Dance in the dark! Hang upside down! 50 ways to escape a January fun rut – The Guardian

Dance in the dark! Hang upside down! 50 ways to escape a January fun rut – The Guardian

Struggling to shake off the post-Christmas blues? Fear not: Guardian readers, writers and celebrities including Bear Grylls, Marie Kondo and Anneka Rice are here to help
1. January is the worst month to go on a diet, give up drink and read the classics. I nibble leftover Christmas cake, sip prosecco and reread the cosiest, easiest books: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler and the whole of The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard. Jacqueline Wilson, author
2. To escape the fun rut, I’ve been sending myself love notes every morning. I write something kind or funny, or draw a picture on a Post-it, then stick it to the bathroom mirror before bed. I forget it’s there and am always surprised in the morning. It’s like sharing a secret with myself. Saima Mir, writer
3. I have started hanging upside down. I don’t have a harness or anything – I just sort of hang off the back of my bed. It helps relieve tension in my shoulders and I go briefly into a bat-like, meditative state. I find it invigorating and fun, but not after a big meal. Katherine Parkinson, actor
4. I love to go into my wardrobe and find the brightest patterns I can, layering jewellery and trying on different looks. I do this in my home, too – I recently designed a rug collection and I love to switch designs and change the whole look of the room. It makes me feel optimistic for the year ahead. Iris Apfel, fashion guru
5. We decided not to throw out our Christmas tree. One weeknight, after the kids had gone back to school in the dark, we watched a Nigella Christmas special by the fairy lights of the tree and ate leftover chocolate Santas. It was perverse. It was naughty. It was deeply Nigella-ish. And thus a new tradition was born: Christmas in cheerless January. Chitra Ramaswamy, writer
6. I started playing bridge four years ago. I had learned at school, but hadn’t played for decades. When I moved to Liverpool, I found myself driving past Liverpool bridge club on my way to work and decided to take the plunge. I absolutely love it – it’s totally absorbing and really sociable. Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, vicar, Liverpool
7. Fresh air is the best medicine. Find an outdoor workout buddy and set up a simple circuit using park benches and each other. Keep it fun and simple: 30 seconds exercise, 20 seconds rest, for 30 minutes. Bring the kids and dogs. Bear Grylls, adventurer
8. I’ve taken up netball and play in a local league twice a week. I hadn’t played since school, but it gets me out if it’s horrid and dark – we play outside in any weather above freezing – when I would otherwise be in front of the telly. Emma Jacobs, NHS manager, Milton Keynes
9. The Koala Sampler music-making app is a surprisingly simple way to get your creative juices flowing. It lets you record snippets of sound to create your own tunes through sampling, editing and sequencing – and the design is intuitive enough to be used by novices. Ammar Kalia, global music critic, the Guardian
10. I’ve taken up orienteering. I started a couple of years ago, with the family. It gets us out of the house and into the most wonderful terrain. The maps are beautiful, too. At first, I came last in every race; now, I regularly beat at least a few people. Johanna Waters, professor, Cambridge
11. I enjoy playing traditional Japanese word games or creating seasonal haikus with my children. We have a lot of fun together, plus it’s educational for them. Two of the games I have the most fun playing are shiritori, a word-chain game, and karuta, a playing-card game. Marie Kondo, writer and TV presenter
12. A year ago, I went to a local burlesque class and was instantly hooked. The routines were a lot of fun to learn and the group was so welcoming, encouraging and body-positive. In February, I’ll be taking to the stage as a love-struck robot. What other hobby gives you such gloriously unfettered freedom of expression? Emily, monitoring and evaluation manager, Abingdon
13. I discovered a box full of old Games Workshop figures from the 80s and 90s in my parents’ loft: space soldiers, magical knights and various monsters. I found a way to strip them of paint and I’ve had a lot of fun repainting them. Toby, author and lawyer, Bedfordshire
14. Unusually for a girl forged in the fires of rock music, I have initiated myself into K-pop. It’s brought a new wave of energy as I attempt to mimic the flawless dance routines of BTS and Stray Kids around my living room. All passion, no skill, but the joy is unbridled. Remona Aly, writer
15. I enjoy Cuban salsa, which I find more calming than yoga – it’s nothing like the salsa you see on Strictly and attracts a really diverse crowd. While the music is playing, all I can think about is interpreting my partner’s lead. Also, I get to go mad with sparkly tops and frocks. Sarah Maclennan, academic, Liverpool
16. Writing is the perfect way to escape this bleak, hostile month. I recommend free-writing: once your pen hits the paper don’t take it off, except for spaces between words. Set a timer for three to five minutes and don’t censor yourself – you never have to show anyone. Writing is a passport out of this grey environment. Laura Dockrill, poet and author
17. My girlfriend and I have been beating the winter blues by getting into the classic David Lynch series Twin Peaks. Not binge-watching – two episodes max an evening – gives us something to look forward to every day. Occasionally, we share a bag of popcorn, too. Alex, project manager, Bedfordshire
