18 fun, uplifting products to distract you from the news

Take a mental hiatus from the negative news

These engaging products will get your mind off the current state of the world. Credit: Rockridge Press / Oculus Go

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Let’s call it like it is: The news is quite depressing right now. Every day it’s more of the same—new staggering coronavirus numbers, estimates on when society might get back to normal, analysis on how all this craziness is impacting our economy, and so on. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just need a break.

If you’re in need of a news hiatus, you’re certainly not alone. It’s good to stay informed, but you also need to take your mind off things once in a while for the sake of mental wellbeing. Luckily, there are plenty of products that will help you do just that, whether you want to get outside and enjoy the nice weather or hunker down at home for some much-needed chill time.

Animal Crossing
Credit: Reviewed / Camryn Rabideau

I've been playing this game nonstop for a month.

There’s been one constant in my life since quarantine started, and it’s "Animal Crossing: New Horizons." For whatever reason, this chill game has become the unofficial pastime of the year, with thousands of people working to curate their islands, find the best possible villagers, and catch lots of scorpions. If you’re looking for a laid-back, unchallenging game to pass the time and help you zone out, this Nintendo Switch hit is definitely the way to go.

Get "Animal Crossing: New Horizons" at Target for $59.99

2. A stunning paint-by-number masterpiece

Paint by Numbers
Credit: Kimily

No one ever has to know you didn't paint this freehand.

Even if you’re not naturally artistic, you’ll be able to paint a striking image for your wall using this paint-by-number kit. It comes with a canvas, paint brushes, acrylic paint, and even hooks for hanging the finished product. The pink tulip design is the perfect bright accent for your bedroom, bathroom, or living space. Reviewers say it takes a long time to complete (but turns out beautifully), making it the perfect way to distract yourself during these trying times.

Get the DIY Paint by Numbers for Adults on Amazon for $28.99

3. A vibrant and easy-to-care-for plant to brighten up your home

The Sill
Credit: The Sill

This plant is easy to keep alive—even if you have a brown thumb.

Since you’re probably spending a lot more time at home right now, why not brighten up your living space with a few plants? Even if you struggle to keep plants alive, you’ll likely be able to manage this philodendron, which is fairly easy to care for and gives you visual cues about its needs. (For instance, if its leaves turn yellow, it’s getting too much water.) Plus, The Sill offers a variety of planter colors and styles, so you can match the pot to your decor.

Get the Medium Philodendron from The Sill for $51

4. This board game with a cult following

Credit: Catan Studio

Your family will want to play Catan again and again.

Every time I get together with my friends or go home for the holidays, we inevitably end up playing a heated game of Catan. This unique board game is surprisingly addictive and can get really competitive. If you have at least three people in your household, it may very well become your favorite quarantine activity.

To play, you race to create a settlement on the board, which is made up of hexagonal pieces and changes every time you play. There’s a lot of strategy involved, and you’ll probably create rivalries as you sabotage other players to further your own colony.

Get the Settlers of Catan Board Game at Target for $44.99

5. A self-sufficient herb garden for your kitchen

Credit: AeroGarden

This little garden will essentially take care of itself!

No outdoor area to plan a garden? No problem! You can grow all sorts of fresh herbs indoors with the help of the AeroGarden Sprout. This cool indoor garden comes with three pods—Genovese basil, curly parsley, and dill—and all you have to do is pop them into the base to get them growing.

The garden has its own LED grow lights and self-watering system, and its control panel will let you know when to add water or nutrients. It’s a foolproof way to start your very own herb garden, and watching your little plants grow will hopefully take your mind off the current state of the world.

Get the AeroGarden Sprout at The Home Depot for $76.99

6. A book on breadmaking to teach you the basics

Bread Making
Credit: Rockridge Press

Learn the basics of kneading, proofing, scoring, and more.

Another one of the top quarantine pastimes is breadmaking, and if you want to get in on the fun, you can learn the ropes with Bread Baking for Beginners. This cookbook is designed for true beginners, and it has lots of important information on kneading, proofing, and troubleshooting bread, as well as recipes for all styles of dough. Before you know it, you’ll have your very own sourdough starter and be eating homemade bread with every meal.

Get Bread Baking for Beginners at Books a Million for $15.65

7. Another awesome game for your Nintendo Switch

Credit: Nintendo

You can play this game for hours without getting bored.

In addition to "Animal Crossing," "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" is another must-have for the Nintendo Switch. This game is unbelievably detailed and complex, and you can spend hours upon hours exploring its vast open world. In the game, you play as Link, who’s charged with saving the kingdom of Hyrule, as well as Princess Zelda from Calamity Ganon. You have to venture to new territories, collect weapons, solve puzzles, and fight enemies to achieve your ultimate goal.

Get the "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" at Target for $49.49

8. The just-released The Hunger Games prequel

Hunger Games
Credit: Scholastic Press / Lionsgate

This new book tells the story of President Snow.

If you enjoyed The Hunger Games books and/or movies, you’ll be happy to hear that Suzanne Collins just released a new prequel based in the same world. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes place several decades before Katniss Everdeen’s epic saga, and it actually tells the story of the series’ main antagonist, President Snow. In the just-released novel, 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow is serving as a mentor for a Hunger Games tribute, and readers can get a bit of backstory to the epic villain.

Get The Ballad of Songbirds And Snakes at Books a Million for $22.39

9. A bike to explore the great outdoors on two wheels

Mountain bike
Credit: Co-op Cycles

This entry-level mountain bike is great for beginners.

