Here are some techniques you can use to improve your lifestyle and protect your mental health during lockdown!
Walk outdoors at least once per day
Avoid crowded places, choose the early morning to get some sunshine and get fresh air. Spring is here and it’s calling us to go out! Staying indoors limits our vitamin D which can cause depression and other mental health symptoms. Going for a walk can also increase our mindfulness as we get an escape from our familiar and often predictable patterns at home and into the beautiful unknown, where we are in the present moment. It is especially important for children to go outside and take a break from added screen time as this tremendously helps their emotional wellbeing and cognitive development.
Focus on your nutrition
The concept of implementing nutrition changes for mental and physical health is gaining popularity in the scientific and medical field (see Leslie Korn, MD, Ph.D. https://drlesliekorn.com/books/ ) and now is the best time to improve our eating habits as we have some extra time on our hands to make our favorite recipes, connect with our food and eat mindfully. Buy local, organic ingredients whenever possible and avoid processed foods.
The benefits of even 20 minutes a day of walking, yoga or light stretching has tremendous impacts on our mental well being. Sedentary lifestyles have been researched extensively and we know the dangers of sitting on the couch all day. Stretching our fibrous connective tissues, also known as ‘fascia’ helps anti-aging and can significantly reduce chronic inflammation responsible for mental and physical illness. Fascia oriented training such as martial arts, yoga and Pilates can be part of our weekly practice including strength training and cardio exercises for the best outcome.
Turn on the Music
Listening to music has profound healing impacts on the brain. The effects of music on anxiety and depression have been thoroughly examined and music therapy is becoming increasingly popular in psychotherapy and other clinical settings to promote relaxation. Evidence shows that listening to classical music written at the tempo and rhythm of our heart rate can lower blood pressure and reduce stress.
The healing properties of dance were long recognized by the ancient Greeks as a cathartic activity. Dancing is not only a form of aerobic exercise, but a form of emotional expression, play and communication. Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) is currently used in a psychotherapeutic manner to help patients cope with a variety of mental illnesses including depression, dementia and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Research has demonstrated the beneficial use of dance in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and the psychological adaptation to a cancer diagnosis. You can dance alone, or with a partner, and hopefully one day very soon, we will dance in groups again, as we celebrate the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. The field of psychotherapy has traditionally relied on verbal communication between client and therapist. However, since the 1940s, there is a growing trend of alternative therapeutic approaches which enable clients to express themselves through non-verbal pathways, including art, music, drama and dancing.
Create your own sleep sanctuary and remember to power down your devices at least 1 hour before bed. Take a bubble bath, drink a warm chamomile tea and get under your covers for at least 6-8 hours per night. The circadian rhythm impacts our appetite, stress response and emotional health. Lack of sleep can make us feel irritable and can influence our decision making.
Sit quietly for a few minutes each day to calm your mind and meditate. I like to use guided meditations and there are several apps you can download on your phone to help you find a relaxing meditation. My personal favorite is the ‘Super Attractor Meditations’ album by Gabrielle Bernstein- click here to explore more options.
Organize your closets
Dedicate 1 day per week or 30 minutes a day to organizing your personal belongings. Evidence has shown the benefits of a de-cluttered home on our wellbeing. Having a project, especially one that doesn’t need a computer, can help as a healthy distraction from all the constant influx of information from the media and online. It also helps our feeling of achievement and self-mastery.
Talk with someone you trust
Isolation takes a toll on our mental health – a phone call or online video call can help us feel connected. There has never been an easier time to access therapy from a mental health professional as many are offering their services online since the beginning of the pandemic. A therapist can help you identify where you can improve your lifestyle habits and thinking patterns that may be causing a strain in your relationships, job or school performance and in your daily self-care, as well as promote healing from trauma.
Think of the future
What are your priorities when lockdown is over? Where do you want to go? Make an itinerary for a future trip you would love to take. Where do you want to be? Don’t forget to dream- make a wish- think about the things you want to do. The pandemic will pass. Sooner or later our lives will return to the busy routine we are all familiar with.
Appreciate your loved ones
Remember to express your love and appreciation to those around you and offer a helping hand to someone in need. We will get through this together. Remember, giving is more rewarding than receiving. Gratitude is the best attitude! See this 2019 article by Anna Powers in Forbes Magazine for some science about gratitude: https://www.forbes.com/sites/annapowers/2019/11/29/the-science-of-gratitude-how-it-affects-your-brain-and-how-you-can-use-to-create-a-better-life/?sh=633c6de3bae4
Thank you for reading and I hope to hear from you!
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