When you graduated from uni and moved to London, you were bright eyed and bushy tailed. You had a place on a strong grad scheme and you were living your best life in a house in Clapham with your mates. Six months in and a few things have changed. You’ve used the last of your savings to buy your travel card, you’re eating pasta and tomato ketchup on a regular basis, and after the party you decided to throw three weeks after you moved in, there are still mini cheddars stuck to the carpet, and your mum would probably refer to it as a ‘pigsty’ rather than a house for young professionals.
London can be tough when you’re beginning to get to grips with it. At first, every night is Aperol spritz night, you’re meeting new people, and you can’t believe how alive you feel, but it’s also one of the most expensive, overpopulated cities in the world. Around a third of Londoners have admitted to feeling depressed, and it’s no wonder when the average commute is around an hour, and half of your salary is spent on rent. By Friday you’re exhausted and all you want to do is curl up and watch Netflix; which would be great if you lived in Coventry, but you live in London, so you should probably make the most of it. If you’re wondering how you’ll ever find the energy to socialize again, take a look at these lifehacks to make the most of the little time you have in the capital:
1. Start Dating Again
Nobody has the time to meet anyone anymore, let alone spend depressing hours on the tube swiping through random photographs of people that they have never even met. Dating apps such as Badoo make dating in London a lot simpler. By using technology to match you with people with similar interests, and those you may have walked past in the street, you can swap mindless swiping for finding people who you’ve actually brushed shoulders within Victoria station. Handy when you fancy a swift after work drink date in time to get home for the football.
2. Shop at Markets
Central London’s boroughs are awash with different cultures and markets. Although Borough market feels more like an upmarket bourgeois village than a place to grab cheap veg, there are other alternatives. You’ll often be able to pick up a bowl of onions for £1, and stallholders may even enjoy bartering with you if you buy enough to produce. You’ll find that your pocket money will go further than it would if you were to spend it in the small shop down the road, and you’ll also get some much-needed nutrients. Most markets sell interesting and exotic vegetables at reasonable prices, so get your housemates together and cook a new dish instead of heading out. You’ll save loads of money and have some quality bonding time. One of you might even fancy picking up the hoover.
3. Puppy Therapy
If you find that you’re in need of a pick me up but you don’t have the time or energy to head out with your mates, take a bus to Battersea to visit the dogs. Since 1860, Battersea Dogs’ and Cats’ Home has been a rescue and rehoming center for furry friends, and now they’re opening their doors to Londoners who could do with a little respite too. Whilst you won’t get the five-star lodging and medical treatment that the animals get, you’ll be allowed to spend an hour with some of Battersea’s cutest residents. Those who own dogs show a better response to stress, so a visit to Battersea could be what you need when you’re feeling low.
4. Head to the park (and take your swimming gear)
In the summer months, London’s parks become a back garden for those not lucky enough to have their own. Thousands of Londoners flock to green spaces for Tesco prosecco, barbecues and tinny sounds from someone’s Beats Pill. If you fancy something a little more active and involving fewer disposable barbecue fumes, get yourself up to Hampstead Heath to take a swim in the outdoor pool. Don’t expect London Fields Lido, the outdoor pool at Hampstead is more like a giant pond, so enjoy the swish of pondweed around your legs as you wade through the murky water with fellow swimmers. This isn’t the place to brush up on your front crawl, but instead, enjoy some leisurely breaststroke amongst the various ducks who will happily swim alongside.
5. Wait a little later to get some dinner
For most Londoners, dinner takes place at around 10 pm on the tube home after a late night in the office or after work drinks with colleagues. Outlets at Waterloo station make a killing in £5 sausage rolls for late night munchies, but many chain restaurants reduce their prices in the last half an hour of closing. Itsu reduces the price of sushi by 50%, which makes a healthier alternative to a sausage roll for both your body and your bank balance. Food wastage is a hot topic at the moment, with one-third of food wasted worldwide. A new app called Too Good To Go lets you know where food is being reduced at the end of the day so that you can also do your bit for the planet.
6. Chop the Price of Your Haircut
Maintaining a good lid can set you back a few pounds in the capital. If you rely on regular highlights, it’ll increase the price further still. Luckily there are lots of training academies for hairdressers all around the city, which means you can get a decent chop at a much more reasonable price. Whilst some academies cater for beginners, many are refresher courses for seasoned professionals who are looking to learn new techniques or simply brush up on skills. Many trainees are looking for people who are interested in having a creative cut, and haircuts may include certain requirements, so check before you book that you aren’t committing to a blue crop, but in many cases, the hairdressers are flexible and will work towards something you need.
7. See The Sea
Sometimes we all have to get out of London, and where better to go than Brighton. The eclectic seaside town is less than an hour on the train from Victoria, and you’ll feel like you’re having a mini holiday. Take a walk down the historic Brighton Pier, which has managed to stand strong through two world wars, horrendous storms and the footsteps of thousands of visitors a year. For Brick Lane vibes, head to the Lanes which epitomizes Brighton cool with independent cafes and shops. For rainier days, Brighton is home to the country’s oldest aquarium – it’s not quite the same as hitting the beach, but at least you’ll be hit with sea air as you leave.
8. Clean Your House
Cleaning is not fun, but it is a life hack. Spend a weekend cleaning your house, and you’ll feel happier for weeks. Remember that dining table you found on the street when you moved in? Throw away the junk mail and pizza boxes and you’ll be able to eat breakfast again, meaning you’ll have a much more solid start to the day. Living space in London is a prime and we can bet that your bedroom is piled high with clothes that you never wear and books that you don’t have time to read. Gather it all together and hold a garage sale in front of your house or take it to your nearest charity shop. You’ll have more space and will likely feel more organized, which will be sure to clear your head in minutes.
9. Take Time on the Tube
Your commuting time is your time. Do your make up, listen to a podcast, do a handstand on your seat, nobody will make eye contact with you anyway. You have forty minutes each morning to yourself during which you have nowhere else to go, so make the most of it. Make a list of 20 places that you want to go on holiday, read that book you’ve been wanting to read for years or simply spend the time staring into space. Whatever you decide to do, remember that these are your golden minutes each day. Treating your commute time as your own time will remind you that you can have time out when you need it, and by the time you get to work, you’ll have reclaimed a little bit of life for yourself.
London can feel lonely and tough, but it is also an exciting city. We all have moments when we would rather be elsewhere, and it doesn’t matter how many of your friends have gallery openings with free wine, you’re going to yearn for some time out to do the things you really enjoy. Make the most of the moments on the tube when you can tune out with a podcast, and find the little things that make life in London a bit easier.
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