Blog: Learning new things during lockdown

Author, Heather Mackelden is a Peer Mentor and 2nd year English Literature student at the University of Liverpool.

Since this is the third national lockdown, it’s time for some fresh inspiration for things to learn and keep busy with. Developing skills and learning new things can give you a great sense of achievement and pride but goals like learning a language take time and, at a time where our resilience is already being tested, I hope my list can provide some quicker wins that will give you the same satisfaction. As a lot of wellbeing advice focuses on movement and exercise, I’ve tried to suggest some alternative pastimes that don’t involve breaking into a sweat!

Hopefully, one of these ideas catches your imagination but, remember, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be busy and productive. Everybody copes in different ways and if what you need instead is a chat or some advice then the Peer Mentor team are here for you on Handshake. I’d really recommend following our twitter: @livunimentors and reaching out to familiarise yourself with the service.

1. Art

If you’re getting a bit bored of your room right now, you don’t have to be an artist to add some more personal decoration to your space. I recommend either printing out or buying a Paint by Numbers template to enjoy the relaxation of being creative without the pressure of beginning a piece from scratch. If it goes well, you’ve got a new piece for your wall and if not, hopefully the process was fun.

There are many DIY projects to be found online that use random objects around the house – I recently saw the idea of turning an empty milk bottle into a planter by cutting the top half off. Along a similar vein, why not have a go at some creative writing or poetry? Perhaps you have a pair of knitting needles that haven’t been picked up in a while? This doesn’t have to be a long-term habit but is a great opportunity to add something new to your environment.

2. Cooking

Who says pancakes are just for pancake day? Perhaps try out a pancake topping you’ve never tried before or try a vegan recipe such as I’ve found changing up my breakfasts at the weekend a useful way to differentiate between the days of the week and help stop them all rolling into one long workday.

3. Online Courses

If this lockdown you want to develop your long-term employability, taking a short course in a useful area might be a good method of achieving that. LinkedIn Learning ( provides lots of tutorials that are useful in preparing for the workplace and I’m going to be using it to brush up on my Microsoft Excel skills.

4. Reading

Whether fiction or non-fiction I think we all pick up nuggets of knowledge from the books we read. The University’s online library has a huge selection of texts you can take advantage of, for example, if you’re enjoying period dramas at the moment, a classic like ‘Pride and Prejudice’ might be the perfect thing to keep you occupied and provide the satisfaction of finishing a good book.

5. Plants

I love the idea of welcoming a new plant into your home for the coming spring. It’ll look beautiful and I know I get a sense of pride from seeing something bloom down to my taking care of it. If you’re already an experienced gardener, maybe challenge yourself with a different or more fastidious species?

6. Juggling!

I’ve cheated a bit here as you probably won’t nail this one on the first attempt and it is vaguely physical but it’s definitely a fun party trick to learn and show off. Juggling balls are easily made from some lentils or rice in an old sock and you could even add a little competition as motivation and have a race with a friend to see who can learn to juggle first?