18. Float! Not the freezing, freshwater activity that outdoor swimmers proselytise, but in an indoor flotation therapy tank. The point is to do exactly nothing in an enclosed pod filled with warm, salty water. Gentle music lulls you into total darkness for 50 minutes, during which you just “be”. Arifa Akbar, chief theatre critic, the Guardian
19. I love to travel through food. Every night, I make a meal from a different country. I love to find recipe websites, such as The Woks of Life for Chinese cooking or Just One Cookbook for Japanese recipes, and learn more about a place through its cuisine. Exploring dishes can be a walk through history or a portal to another part of the world. Kay Fin, teacher, Canada
20. I’m not keen on dancing in public, so going on Strictly was a strange choice. I mean, 10 million people! But it turns out I am very happy dancing in the dark. I don’t need Kevin Clifton, just some banging tunes, possibly tequila shots, perhaps enthusiastic friends. Lights out and uninhibited gyrating will unleash a new, joyful you. Anneka Rice, TV presenter
21. My allotment has been a godsend. The lean winter months are occupied making stuff including a shed, a sculpture in homage to the worm, composters and a pergola. Most materials are salvaged from skips. It’s absorbing, slightly eccentric and gets me outside – I don’t know what I would do without it. Alain Speed, architect, London
22. Audiobooks make time fly; it’s like having a friend with you all day. As an adult, people don’t read to you any more, but out-loud storytelling is a beautiful thing. I am listening to Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart and The Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch, which is superb. Andi Oliver, chef and broadcaster
23. To a blind man like me, all the house entrances near my own are irritatingly alike. Determined to solve this problem, I recently discovered that next door’s garden wall had the slightest variation in surface, detectable by touch. No more walking embarrassingly into the wrong driveway! Solving persistent problems like this is more fun than you might imagine. Peter White, disability affairs correspondent, BBC
24. I took up dance-hooping during lockdown and it becomes more fun every day. Along with the dexterity and fitness I have gained, I am so grateful to have found this endless fountain of joy in my life. I love hooping in winter as the dark evenings mean I can use my blacklight and UV hula hoop and have myself a party! Jessica Legon, illustrator, Swindon
25. Precision-engineered to obliterate the January quagmire is the Mighty Hoopla Big Weekender. Devised by the now-retired east London club night Sink the Pink, the party descends on Butlin’s Bognor Regis for three days and nights of queer pool-party fun. I’m counting down the days. Juno Dawson, writer
26. Getting a psychic reading might sound a little woo-woo, but my God are they fun. Even if you’re not totally sold on the paranormal, you’ll probably still get some hints as to the things you want in life. Better yet, get a friend to have one, too, and compare your futures. Hannah J Davies, deputy editor, newsletters, the Guardian
27. Four of us take part in a weekly board-game night, with each of us taking turns to choose the game. Board gaming is fantastic escapism and between us we have enough games that no two nights are ever the same. Occasionally we’ll have themed nights and match the food to the game, too. Laura K, Derbyshire
28. A good TV series takes your focus off the wet and cold outside. I usually pick what to watch in my house, but my wife hates it when I watch an episode by myself. At the moment, we are watching a South African series called Blood and Water. Babatunde Aléshé, comedian
29. During lockdown, a friend suggested we start a foreign-film club. Each month, one member chooses a film, which we each watch at our leisure, then we get together on a video call to discuss it. It’s a brilliant way to see films you wouldn’t have chosen yourself and the discussions are also a lot of fun. Christine Osgood, retired HR consultant, Twickenham
30. Get into cryptic crosswords. I find they’re most fun done with a friend over a cuppa. If you’re new to them, get an old crossword and look at the answers. Work out which bit of each clue was the definition, which bit was the wordplay and go from there. It’ll probably contain more toilet humour than you were expecting. Dave Gorman, writer and comedian
31. I’ve started randomly video-calling friends. Brits, especially, often seem panicked at my surprise call – but once the shock subsides, the spontaneous chats are actually quite lovely. Some of my favourite memories this January have been lying on my couch and laughing with people I hadn’t spoken to in a while. Amrou Al-Kadhi, writer, drag performer and film-maker
32. I think watching old Star Trek episodes and knitting is about as pleasurable as it gets. At the moment, I’m in the middle of season 4 and knitting a forest-green bag. Recently, I have also been making up my own patterns, which has really added to the fun. Frankie Sadler, student, Wiltshire
33. My fun activity has been brewing kombucha. You begin with the starter bacteria, which is called a scoby. It’s alive. You keep it in a gallon glass jar, feed it with room-temperature, sweetened tea, cover it with a cloth and in a couple of weeks you have a semi-sparkling, vinegary drink. Add it to ice and you can kid yourself you’re having a cocktail. Philippa Perry, psychotherapist
