How to have a happy quarantine

by mingyuan3 min read15th Mar 202020 comments

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CoronavirusHappiness
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As you may have noticed, things in the world are a bit cuckoo bananas right now. Social distancing is becoming increasingly widespread, which means that people are going to be experiencing social isolation at an unprecedented level. In this age of global connectedness, this seems really scary to some people, but I prefer to think of it as something akin to the experience of weathering a snowy winter in a log cabin on the western frontier. That is, cozy and exciting!

I live in a house with about ten people. We all have different personalities and we're all afraid of going stir-crazy spending five months together, so I did some research on how we can avoid that. (We also have a dry-erase monthly calendar where we can plan out activities!) Below are my ideas :)


Epistemic status: these recommendations are based on a combination of (1) things that are required or recommended for astronauts, (2) recommendations for people homebound due to injuries, chronic illnesses, or old age, and (3) common sense.

Body interventions:

  • If at all possible, get fresh air and sunshine at least once a day.
  • Get at least light exercise at least once a day; ideally get heavy exercise regularly.
  • Get enough sleep, water, and calories.
  • Eat a variety of foods that you enjoy!

Brain interventions:

  • Regularly video chat loved ones who aren't quarantined with you.
  • Talk to a therapist online, if possible.
  • Meditate. There are lots of guided meditations available online and via apps, some of which are free.
  • Stick to a basic routine that you endorse. For example, you might want to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day, or do daily exercise.
  • Change out of sleep clothes and into day clothes each day. If you are a newly minted remote worker, this is especially important, and you may want to set up additional "going to work", "leaving work", and "lunch break" routines.
  • Have projects to work on; set goals that feel meaningful to you.
  • Get around to those things you always meant to do but didn’t have time for, e.g. learning a certain skill, cleaning out a certain room, or reading a certain book.
  • Make sure you get real alone time, even if you're sharing a room.
  • Do things that are fun for you! e.g. watch movies, make art, have sex, read, dance.
  • Gratitude journaling. Try to write down three or more things you're grateful for each day, or exchange gratitudes with a friend or partner verbally.
  • Plan at least one thing to do each day. This will give your day structure and purpose!
  • Clean the house regularly so that your living environment stays fresh and nice.
  • Celebrate birthdays and other holidays just as you normally would; take these opportunities to dress up nice/put on makeup if it makes you happy.

And remember that everyone else is in a similarly stressful situation to you. Interpersonal conflicts are fairly likely to arise, and you need to do your best to minimize their impact on your household. For some people that might mean you need to walk away from the situation for a while rather than letting it escalate. Maybe you need to talk to a trusted friend and/or try third-party mediation. Maybe you need to let your feelings out in a dance battle. In any case, dealing with conflict in a way that minimizes negative externalities is really important. I’d love to hear additional advice on this.

Big list of activities

Activities you can do alone

Group activities

  • Teach each other stuff (e.g. math, singing)
  • Dance parties
  • Morning calisthenics
  • Show each other cool movies
  • Smell identifying contest
  • Tasting exercises from the book Taste
  • Become a choir
  • Video game tournament
  • Scavenger hunt
  • Give each other makeovers
  • Contest to build the strongest structure out of something you have around the house
  • Learn a synchronized dance
  • Sleepover night: make a blanket fort and eat popcorn and watch movies in your PJs
  • Karaoke
  • Cook-off
  • Picnic (can be indoors or in a yard, if you have one)
  • Truth or dare
  • Hide and seek
  • Easter egg hunt (didn’t stock up on eggs? that’s okay! hide something else!)
  • Photo shoot
  • Shadow puppet show
  • Shakespeare read-throughs
  • Improv exercises from Impro
  • Play banal card games like kids do
  • Paper airplane contest
  • Board games
  • Wrestling
  • Badminton
  • Quidditch
  • The floor is lava
  • Collaborative online games
  • Opt-in mandatory daily exercise
  • Shared meals
  • Watch a long TV show together, one or two episodes per day
  • Set up passive Skype calls with other houses so it’s kind of like we’re hanging out in each other’s living rooms
  • Spelling bee
  • Build a Rube Goldberg machine

I welcome other ideas and will add them to the post if you want!

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Board games one can play for free online:

Board game arena is a website with a variety of games including Carcasonne, Puerto Rico, and 7 Wonders.

