Decision time: sit around and stare at four walls, or grow in your know-how of cooking, history, gardening or any topic you’re partial to. Well I’ve made up my mind.

There’s a lot out there to keep us occupied, believe it or not. But first, let’s look at the benefits of acquiring new skills and knowledge. Forbes Magazine said learning a new skill occupies your mind as you focus on something positive - a good way to escape the never-ending news and social media cycle. And the feelings of accomplishment end up far outweighing the snippets of bliss we may find in being glued to online TV channels. Who knows, you may not get a chance to learn this later.

Melbourne-based Otao Cooking do some social virtual courses on Asian cooking, including Asian vegan, Indonesian, Japanese and Korean food classes, and they also do free, live lessons via their Facebook page. They have very good reviews, and they compared their online cooking to ‘a set of puzzle pieces that can be rearranged to unlock the code to tastier, healthier and more nutritious food at home’.

Kids won’t get left behind as they can enrol into online cooking with the likes of Kids Love to Cook, who do lessons online, with an instructor that checks in on their progress.

If you fancy adding some French benefits to your skillset, or Italian, or Spanish, or even improving your English speaking skills, there’s a smorgasbord of free, or cheap as-chips online lessons done through the Meetup app. The app is a service that organises online groups that can host virtual events for people with similar interests. Download it on your phone and get access to a truckload of social groups that include churches, book clubs, pets, hobbies, parenting coaches and more.

Psychology Today said that reading enhances or maintains our cognitive abilities, and engaging in mentally stimulating activities, like reading, can be a proactive plan in reducing the risk of dementia, later in life. They also said that even something as simple as being engrossed in a novel boosts connectivity in the brain, improving its function.

The Blue Mountains Library has access to free audio books via the Borrow Box app, and other material through the online storytelling of the Britannica Library.

So as we turn away from sadness, and from the bad news of the day, pick a topic that interests you or your family, stretch those brain networks, and go for those all-important accomplishments while you can.

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