Tired of being cooped up inside? You can get some fresh air and disconnect from your phone for a few hours with this affordable mountain bike. While not the most hardcore bicycle you can buy, the Co-op Cycles CRT 1.1 is a great option for beginners, as it has a lightweight aluminum frame, 3-by-7 drivetrain, and hydraulic disc brakes. It comes in sizes XS to XL, and reviewers say its well-built and ideal for the whole family.

Get the Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1 Bike at REI for $466.59

10. A baking subscription kit for Instagram-worthy treats

Red Velvet NYC
Credit: Red Velvet NYC

This baking kit provides you with all the ingredients you need for each recipe.

There’s no better way to raise your spirits—and your blood sugar—than by whipping up sweet treats in the kitchen. You can start baking all sorts of delicious desserts with a subscription to Red Velvet NYC, a baking box that sends you all the ingredients you need to make two recipes each month. Past desserts include things like Orange Almond Flourless Cake and Coconut Macarons, and in addition to being delicious, these treats are as pretty as can be, making them prime content for your social media accounts.

Get Red Velvet NYC for $49/month

11. A super-fun outdoor game

Credit: Spikeball

It looks simple, but this game is challenging and intense!

You can get outside and elevate your heart rate with this competitive yard game. Since Spikeball appeared on "Shark Tank" several years ago, it’s become a phenomenon, with entire leagues focused around the game. However, it’s also the perfect backyard activity for your family. All you need is four people and some open space, and you’ll quickly be engrossed in the fast-paced game, which involves bouncing the yellow balls off the net while trying to get it past your opponents.

Get the Spikeball Standard 3-Ball Kit at Target for $59.99

12. A huge 1,000-piece space-themed puzzle

Credit: Chafin

Get engrossed in this 1,000-piece puzzle!

There’s no better way to unwind and pass the time than with a good old-fashioned puzzle, and this oversized jigsaw puzzle will keep you busy for days. A whopping 1,000 pieces make up its space-themed design, and the finished product is 27.5 inches by 19.7 inches. It’s a great alternative after-dinner activity if you don’t want to turn on the news.

Get the Space Puzzle 1,000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle on Amazon for $25.59

13. A cute Polaroid camera to take trendy pictures

Credit: Fujifilm

This inexpensive camera prints out photos instantly.

Why not unleash your inner artist while you’ve got time to spare? The Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 is an adorable instant camera that takes 2-by-3.5-inch Polaroid-style photographs. The kit comes with 20 sheets of film, and you can choose from a wide range of bright camera colors. So go ahead—take pictures of flowers, your pets, family members, or whatever!

Get the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera at Walmart starting at $54.95

14. An HBO subscription so you can binge "Game of Thrones"

Credit: HBO

Despite it's disappointing final season, Game of Thrones is still an unforgettable show.

As much as people (myself included) did not enjoy the ending of "Game of Thrones," you can’t deny it’s a truly epic show. If you’ve never watched the cult-classic series, there’s no better time to start. You can watch all eight seasons with a subscription to HBO, which you can get through Amazon, and the hour-long episodes are the perfect alternative to watching the news.

Get HBO through Amazon for $14.99/month

15. A virtual reality headset to distract you from actual reality

VR Set
Credit: Oculus

The Oculus Go headset allows you to escape reality for a little while.

Even if you can’t leave your home, you can transport yourself to a different world with the Oculus Go Virtual Reality Headset. This VR set is like your own personal theater with state-of-the-art 3-D graphics, and you can use it to watch TV, movies, or sporting events, as well as play games. Plus, if you know other people with the system, you can hang out together via virtual reality—even if you can't visit each other in real life.

Get the Oculus Go Standalone Virtual Reality Headset at Walmart for $229.96

16. An inflatable kayak for outdoor adventures

Credit: Intex

Despite being inflatable, this kayak still performs flawlessly.

If you’ve always wanted to try kayaking but don’t have the right car to transport one, this inflatable two-person kayak will be your new favorite possession. It’s made of heavy-duty vinyl that resists punctures and can support up to 400 pounds, so grab your partner and venture out on a local lake or river. When you’re done, you can simply pack it back into its compact carrying case, which easily fits into the trunk of a car.

Get the Intex Explorer K2 Kayak at Walmart for $90.24

17. A selfie ring light for all your quarantine Instagram content

Selfie Ring
Credit: Ubeesize

Take perfectly lit photos with this popular selfie ring.

I’ve definitely seen an uptick of Instagram content since quarantine started, and if you want to post some awesome selfies, you’re going to need good lighting. This affordable selfie ring is a favorite among reviewers, as it comes with a tripod stand and cell phone holder to help you get the perfect shot. Plus, you can also use it to film videos if you want to try your hand at YouTube content.

Get the 8-Inch Selfie Ring Light with Tripod Stand & Cell Phone Holder on Amazon for $59.99

18. An outdoor fire pit for roasting marshmallows

Fire pit
Credit: Hampton Bay

Gather the family around this fire pit for post-dinner s'mores.

Instead of turning on the TV after work, why not head outside for a cozy fire? This portable fire pit can easily be installed on your deck, patio, or in your backyard, and it has a deep bowl where you can pile up plenty of wood. In addition to providing a soothing ambiance, the fire pit is also the perfect spot to roast marshmallows with the family and create delicious s’mores on summer nights.

Get the Hampton Bay 34 in. Whitlock Cast Iron Fire Pit from The Home Depot for $169

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