I'd like to advertise my desire to play go with rationalists, either on OGS (linked) or KGS. I am sloeb on both platforms.

https://yucata.de/en is another website with a variety of games

http://brass.orderofthehammer.com/ has Brass

http://boardgaming-online.com/ has Through the Ages, both original and updated deck. (Despite the generic name, it's just that one game.)

Words With Friends is imitation Scrabble available as a Facebook app.

I've purchased the expansions on dominion.games. Hit me up if you want to play.

Care to share your username? Mine is loewenheim_swolem.

I used to play Innovation online here - dunno if it still works. https://innovation.isotropic.org/

Also looks like you can play here: https://en.boardgamearena.com/gamepanel?game=innovation

I definitely forgot to get up and move around a couple days in a row and that was a mistake. 

I'm thinking of an online LessWrong meetup for some socializing with similar minded people. Please comment/upvote at this post.

Opt-in mandatory daily exercise

This is probably a joke of some sort. But I don’t get it.

Sorry no, it wasn't a joke - my internal doc explains this better but I thought it looked unwieldy here. The description is "Opt in once, then we’ll make you do it every day to overcome the activation energy. Maybe morning calisthenics or some other group exercise." Does that make more sense?

Also I corrected your spelling of "borders" in your recent question :P

Casual/co-op games that aren't super high mental overhead combined with voice chat can be more connective/sustainable than the slightly more formal video calls. I can only stay on a video call for about an hour to an hour and a half, but I can jump in to and out of group games regularly.

Make sure you get real alone time

This one was the most surprising and I like it. I have no lack of it but anyway.

Set up passive Skype calls with other houses so it’s kind of like we’re hanging out in each other’s living rooms

This is a great one and I hope we will see more of it. Setting it up is not trivial though. Mostly because of the permanent part. Zoom for example limits to 40 min even in the paid version.

Anyway here are some pointers:

Setup in general https://www.process.st/video-conferencing-software/

Jitsi video solution (which you can host yourself and can have a permanent call then): https://jitsi.org/downloads/

I had good results with a Logitech C920 HD Pro Webcam because it has a good compromise of which sounds it picks up in front of the screen. A Jabra Speak 510 is better but who can afford that?

Hey, can you give reference for "Tasting exercises from the book Taste"? There seems to have at least two

Ah yes, sorry about that! Some of the exercises are available here; there are more in the book :)

Thanks a lot for writing this! I read this a while ago, and discovered that "under-desk bike pedal things" exist, and have now successfully trained a TAP to idly cycle on mine every time I'm on a video call, which is surprisingly effective for ensuring I get some actual exercise done

The chrome extention Netflix Party lets you synchronize playing the same video on netflix other people, which you can use along with Skype to watch something together.

(You can always fall back to counting down "3,2,1" to start playing the video at the same time, but the experience is nicer if you ever need to pause and resume)

One game/activity I generally recommend because of its potential 11/10 fun payoff in the end, which also works in relative isolation, is having fun with gap texts (just figured out this is apparently known as "mad libs", so maybe this isn't actually new to anybody). The idea being that one person creates a small story with many words left out, and then asks other people to fill in the words without knowing the context. So "Bob scratched his <bodypart> and <verb> insecurely. 'You know', he said <adverb>, 'when I was a(n) <adjective> boy, I always wanted to become a(n) <noun>, but I couldn't, because my <bodypart> is/are too <adjective>" might be part of such a story. You pick these gaps in random order and query people for the thing you need (or if you're alone, you can even do this yourself given you manage to hide the context from yourself). Afterwards you read the story out loud to everybody involved.

I've done this a few times both with groups and just with my girlfriend and it never disappointed. Usually takes some time to write and fill in the story, but I think it's very much worth it. Also, this gets funnier with experience as you figure out both what kind of text works best (involving body parts is certainly a great idea) and also what kinds of words to fill the gaps with (e.g. very visual ones, or such with certain connotations).

My ex-wife has cancelled a party and replaced it with an outside gathering. It is much easier to keep a distance there and talk. Just do not get close or touch. I think she will even provide food - muffins fresh from the oven for everybody to pick up from the tray.

If anyone's looking for something to do, you could always try learning a little human anatomy:

5 main muscles made easy.

A minute a muscle so say 5 minutes a day. Do you have the time to spare?

Go on - connect body and mind!