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37 ways to feel good in the city

Summer 2018 getting you down? Here’s loads of feelgood things to do all over town

By Rosemary Waugh and Emma Hughes
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We all need cheering up every now and again. If city life has got you feeling down in the dumps, and amazing meals, ace art exhbitions and sky-high bars aren’t doing the trick, try one of these super feelgood activities in London. From chilling out in a bath full of wine and feeling, like, totally zen at a mediation class to getting crafty with collage, taking up boozy life drawing, immersing yourself in greenery or learning how to hula hoop, London is full of things that will leave you with a smile on your face. Here are our pick of the best. See you in downward dog at dog yoga.  

Feelgood activities in London

1. The wine spa

Health and beauty Spas Chelsea

Merlot with your massage? Ooh, go on then. At fancy spa Ella di Rocco on Fulham Road you can choose from scrubs, wraps and masks that make use of everything from vine leaves to actual wine – as well as enjoying a glass of it while you’re being pampered. You can even have a soak in a bath filled with three types of red wine. Just don’t drink your bath water, okay? From £90.

2. Craft club for animal-lovers

Attractions Animal rescue homes Battersea

Imagine going on a date with someone who casually mentions that in their spare time they knit teeny tiny mittens for teeny tiny kittens? Or, better still, imagine being the person who selflessly gives up their time to hang out at the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home knitting little hats with ear-holes for the kitties who need them most? Head along to the monthly Knitting Kittens Club sessions and you’ll soon be feel-ine great. £2 (donations welcome).

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The Refinery studio
Nick Mangos

3. The sound bath

Sport and fitness Gyms and fitness centres Homerton

Leave your towel at home – there’s no water involved in this one. In this gong bath class at Hackney wellness studio The Refinery, you’ll lie on a mat wrapped in a blanket and ‘bathe’ in waves of vibrations. It’s an ancient Asian relaxation technique – you’ll feel totally blissed out afterwards, we promise. £20, book online in advance. 

4. Best for cheering yourself up

Museums Camden Town

London may have a rep for being grouch central, but where else would you find a Museum of Happiness? The Camden non-profit is on a mission to cheer us all up, and it runs workshops all year round designed to do just that – think improv for confidence-building, stress management and ‘gratitude bingo’. 

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5. The flotation sesh

Health and beauty Spas Vauxhall

Lying in total darkness in a small, water-filled box might not sound especially relaxing, but some of London’s most chilled folk swear by regular sessions at Floatworks. An hour bobbing about in one of its flotation tanks can quieten a racing mind and relax your muscles – and the water you’ll wallow in is saltier than the Dead Sea, so you’re basically guaranteed not to sink. 

£50.

Active 360

6. Litter-picking and paddleboarding

Active360’s Paddle & Pick campaigns give you the chance to explore the waterways of London while giving them a much needed spruce-up. Paddleboarding is a killer core workout and if you add in the stretch and bend of hooking a Maccy D’s cup out of the canal at the same time, you’re looking at getting abs like an Olympic champ.

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Laughter Wellness Yoga
Richard Martin

7.  The LOL yoga

Although the thought of laughing with a load of strangers probably makes your toes curl, it’s proven to have loads of health benefits, from lowering cortisol levels to boosting your immune system. Laughter Yoga Wellness hold workshops in Archway and Finchley, or if you’ve got a group together they’ll come to you. Get ready to ROFL. £10. 

8. Best for learning new stuff

Things to do Literary events Bloomsbury

Want to discover the secret to making love last, or find the perfect job? The School of Life runs workshops where you can explore the big questions in its Bloomsbury ‘classroom’. With a vibe that’s part co-working space, part cute indie bookshop, there’s no back-to-school blues here. From £55.

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dog yoga
Sweatstudios

9. The real downward dog

There’s nothing more calming than staring into your dog’s big, brown eyes with your own foot behind your head. Dogamahny’s doga sessions (that’s yoga with dogs, obvs) are as much about strengthening your muscles as strengthening the sacred bond between (wo)man and (wo)man’s best friend. You get to stretch and relax, and your pooch pal can join in or loaf around the room. 

Supply Yoga
Supply Yoga

10. Yoga with a conscience

Sport and fitness Yoga and Pilates Clapton

Everyone knows about the emotional and physical benefits of yoga – but often the cost of classes puts it out of reach of those most in need. Pay for a session at Supply Yoga and it’ll use your money to fund free yoga for community support service users in east London. £8.50.

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GoodGym 2018
Good Gym

11. The volunteering run

Want to get fitter and give something back to the city? GoodGym makes it easy to do both by combining running with volunteering. Whether you’re sprinting to visit an isolated older person or helping a group shovel compost at a community vegetable garden, you’ll be glowing inside and out by the time you’ve finished.

