Graphic by Meher Yeda / North by Northwestern

The first few months of COVID-19, my life was emblematic of Tyga’s lyrics, “Okay, I'm bored in the house and I'm in the house bored.” For weeks, I sat trapped at home, beyond bored. I even grew sick of watching Friends. Every day felt the same: take online classes, study, watch Netflix, eat, and sleep. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything useful.

I could’ve continued this miserable and monotonous routine, but I instead started focusing on myself and acquired some healthy habits that have helped me become a more positive person. Here are five changes I made to my lifestyle!

1. I got closer to nature!

Whenever people ask me where my favorite place in Seoul, South Korea (my home) is, I answer “The Han River” without hesitation. Located in a busy and populated city where people are constantly scrambling to get from one place to another, the Han River provides a much-needed natural oasis. A peaceful stretch of grass  — a rare sight in Seoul — runs alongside the river for miles and provides a perfect spot for people to have picnics, exercise, or walk their dogs. I go to the Han River almost every weekend. I love separating myself from the commotion of the city to immerse myself in nature. Lying on the grass and looking up at the clear, blue sky dotted with clouds, I turn on music and chat with my friends. It gives me time to free myself from my worries and just relax. No matter how terrible of a day I’ve had or how many exams I have coming up, I find myself smiling every time I’m by the river.

2. I keep track of my goals!

Every New Year, I’d come up with a few goals and promptly forget them. During quarantine, though, I started reflecting on myself and thought of some new ones. I knew I was going to neglect them if I didn’t keep track somewhere, so I opened up Notes on my phone and wrote everything down. This way, I am able to remind myself of my goals every day and motivate myself to diligently work toward them. Whenever I achieve a goal, I put a check next to it. One goal I had last summer break was to finish at least two books per month and write summaries, so I wouldn’t forget what they were about. To my joy, I was successful. I even went beyond and read three books in June! Looking at the growing number of checks, I am a prouder and more driven person.

3. I exercise regularly!

When I’m feeling down, working out helps to clear up my mind. Exercising boosts my self-esteem and encourages positive thinking alongside improving my fitness. I try to work out at least four times a week. One day, I focus on my legs and glutes. The other days, I train to strengthen my core and upper body. After each workout, I make sure to fit in at least 20 minutes of cardio to gain more endurance. On days when I’m feeling lazy, I still try to get in some kind of action during the day. Even a quick 15-minute walk to start my morning energizes me and puts a smile on my face.

4. I eat healthy!

I’m embarrassed to confess my diet used to consist of pasta, pasta and some more pasta, plus a little chocolate and a bag of Cheez-Its for dessert. Absolutely no veggies. As I started working out consistently, I developed a new interest in eating healthy. I realized my body would break down if I continued my previous eating habits, so I promised myself I’d change and be more conscious. In the beginning, I struggled, but I continued forcing myself to eat salads. Ironically, I ended up growing a liking for them. Now, I voluntarily look for and sometimes even crave them, to the surprise of my parents and friends. I also no longer constantly have a bag of Cheez-Its in my hand! This new habit of mine has really started showing a change, both physically and mentally. I’ve definitely lost some unnecessary fat, and my body feels fresher and more energetic. Even better, I’m proud of myself for reaching another goal.  

5. I picked up an old skill again and got better!

I’ve played the electric guitar since I was 13. I’ve gone out on talent shows with my friends, and it was a big passion of mine growing up. My hectic high school schedule and transition to college, though, separated me from my passion. I left my guitar sitting in the corner of my room in South Korea. For months, it remained untouched. Bored out of my mind during the mandatory two-week quarantine back at home in March 2020, I decided to pick up my guitar on a whim. When every day felt the same, I found enjoyment in teaching myself new songs on the guitar. I learned a different one each day to add excitement and variety to the repetitive routine of staying at home. Since then, I’ve been regularly practicing the guitar, and now I’m able to play even the songs that I’d previously deemed too hard for me.

These are five ways I transformed my lifestyle and became a more optimistic and healthier person!