Have you ever Googled, “loneliness and depression during COVID?” If you have, here’s what you probably found: “The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has been associated with mental health challenges related to the morbidity and mortality caused by the disease and to mitigation activities, including the impact of physical distancing and stay-at-home orders.”
People have been facing mental health challenges during COVID, and they definitely want to feel better. So, here are five ways to boost your mental/emotional health during COVID!
During these unprecedented times, loneliness and depression have increased, the CDC has said. One way to combat them is by connecting with others and, according to TIME magazine, that social support can come from whoever you have available! “A robust social life …can lower stress levels; improve mood; encourage positive health behaviors and discourage damaging ones; boost cardiovascular health; improve illness recovery rates; and aid virtually everything in between,” says Jamie Ducharme, author of the aforementioned article. So, text your significant other and invite them for a socially-distanced picnic (just bring your own food and sit on picnic blankets six feet apart). Or video chat with your BFF, or do something with your family! However you connect, make sure you do it regularly. You’ll reap the rewards.
COVID has already forced people to spend more time outside for gatherings. However, what some people might not know is that spending time outside has immense mental/emotional health (MEH) benefits. As stated in TIME Magazine, spending time outside (even only 20 minutes) lowers stress levels, blood pressure, and heart rate! Jamie Ducharme of TIME touches on this: “Some physicians, like Dr. Robert Zarr, a pediatrician in Washington, D.C., are even writing prescriptions for it. These ‘nature prescriptions’ — therapies that are redeemable only outdoors, in the fresh air of a local park — advise patients to spend an hour each week playing tennis, for instance, or to explore all the soccer fields near their home.” And, best of all, nature is free! There are plenty of amazing outdoor spaces in the Atlanta area, including parks, hiking trails, and natural attractions. Even something as simple as biking a couple blocks to your friend’s house can help boost your MEH.
Engage in Mindfulness or Prayer
Prayer/mindfulness are also wonderful exercises for your brain. Personally, prayer helps me calm down and sort out my life…it gives me peace. But, for others, mindfulness can help as well. News In Health (a branch of the U.S. Department of Human Services) says , “Studies suggest that mindfulness practices may help people manage stress, cope better with serious illness and reduce anxiety and depression. Many people who practice mindfulness report an increased ability to relax, a greater enthusiasm for life and improved self-esteem.” You might ask, “How do I actually practice mindfulness?” Mindfulness is just the practice of being more aware of yourself and your surroundings. This might mean taking a moment when you wake up to notice how your bed feels. It could mean inhaling deeply and really noticing the scenery on your daily jog. Do whatever makes you feel good!
Find a Hobby
Another way to promote positive health is to find a hobby, whether it be electric guitar or knitting! U.S. studies have shown that participation in fun leisure activities can lower cortisol levels, among other things. And, if you begin to really get into your creative “flow,” it can help promote mindfulness (which, as mentioned above, will really help your MEH). In an interview with BBC, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist, says, “The benefits of being in the zone stretch beyond the experience itself. Flow is associated with subjective well-being, satisfaction with life and general happiness. At work, it’s linked to productivity, motivation and company loyalty.” And, best of all, your hobby doesn’t have to be expensive! So, use this pandemic time wisely! I’ve started painting, and it has had clear benefits in my mental/emotional health — when I’m doing it, I feel joyful, creative, and less stressed.
Surprisingly, the practice of giving actually gives back to your health. In a mental health article, Cleveland Clinic journalists write, “From volunteering at a soup kitchen to committing to raise money for a specific charity — health benefits associated with giving can include: lower blood pressure, increased self-esteem, less depression, lower stress levels, longer life, and greater happiness/satisfaction.” Everybody has a different way to give — for some, it’s making dinner for their mom, an essential worker who doesn’t get home until 7 p.m. every night. For others, it might be surprising their favorite sanitation worker with a check. Giving could be as simple as doing a favor for your sibling. Whatever your favorite way to give is, don’t stop, you’re making the world a better place. If you’re stuck on ways to give during COVID, check out this helpful website!