12. Artisan DIY

Things to do Cultural centres Southwark

This is make-do-and-mend taken to the next level. The Goodlife Centre will teach you genuinely useful skills – and to a level of competence that will seriously impress your friends. That chair? You made that. Those curtains? You made them too. The new tiling in the bathroom? Also the fruits of your labour.  The workshops will teach you everything from basic drilling to pom-pom making.

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Battersea Park
Shutterstock

13. The green scheme

Love Battersea Park, Eel Brook Common or Hackney Downs? You’ve got the London Parks & Gardens Trust to thank for all of them, and hundreds more. And you can show your appreciation by helping them look after the city’s green spaces. Volunteers come from all kinds of backgrounds, and you don’t need green fingers – just a passion for the great outdoors. 

14. The bouncy one

Things to do Sport events Earlsfield

Forget the back-garden kind – when it comes to trampolines, size matters. Flip Out has London’s biggest and best wall-to-wall ones: book in for a high-energy Flip Fit class, learn the secrets of free-running or bounce to disco lights and live DJ sets on a Friday night. The sky’s the limit (well, the ceiling is). From £8.

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15. The one for ‘Glow’ fans

Sport and fitness Wrestling Bethnal Green

Get ready to kick some serious ass at London’s feminist wrestling academy. Going for a run or learning to knit helps calm some people down, but for others drop-kicking and body-slamming is all it takes. The Eve Academy turns the male-dominated world of wrestling on its head (sometimes literally). Don some spandex and MAKE SOME NOISE! £10.

16. Best for nature-lovers

Attractions Lee Valley

The Walthamstow Wetlands only opened to the public in October 2017, giving people access to 211 hectares of glorious reservoir. How big is a hectare? Find out the answer to that and many more interesting facts at the centre’s free weekly walks. Organised by the London Wildlife Trust, you’ll learn about the birds and bees of this watery haven while getting a lungful 
of fresh air.

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17. The music-video inspired one

Sport and fitness Yoga and Pilates Shoreditch

Want to learn to shake it like Beyoncé? Book into one of Frame’s music video classes and they’ll show you how. Each session focuses on a different vid so you’ll get to master the moves of all your favourite artists. Bonus: you’ll be having so much fun you’ll barely notice you’re getting a workout. £14.

18. The acrobatic one

Sport and fitness Battersea

If you’ve ever dreamed of running away and joining the circus, this is the next best thing. Flying Fantastic will teach you gasp-inducing aerial skills – from the trapeze to slings, straps and hula-hooping. In fact, pretty much the only thing you won’t learn is how to get seals to play a tune on horns. £45 for three classes.

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London's alternative fitness classes, float fit

19. The floating one

AquaPhysical’s FloatFit is basically regular exercise (HIIT and yoga) made harder by being performed standing up on a giant float in a swimming pool. But it’s not just a novelty thing: your muscles have to work harder when you attempt these moves while trying not to fall in the water. Just make sure you bring a change of clothes in case you take a tumble. £10.

Re:Mind Studio
Re:Mind Studio

20. The totally zen one

Sport and fitness Meditation Belgravia

Think meditation isn’t for you? Re:mind’s stylish, succulent-strewn studio in Victoria might just change your mind. Anyone can join in, and the classes could help you with everything from becoming more aware of your breathing to setting positive intentions and reconnecting with nature. Om. £22.

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21. Clay time

Art Galleries Haggerston

There are few things more satisfying than slamming a lump of clay down and pounding it into the smooth start of a new piece of crockery. Turning Earth run open access pottery studios where members can do their own thing independently and beginners can learn the ropes in their classes. Finally, you can replace all those chipped Ikea plates with your own creations.

Rabble

22. The nostalgic one

Whether you were one of the sporty crowd at school or you’ve only just got over your aversion to PE, you can regress back to your playground days with Rabble. It organises a range of old-school games – from British Bulldog to Capture the Flag – so you can get in a workout while socialising. From £14 per game.

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23. The colourful one

Sport and fitness Yoga and Pilates Shoreditch

If you find the white walls of your regular yoga studio a bit uninspiring, get yourself to ChromaYoga. The Shoreditch-based spot uses light and colour therapy, so you can do your sun salutations against a backdrop of vibrant, colourful lights that pulse in time to the music. Head to the ‘pink’ class for a restorative sesh or try ‘yellow’ for an energy boost. From £11.

24. The old-school spa

Health and beauty Saunas and baths Canning Town

Ease your aching muscles at the New Docklands Steam Baths, the last authentic East End bathhouse. Relax in the steam room and sauna or get a 30-minute massage for £10. If you’re feeling adventurous, try venik, a Russian treatment which involves being hit with birch twigs. There’s nothing like being pummelled and whipped to leave you feeling surprisingly clean. £16 entry.

