1. Stay connected
Research shows that that strong social connections are predictor of health and happiness, but with parties and social gatherings banned, how do we stay connected?
“Relationships are the cornerstone of our wellbeing,” explains Tony Coggins, Lead Associate for Population Mental Health with Implemental. “As humans we need strong personal connections with each other, communities to belong to nurture, support and protect us. Put simply we need each other to flourish.
Try this: Invest some time in developing and maintaining our connections. “The quality of your relationship is directly related to the amount of time you invest in them,” explains Tony. “Write a letter, call a friend, speak to your family and parents and make sure they are ok.” If you are in lock-down, phone, Facetime, WhatsApp, Viber, Skype etc are great.
2. Do exercise
“Everyone knows that regular exercise is good for the body, but exercise is also one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health,” explains Tony. “Regular exercise relieves stress, increases energy, improves memory, helps you sleep better and boosts overall mood. People feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives. Research indicates that modest amounts of exercise can make a difference.”
Try: Find ways to be active that you enjoy and that suit your fitness level. A brisk walk, gardening, yoga on your deck, drills in your backyard, Chris Hemsworth’s guided online fitness classes?!
3. Get creative
Do something new! Learn how to paint your house! Create a vertical garden, plant new herbs, fix the pavers... Learning something new not only connects your brain pathways and increases brain growth, but gives you a sense of achievement.
Try: Build a go-kart, paint your garage wall, create an organiser wall. Get handy around your home!
4. Step into nature
Make a date with Mother Nature, your backyard or park if you can leave the house (mind the 1.5metre physical distancing rules) for an instant mood boost.
“Being in nature has been shown to lift your mood, build up your immune system, lower your blood pressure and improve your sleep,” explains Tony. “In a number of countries time in nature is prescribed by health services. In Japan they call it Shinrin Yoku which translates as Forest bathing. Research show that spending time in nature can decrease our blood pressure and heart rate, reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol and give your immune system a boost. There has even been some research that shows a view of nature from your hospital bed increases recovery rates!”
Try: Dip your toes in the dirt outside, lay on the grass, look up at the trees swaying in the wind, catch sight of bug, run along the shoreline (not at Bondi or any other populated space.)
5. Take a walk on the sunny side
Sunlight helps with the production of mood-stabilising chemicals like serotonin (sometimes called the happy chemical, because it contributes to wellbeing and happiness) and can boost vitamin D levels, which is important for regulating sleep-wake cycles. According to the Cancer Council, we also need vitamin D to maintain good health and to keep bones and muscles strong and healthy.
Try: Pull up a seat out your backyard, or if you can safely while adhering to the 1.5metre physical distancing rules, go for a walk around the block, the bay run or gardens. Remember to be sun smart – the sun protection guidelines change during different seasons and different parts of Australia, so visit here for info.
6. Practice Mindfulness
Being mindful, that is, “paying attention in a particular way on purpose in the present moment in a non-judgemental way,” says Tony, “helps reduce worries, anxiety and distress, creates a sense of calm, helps us regulate our emotions, improves our sense of connectedness and belonging and improves overall health and mental wellbeing.”
Additionally, mindfulness helps us physically too. “Research shows that practising mindfulness can decrease pain, lower blood pressure, and decrease the risk of a heart attack,” adds Tony.
Try: You can practice mindfulness with a free guided mindfulness App such as Smiling Mind, or practice mindfulness in daily experiences such as chewing your food, brushing your teeth, colouring in, going for a walk, sitting and observing…
7. Be grateful
“Spending time appreciating what we do have distracts from focusing on what we don’t have,” explains Tony. “When we are feeling low or depressed spending a little time, on a regular basis, counting our blessing and noticing the things that we are grateful for can have a powerful positive effect.”
Try: Appreciating a sunset, a cool breeze on a sunny day, someone’s smile, a butterfly…
8. Do something nice
Random acts of kindness help promote better health and wellbeing for both the giver and the receiver. How? “When we do an act of kindness our brain release dopamine the neuro-transmitter that works on our pleasure and rewards centres, so not only do the recipient of our kindness feel good we do too,” explains Tony.
Try: Call your elderly neighbour and ask if they need any groceries, medicines or help, then order from them online or whilst on your supermarket run. Instead of abusing the person who walked in front of your reversing car, ask them if they are ok. Be nice.
9. Eat well
The studies don’t lie… Greasy, high fat and high sugar foods affect our blood sugar levels and consequently our energy levels and mood. Sluggish, guilty, heavy, bloated…
Good foods, however, such as fruit, vegetables and protein, increase our body and organs’ ability to perform optimally, as well as our brain and, consequently our mood,” says Tony. “These provide vitamins and minerals essential for good physical and mental health. They are also high in antioxidants, which protect our brains.”
Try: Eat a big bowl of healthy salad featuring all the colours of the rainbow; avocado on wholegrain toast; a fruit platter; vegetables with omega-packed salmon for a brain boost, and remember to drink water to thirst. “Our brain is 80% water, so it’s essential to keep it hydrated,” advisers Tony.