Since March 11, 2020, there over been over 63,500 cases of COVID-19 among Delaware residents. As a consequence, we’ve struggled with anxiety, depression, and grief. We’ve also had to adjust our routines and get used to spending more time at home.
While the vaccine is here, the rollout has been slower than anticipated. We also may be facing a more contagious variant of COVID-19 as well which could implement more strict stay-at-home orders. Even if not mandatory, for your overall health, as well as that of your loved ones and acquaintances, it’s probably for the best if you keep your distance and stay at home as much as possible.
But, that too can be problematic for your health and wellbeing. However, you can participate in the following nine activities to make yourself happier until you receive the vaccine.
1. Double-down on physical self-care.
“Your physical experience will always influence your emotional experience,” says the author and host of the weekly podcast “Happier with Gretchen Rubin,” Gretchen Rubin, “And exercise is the magical elixir of life.”
Best of all? You don’t have to spend hours each day engaging in physical activity.
“Research shows that a mere 12-minute walk is sufficient to create an upbeat, happy mood,” adds Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist and author of “Joy From Fear: Create The Life Of Your Dreams By Making Fear Your Friend.”
Even light yoga and meditation can do the trick. However, if you believe that time is an issue when it comes to physical activity, try to sneak more of it into the average day. Here are some ideas from psychologist Jennifer Mulder.
If running errands, park your car farther away to entrances.
Do household shores more vigorously.
When cooking or waiting for your morning coffee to brew, do calf raises.
During commercial breaks do 10 push-ups, 10 crunches, and 10 lunges during a commercial break.
Actively play with your children or pets.
Stand or walk when on the phone.
Throughout the workday, set reminders to stretch every hour and do ‘Silent Seat Squeezes’ or ‘The Seated Leg Raiser’ at your desk.
2. Watch something funny.
Laughter is a tried and tested way to quickly alleviate stress and anxiety. And, Oxford researchers have found that laughter is also a natural painkiller.
So, don’t hesitate in watching whatever makes you literally laugh out loud. It could be a YouTube clip, stand-up special, or movie that you consider to be a guilty pleasure.
3. Crank up the music.
“Pay attention to the mind-body connection when listening to your favorite music,” Elissa Makris, a Business Psychologist at NHS-backed wellbeing platform Thrive tells The Independent. “It often makes you want to move which encourages the release of endorphins and serotonin (a hormone which stabilizes mood and increases feelings of well-being).”
“Music can also be used for meditation,” adds Makris. “By concentrating your attention on the rhythm and the beat, you shift your attention away from negative thoughts and emotions giving you an overall more positive outlook.”
Additionally, Spotify and the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) found that “88 percent of respondents used music to improve their mood, with tunes that evoke nostalgia and trigger happy memories ranking high on the list of positive sounds,” writes Joanna Whitehead. “Consider making a playlist of songs guaranteed to make you smile, move, or which transport you to a happier place and time, as part of a positivity action-plan.”
4. Clean-up and declutter.
“Should you find yourself quarantined, take this opportunity to clean your house,” writes William Park for the BBC.
It turns out that there are several benefits to "Kondo-ing” your home. “Clutter makes it harder for us to focus on tasks, so should you find yourself working from home, a quick tidy up might help you to get your jobs done,” adds Park. “A messy bedroom has been linked with difficulty sleeping, and messy kitchens with making poor health choices, like reaching for junk food,” he states. “If you are going to be spending more time in the house, it will be worth your while getting your living spaces in order.”
However, this may not be effective for everyone. Hoarders, for example, “use physical objects to reinforce feelings of comfort and security. For those people, tidying up activates the brain’s pain-processing regions,” advises Park.
5. Practice gratitude.
Elizabeth Su, a mentor, mindfulness teacher, and Founder of Monday Vibes, recommends in an article for Talkspace that during COVID-19, you can practice gratitude by:
Not forcing it. “If you are having a hard time feeling grateful right now, don’t beat yourself up,” she writes. “The best thing you can do for yourself during this tender time is to give yourself the grace to process your emotions however you need to process them, and at your own pace.”
Not minimizing your suffering. “While having food, shelter, and clothes are absolutely things to feel grateful for, you can feel grateful for these things and still feel sad or afraid or anxious or angry,” Su states. “There is room for all of your conflicting emotions. It’s important to remember — it’s all valid and you don’t need to minimize your own struggles.”
Keeping it simple. You don’t need to overcomplicate gratitude. “Just take note of all the things that make you smile throughout the day, even if it’s for a fleeing second.”
Finding a proxy. “If gratitude feels too difficult for you to access right now, that’s okay too,” adds Su. “Gratitude is part of a larger family of positive emotions that includes love, hope, laughter, inspiration, creativity, and pride. Any of these emotions will also help you weather the storm of this unprecedented disaster.”
The main takeaway should be that you document what you’re thankful. You can do this in a journal, an online diary like Thnx4.org, or having your family share what they’re thankful for before dinner.
6. Stay in touch with others.
Social distancing has made this a challenge. And, you’re probably tired of Zoom, FaceTime, or Skype. But, it’s imperative that keep in touch with family, friends, and even co-workers to fend off feelings of isolation. Besides, friendships make us happier since they provide social support. As a result, we’re less stressed and more optimistic.
Besides scheduled video calls, you can call or text, or send care packages to them. And, depending on guidelines and precautions, you may even be able to physically get together. For instance, if you wanted to visit a sibling, you both could quarantine for 2 weeks in advance.
7. Try and learn new things.
Prior to the pandemic, NYU researchers found that the secret to happiness was variety.
“Our results suggest that people feel happier when they go to novel places and have a wider array of experiences,” says coauthor Catherine Hartley, an assistant professor of psychology. “The opposite is also likely true: positive feelings may drive people to seek out these rewarding experiences more frequently.”
Right now if you’re at home, could be the best time to try and learn new things. It could be anything from trying out a new recipe, learning a new language, or new workout regiment. Even if you feel like you need to stick with a routine, you could reverse it, such as taking a reverse route during your weekly trip to the grocery store.
8. Give yourself a break.
If you do learn something new, don’t expect to become an expert overnight. And, if you’re not interested, it’s alright to move on to something else that you may be interested in.
Also, it’s perfectly fine to take a breather from work. As long as you’re meeting your obligations, right now isn’t the time to partake in a productivity contest. And, it’s also not the time to compare yourselves to others. For example, don’t be too hard on yourself if you didn’t build abs like a friend has been showing off on Instagram.
Speaking of social media, and the news in general, you might want to limit your exposure. Numerous research throughout the years has shown that spending an excessive amount of time on social channels can negatively impact your mental health. And, during this time of so much social and political unrest, it definitely would the perfect time to temporarily disconnect.
If you feel yourself getting bored or tempted to check Facebook, Twitter, or the news, here are 60 healthy distractions you can use to focus on something else.
9. Make post-COVID plans.
Making plans gives us hope and something to look forward to. Case in point, planning a vacation. Studies have actually found that anticipating the trip can be just as, if not more, enjoyable than the trip itself. Research has also found that looking forward to traveling can make you happier than buying material goods.
While it’s not set in stone on when you can make plans to go out to dinner or travel, you can start composing a list of the places you want to visit once it’s safe.