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25. The crystal one

Shopping London

A store-cum-event space for ‘modern soul seekers’, She’s Lost Control is the place for tarot, gong baths and all things alternative without the joss-sticks. Crystal yoga is the class to book: working with different energies every week, the sessions promise to help you wind down and sleep more deeply. £15.

London's alternative fitness classes, hulafit

26. The hip-shaking one

Who doesn’t entertain the dream of being able to hula hoop really, really well? Make those dreams a reality at HulaFit. The classes will get you super toned and energised, while also allowing you to let loose and wiggle those hips to  some seriously pumping bass. £7.

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27. Boozy life drawing

Shopping Art, craft and hobbies Brixton

If sketching someone with their pants off is something you’d only consider doing after knocking back a glass of pinot noir, then The Turpentine’s Drink & Draw class  is for you. It’s BYOB and the organisers help you to release your inner (slightly pissed) Van Gogh. Drawing is a great way to de-stress and you’ll soon find your cheeks are only flushed from too much wine, not from painting the naughty bits. £18.

Guys that nail it

28. The nail salon for men

Pop-up manicurist Guys That Nail It is on a mission to prove that getting your nails done isn’t just for girls. Offering manicures and pedicures, with an optional polish, the men of London can say goodbye to dodgy-looking talons.

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29. Flowery fun

Shopping Garden centres New Cross

Everyone knows about the health-giving properties of plants, but getting your horticultural hit can be hard when you live 13 concrete floors above ground. Thankfully, London Terrariums have the solution. Build your own mini Eden Project with them and learn about the history of the terrarium (spoiler: the Victorians loved ’em).

30. The inclusive salon

Health and beauty Hair salons Hoxton

There’s no gendered language at Open Barbers – just great cuts and colour for everyone, regardless of how you identify. Have tea, read some zines and hang out: this place has a lovely atmosphere. There’s also sliding-scale pricing, so you only pay what you can afford. 

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Write and Shine, Gemma Seltzer
© Rachel Cherry

31. Best for early risers

The early bird catches the worm or, in this case, writes the poem. Write & Shine run workshops across London that capitalise on the burst of creativity that comes with the rising sun, and turns it into words on a page. This summer they’re getting inspiration from ice cream, beaches and the 200th anniversary of the birth of Emily Brontë (who, in her poem ‘Ah! Why, Because the Dazzling Sun’ revealed herself as very much not a morning person). From £19.

32. The wallet-friendly hairdresser

Restaurants Chinese King’s Cross

Need a new ’do but don’t have the cash (or free time) for a lengthy salon sesh? Chop Chop offers 24 styles priced at £20 – and you’ll be done in 20 minutes. Finally, you can stop putting off getting your hair done.

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33. The secret sauna

Attractions Religious buildings and sites Rotherhithe

The lifelong benefits of the Finnish sauna are legendary – almost as legendary as the sauna itself. In its native land, the steam room is thought to be home to an sauna elf, and it has been used as the location for giving birth, tending to the sick and everything in between. Are there elves at the Finnish Church’s sauna? Who knows. But elf or no, it will certainly improve your ’ealth. £6 per hour.

Disco Yoga

34. The glittery one

Want to try yoga but don’t fancy perfecting your poses to the sound of a twinkling waterfall? Disco Yoga gives you the chance to boogie with your bum in the air to feelgood music while filling your chakras with glitter paint and saluting Diana Ross in place of the sun. Post-class, there are no boring smoothies here – you can round things off with a disco-themed cocktail or mocktail. From £16.

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mindful drinking festival

35. The hangover-free one

Want a booze-free alternative that doesn’t involve soda and lime? Try loads of new low-ABV and alcohol-free tipples at The Club Soda Mindful Drinking Festival. Look out for non-alcoholic ‘spirits’ made with botanicals, herbs and spices, which mean you can enjoy the taste of a delicious cocktail without the raging hangover.

Collage Club
Collage Club

36. Pritt stick paradise

Swap copy and pasting on your computer keyboard for real-life cutting and sticking at Collage Club.
It hosts workshops all over the city and sessions include speed-collaging and making collaborative creations with the group. If you spent your childhood years sticking magazine scraps on to your school books with glitter glue, this is the craft class for you.

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Gyal Flex: Hip Hop Yoga and Meditation

37. The hip hop one

Gyal Flex is yoga for people who want to listen to banging beats while stretching and posing. Created by Sanchia Legister and Holiday Phillips, this is a vinyasa flow sesh soundtracked by a live DJ blasting out hip hop tunes. At the end, you’ll learn to ‘exhale the bullshit’ (as the organisers say) with a meditation sesh.

Keep those endorphins coming

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