacular walking beaches.

Blustery moorland hikes are also perfect for getting a lungful of fresh air. From Dartmoor with its furry wild ponies to the Peak District’s rolling hills, if you’re not close to a beach you’re probably not far from some purifyingly unspoilt countryside to explore instead.

More info

Find a coastal walk or a moorland hiking trail near you on the National Trust website.

5. Get on your bike

One of the most popular sports in the UK, cycling is great for getting fitter, and like other forms of exercise, can raise endorphin levels and help to relieve stress, too.

Thanks to the UK’s extensive network of cycle paths, it’s also a fantastic way to see the country – alone or with your family or friends.

The sustrans website lists routes on the National Cycle Network, so you can search for the perfect two-wheeled adventure based on length, location, and the amount of traffic you’re likely to encounter.

With routes ranging from under 15 minutes to nine hours or more, there are plenty of options for beginners as well as committed cyclists.

More info

If you’d rather cycle as part of a crowd, Cycling UK also has a handy ‘find your local club’ tool.

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