34. I recently took up alcohol ink art, which is gratifyingly quick and also mentally absorbing. You can create some fabulously complex and beautiful abstract artworks and there are lots of tutorials available on YouTube. While it costs a bit to get set up, the inks go a long way. Nicola Fern, digital learning developer, Manchester
35. Creatively interesting spaces that bring people together nourish me. I feel as if I need to soak in the feeling of community. I want to dance in shared spaces where you can eat and drink in unity and enjoy soul-music filled afternoons. Gemma Cairney, TV and radio presenter
36. Make a pudding that sounds or looks incredibly difficult: eclairs shaped like swans; a tart calling for 12 egg yolks. Something you’ve never attempted that may require inexpensive specialist kit – a piping bag, say. Do not make it for other people – not yet. It will probably go wrong, but it will taste fine. No one has to know. Tim Dowling, writer and columnist
37. I have been a rower for decades. Winter’s bright, crisp days offer a chance to enjoy the fresh air and gorgeous scenery. Sometimes it’s stormy and windy, which brings extra challenges, but there is terrific camaraderie among rowers – and usually a trip to a cafe afterwards. Pauline Peel, retired insolvency practitioner, Walton-on-Thames
38. I perform standup comedy once a week at a little club called the Holly Bush, in Cradley Heath, near Dudley. I can just about write a 10-minute set in an hour. Last year, I also organised improv shows, which was fun and exhausting. I can’t wait to do it again. John Parman, fundraising executive, Dudley
39. What to do to get out of a fun rut? Start living a little louder: move your body, watch TV that makes you happy and get inspired. Think about what kind of vibration you want to be bringing to the party. Chelsea Handler, comedian
40. Buy a Rubik’s Cube, then spend hours memorising a series of techniques. Within days, you should be able to solve a 3×3 cube from any position. When the elegant trigger moves are flowing freely (it’s not for nothing that one series of turns is known as “the Sexy Move”) and muscle memory overtakes your thoughts, it feels almost like you’re flying. Tim Jonze, associate editor, culture, the Guardian
41. In January, I like to “go abroad” to a hot country without leaving my flat. My most successful trip was to Jamaica in 2020 – we ordered in curry goat, ackee and saltfish and fried plantain, and created a playlist featuring Sean Paul and Shaggy. Wear suncream for that holiday smell and put deckchairs out in your living room. Holly Nicholson, flood engineer, London
42. I took up oil painting four years ago and find that it helps me to relax. It is really enjoyable to come up with an idea and see it gradually emerge on the canvas. I particularly like painting crows and cats and trying to capture their personalities. Faye McNiven, lead auditor, Totnes
43. I love to dance, but I’m too embarrassed to take a class. So, I teach myself routines from musicals online, laboriously rewinding, practising footwork, posture, arm position. It comes out at the strangest times; in an empty street, I’ll find myself springing into Gene Kelly’s kerb skip from Singin’ in the Rain. A giddy, private joy that makes me feel better about the weather. Rhik Samadder, writer
44. Eleven years ago, I joined a community band, Carnival Collective: a raucous, 30-piece drums, bass and brass mashup – and the most fun I could ever have imagined. It’s total chaos at times, but it’s also beautiful, and there’s not one person in the band I wouldn’t call a friend. Tinker Darach, care coordinator, Brighton
45. My 10-year-old, Charlie, loves the rain. On the worst, wettest days, we put on our waterproofs and cycle over the scraggly hills towards Lewes. First, though, we stop off at the village bakery for apple pies and sausage rolls to be consumed at the South Downs summit, with that magnificent, blustery view of the sea. It’s just the best. Nick Broomfield, film director
46. I’ve been running regularly for about five years and it makes me happy like almost nothing else. I hated sport at school, especially running, and wish I’d discovered Couch to 5k at a much younger age! Melanie Osborne, chartered engineer, Bristol
47. I have started wearing a very stupid-looking hat. It is huge and furry and makes me look like such an idiot that a man recoiled in Lidl last week. This would have once caused me to wither up and die of shame, but now I find it quite invigorating – like I’ve just been for a jog. Stuart Heritage, writer
48. We get a barbecue, wrap up warm and head to a nearby beach of an evening. We toast marshmallows, then dip them in chocolate that we melted in tinfoil while the marshmallows were warming. Watching the evening approach by the light of the fire is amazing. Rachel Austin-Francis, policy and partnerships development, North Somerset council, Weston-super-Mare
49. It’s true what they say about volunteering: you get back more than you give. Contrary to what you might expect, I’ve been having some of the most fun of my life volunteering with elderly people. I love hearing their stories and learn so much from their insights. We laugh a lot, too. Nancy Jo Sales, author
50. I enjoy walking, rain or shine. It’s wonderful how the same landscape can look and sound so different from day to day, season to season. The same place never bores me and I’m always at my happiest when roaming or ambling about. Melanie, healthcare assistant, Dorset


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