Mental health is a key factor during economic hibernation. Pre-coronavirus, we were able to attend the theatre, concerts, borrow books from the library, hit the gym and travel.
All of these things were key factors to enriching our lives and help build our mental wellbeing.
But as times have changed, companies and organisations are adapting. From your lounge room, you can access some of the world’s greatest museums, watch Shakespeare’s Hamlet from the Globe Theatre in London or soak in a Puccini’s Tosca from New York’s Met Opera from your couch, or see animals at the zoo.
Or, perhaps, you can borrow books, from a selection of 11,000 titles for free from the City of Sydney’s e-library. Or, if you have a few extra dollars to spare, you can also join in some online yoga or boxing fitness classes.
Health experts have said it is important to keep active and your mind stimulated while you’re at home in isolation.
The choices are endless as businesses pivot to help with your mental wellbeing during these troubling times.
Here’s a list of some of the free (or low fee) activities you can do, right from your living room.
Read an ebook
City of Sydney Library
The City of Sydney have more than 20,00 ebooks that you can download for free. While the public libraries are closed, Sydneysiders will be able to access the libraries digital items like books, music, magazines and movies. You’ll find fiction titles like Murakami Norwegian Wood, Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet, Benjamin Law’s memoir The Family Law and classics like To Kill a Mockingbird and Heart of Darkness. All you need to do is sign up for a free digital library membership on the City of Sydney Library’s website.
But the council has also added the State Library of NSW’s online resource Indyreads, which will give you access to 9,000 ebooks from major and independent publishers, self-published authors and local writers.
Watch the Opera
It’s one of the most famous opera theatres in the world, and now, New York’s Met Opera are streaming past performances of some of the most famous productions. Every evening, the theatre shows free production like Tosca, Puccini’s operatic thriller which revolves around a diva, a painter, a political insurgent and a sadistic police chief. The production premiered in 2018 and you’ll be able to watch it, right from the comfort of your living room.
The Met Opera will also provide resources like play bills and interviews with some of the biggest names in opera.
On Saturday April 25, the Met Opera will be hosting an At-Home Gala where more than 40 leading artists perform in a live stream from their homes around the world.
Watch the animals
If you had planned on a safari this year, never fear. Explore.org gives you live streams of animals from around the world. You’ll be privy to wildlife in the vast lands of Africa, the marine life of the Great Barrier Reef and even cat and dog rescue centres.
Explore.org is the world’s largest live nature cam network which virtually takes you to natural habitats of animals and birds.
The Explore’s ‘Zen cams’ also make for great viewing for an afternoon nap. There will be soft meditation music with visuals of great white sharks swimming or experience the unique NASA cam which streams the Earth’s orbit.
Closer to home, Sydney’s Taronga Zoo and the Melbourne Zoo are also live streaming their animal exhibitions where you can see cub tigers.
Go to the gallery
Art Gallery NSW and the NGV
The creative team at the Art Gallery of NSW have worked hard to put online a stellar line up of projects. The Together in Art project features artist interviews, performances, artist interviews and even how-to-guides by Archibald winner, Ben Quilty.
In Victoria, the famed NGV has launched immersive virtual tours of its exhibitions. You’ll be able to see some of their blockbuster exhibitions (which are normally ticketed) like the Keith Haring | Jean Michael Basquiat: Crossing Lines which also comes with an audio guide.
Shit Pub Trivia
If you’re missing your weekly pint at the pub, paired with the ritual mid-week trivia, Shit Pub Trivia might just fill that hole. Corral your friends in a Zoom meeting for a quiz at the virtual pub. And if you’re worried about cheating, Shit Pub Trivia is trying to construct a quiz of ungoogleable questions. Register your team to play for prizes like slabs of craft beer.
There are also a number of other local companies which host pub quizzes online like the Quiz Meister’s The Quarantine Quiz, which is hosted via Facebook every Friday night at 8pm in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, 7:30pm in South Australia, 7pm in Queensland and 5pm in Western Australia. Talk about interstate competition.
Stream classical music
Berlin Philharmonic: Digital Concert Hall
The Berlin Philharmonic have opened up their concerts to international listeners via a digital subscription. Each season, they live stream around 40 concerts But they have also built up a rich archive. Find whatever you’re in the mood for, whether it’s Simon Rattle giving the premiere of a new work by Hans Abrahamsen or Herbert von Karajan conducting the 1978 New Year’s Day Concert. Go behind the curtain
Take a backstage theatre tour
Melbourne Theatre Company
The 67-year-old theatre company has closed its doors until September. But for the armchair theatre lovers, MTC Now, is a virtual digital platform which includes trivia, treasure hunts, recommendations for things to watch as well as recordings of live performances. The videos will also show you the work that goes into the productions – everything from the lighting, to costume and set design.
Learn how to cook
One of the world’s best chefs, Italian Massimo Bottura’s restaurant, Osteria Francescana, is in the heart of Modena. But since we’ve all gone into lockdown, the Michelin-starred chef has turned to showing us how to cook. If you’re dedicated, each night (or 6am Australian time), Massimo hosts cooking classes/makes dinner for his charming family.
So far, he’s made Japanese soups, Thai curries as hummus-based dishes.
He will also host Q&A’s on Instagram TV and post how-to videos on sauces he makes during the main show.
Take up knitting
Thinking of taking up a new hobby? Third Piece, a knitwear company based in America, has knitting classes available online if you’re thinking of a new scarf or sweater for winter. Starting from US$40, you can learn how to make beanies, gloves, sweaters, shawls and more. The company breaks up the lessons into beginner, advanced beginner, intermediate and advanced intermediate.
Strengthen and lengthen
Pilates has been a popular form of exercise for many Australians. And while we are unable to attend our favourite classes, studios around the country are live streaming their classes. Fluidform pilates, a Sydney-based studio has an at home pack, which includes access to their extensive programs, ranging from exercises with or without basic equipment, meal plans and more. If you get your friends to join, you can complete buddy challenges or two-week challenges. Home packs are $49 a month, which means if you do a workout every day, it works out to be a $1.60 per session. You will also get a yoga ball, resistance bands and floor pads.
Become Margot Fontaine
Sydney Dance Company
The Sydney Dance Company has adapted its classes so people can learn different forms of dance, in the privacy of your home (thank god). There are around 45 digital classes a week in real time. Everything from hip-hop to jazz to stretch, and there is more to come. All you need is a mobile device (and you can turn off the camera). It is $28 for unlimited weekly classes. You’ll be dancing like Margot Fontaine by the end of lockdown.
Learn how to play an instrument
From April 16, Fender, the world’s leading guitar brand are offering three months of free guitar lessons. Users can get free online tutorials on how to play the guitar, bass or ukelele. Using the Fender Play app, users will get a code that will give them access to tutorials and sheet music.
Celebrities reading books
Storyline Online and Save With Stories
Celebrities around the world are giving mum and dad a break from the evening ritual of story time. Instead, celebs like Jimmy Fallon The Screen Actors Guild Foundation created the children’s literacy website, Storyline Online which features videos of actors reading children’s books alongside produced illustrations. Each book has a recommended grade level and activity guides. You’ll find Betty White reading Harry the Dirty Dog and Rose Byrne reading The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
Save With Stories, which was created in partnership with Save the Children and No Kid Hungry is offering stories on both Instagram and Facebook. You’ll find Jennifer Garner reading Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark and Jimmy Fallon reading his book This Is Baby.