Participation in extra-curricular activities has been found to associate with increased well-being. Here we investigated in a survey (
n= 786) what activities university students at a Canadian university engaged in during the stressful COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in April, 2020, which coincided with a novel online exam period, and how these activities related to perceived well-being, anxiety (STAI-S), social aspects of activities, and personality. Sixty-five percentage of students scored in the high anxiety category of the STAI-S, an alarming statistic given that only 24% had reached out for professional supports. This is consistent with reports that current supports on university campuses are inadequate. Listening to music (92%) and watching movies/series (92%) were engaged in most frequently, followed by socializing virtually (89%) and engaging in social media (85%). The activities students rated as most helpful to their well-being were somewhat different, with outdoor exercise rated highest, followed by socializing virtually and listening to music. While all activities were rated as beneficial, those with a social component tended to have high ratings, consistent with students attempting to replace lost social interactions. Linear regression models found few associations between STAI-S scores and other measures, likely because of large individual differences and lack of a pre-pandemic baseline needed to assess changes in anxiety. The importance of individual differences was evident in that those higher in conscientiousnessor extraversionor emotional stabilitywere more likely to engage in exercise, while those higher in openness to experiencewere more likely to engage in journaling, playing a musical instrument, or singing, with a trend for higher engagement in song writing. Individual differences were also evident in that equal numbers of students gave positive and negative comments related to their well-being during the pandemic. The individual differences uncovered here suggest that having a variety of proactive interventions would likely reach more students. Indeed, 52% indicated an interest in online group music therapy, 48% in art therapy and 40% in verbal therapy, despite music and art therapies being virtually non-existent on campuses. In sum, the findings highlight the importance of choice in extra-curricular activities and therapies that support well-being.