15 Useful Skills You Can Learn While You Quarantine at Home

To make the most of your time social distancing, pick up a handy new quarantine hobby.

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In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of us are searching for ways to stay entertained at home. But if your newly socially-isolated life has been confined to binging TV shows and raiding the liquor cabinet, it might be time to consider a new approach. Picking up a new skill is a proven boon to mental health and stress reduction, and with most of us spending our days cooped up inside, it's never been more important to prioritize your well-being. From flexing your creative muscles to stretching your literal ones, here are a few quarantine skills to master during your coronavirus-related downtime.

1
Speaking a new language

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Maybe you always wanted to find the time to master Spanish or Mandarin—and there are no barriers now to achieving fluency in a new language. Both Duolingo and Babbel are learning apps featuring expert-crafted courses for everyone from absolute beginners to those who simply want to fine-tune their fluency. The free apps engage you in conversation and offer real-time feedback, so you can quickly begin to speak with confidence on any manner of subjects.

2
Cooking

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Instead of ordering delivery, it's now time—and chances are you have it—to cook something beyond your regular quick-dinner rotation. If there's a recipe you've always wanted to try or a culinary technique you have yet to master, now's your chance to become the amateur chef you're destined to be.

If you're looking for inspiration, the professionals over at Bon Appétit have taken their popular YouTube programming to their homes, where they'll help guide you in improving your skills and creating new classics out of what you have in your pantry.

3
Baking

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You've mastered dinner—now what's for dessert? Instead of binging The Great British Bake Off again, fine-tune your baking skills and whip up something spectacular yourself. Small specialty food stores might carry baking kits that can help you whip up a sweet masterpiece, so make some calls and see what's available. And if you've got little ones around, you can also try these 9 Fun Indoor Activities for Kids During Quarantine.

4
Yoga

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From Yoga With Adriene on YouTube to apps like Glo, there are loads of great online resources to help you build a gentle daily yoga practice at home. Whether you're looking to enhance flexibility or progress to some impressive positions, use your reclaimed commute time to pack in a perfect morning stretch. Mastering the skill of yoga will make you feel more zen overall. And for more ways to stay centered, here are 15 Effective Self-Care Tips That Are Made for Quarantine.

5
Podcasting

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Got a story to share with the world? Now is the perfect time to start a podcast. The bare minimum required to record is a computer with a USB microphone and internet access; get your first episode under your belt, and then progress to higher-quality equipment.

While all you need to start is an idea and the conviction to follow through, there are loads of helpful articles online about format development and reaching listeners, as well as the start-to-finish recording, editing, and publishing process. You'll go from amateur podcaster to podcasting pro in no time.

6
Reading

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OK, if you're reading this, then reading is a skill you've already mastered—probably several decades ago. But if you've forgotten how to read for fun, or even how to set aside time to do so, then now's your chance to get back on track. Just think: This could be your moment to finally tackle your to-read pile. While many libraries have closed, there are still loads of e-books and audio books available to borrow online, all accessible through your local library's website.

Looking to read and chat about your reading? Check out author Robert Macfarlane's #CoReadingVirus book club, now on Twitter. There are three choices for the group's first book: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd, and George Eliot's Middlemarch.

7
Puzzles

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A great way to put your brain to work while in quarantine is by doing a puzzle. Whether it's a traditional jigsaw or a Sudoku book, puzzles are mentally stimulating and easily accessible. And while anyone can do a puzzle, the better and faster you get at completing them, the more puzzles will start to feel less like a time-killer and more like an actual skill you've acquired.

8
Working out

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If it's your body that needs exercise right now, check to see if local fitness studios are streaming sessions with instructors. Sure, you know how to work out, but have you really tried to master the art? There are plenty of places to get started.

Home-cycling giant Peloton closed their brick-and-mortar doors, but the company is offering new users a 90-day trial on their app, featuring new content from their New York studios. Planet Fitness is offering "Home Work-Ins" streamed live at 7 p.m. ET daily on their Facebook page. And Gold's Gym is offering free access to the Gold's Amp digital personal trainer app through the end of May, with more than 600 audio and video workouts to challenge you to work up a sweat.

9
Guitar

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If you're looking to transform your atonal strumming into a genuinely pleasant sound, there's no better time to finally master the acoustic guitar than while in self-isolation. Award-winning folk artist Laura Marling is running a series of "isolation guitar tutorials" every Sunday on her Instagram page. With Marling breaking down the basic chord progressions in some of her biggest hits, you'll be strumming along in no time at all.

10
Meditation

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Worried about tomorrow? Learning how to meditate can help you focus on today. Being mindful of what's happening in the moment is difficult amid the pandemic, but it can also help us cope during an unsettling time. If self-quarantining increases your anxiety, mindfulness meditation has been proven to alleviate stress, depression, and insomnia. Apps like Headspace, Calm, and the UCLA Mindful App offer an array of free mindfulness meditations for any length and any mood. And for more ways to manage your anxiety, check out these 17 Mental Health Tips for Quarantine From Therapists.

11
Knitting

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Want to pick up a skill that's a little more old-school? Thanks to its repetitive nature, knitting is probably one of the most mindful pursuits out there. Find a trove of content for beginner knitters at YouTube, with tutorials from how to nail the essential knit stitch to switching up your designs through colors and patterns. By the time we emerge from lockdown, you could have a brand new, one-of-a-kind scarf to sport.

12
Dancing

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Sure, you know how to move on the dance floor, but imagine emerging from quarantine a total dance master. Dancers, choreographers, and studios are still keeping on their feet through COVID-19—now via online platforms like Instagram Live and Zoom.

With an abundance of class options—from beginner to professional, ballet to Bollywood—you can dance in your kitchen like no one is watching, and try new styles with zero pressure. Outlets like Steezy Studio, Dancing Alone Together, and 305 Fitness collectively offer hundreds of dance selections, all at minimal cost and maximal stress relief.

13
Making music

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Now that Moog Music has made its music-making app available for free, anyone can try their hand at creating a hit song. Their Model D app is a faithful reproduction of the original analog circuit designs of the world's first portable keyboard synthesizer, allowing you to create some classic '80s sounds. You might not be able to produce a chart-topper on your first try, but think of how good you'll get if you keep at it.

14
Home improvement

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Have you always relied on outside help when it comes to fixing things up around the house? Save money and gain a new sense of accomplishment by using your time quarantining to master the skill of DIY home improvement. There are plenty of projects you can take on that don't require too much effort or prior knowledge—start small and work your way up to more expert-level tasks. There are ample guides online that can help you, like Glass Doctor's "How to Build a DIY Window Box."

15
Gardening

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If you're lucky enough to be in lockdown with a patch of green space to tend to, why not make the most of it by mastering some gardening skills? A Google or YouTube search can provide a wealth of information on what plants thrive in your area, how to tend to your plants, keeping your soil healthy, and attracting new wildlife into your garden.

It's also deeply fulfilling to clear weeds, plant some bulbs, and witness your hard work pay off. Plus, you'll have a relaxing and beautiful space to chill out while staying safe at home.

Tracy Collins Ortlieb
Tracy Collins Ortlieb is a lifestyle writer. Read more
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