When we can't go out, we must go within. It's quite a beautiful thing to realize that while it may seem like we are so limited during the pandemic, there are actually so many things we can do to stay happy and healthy right at home. It's more important than ever to become introspective and intuitive, and these simple practices will help you to do just that. The following tips are simple to incorporate into your daily routine, and should even have lasting effects long into the future!
Go For Morning Walks
Morning walks are great for many reasons.
On a physical level, it's important to get your blood circulating after laying down the whole night. It quite literally gets things moving – from stagnant muscles, to your digestive system, and especially stagnant thoughts!
If you find that every morning feels the same, if you constantly start up with the same recurring thoughts right when you wake up, or feel anything less than refreshed and clear minded upon opening your eyes, a morning walk will more than likely serve you well.
Morning walks signal the body that it's ready to get the day started, and have even been studied to lower symptoms of depression. So if you're feeling stressed, depressed, or anything more or or less...walk all over it!
At the end of the day, at least 3o minutes of movement daily should be the goal. It's easier than ever to skip over this recommendation while most people are at home during these times, which makes it all the more important to ensure you find a way to check it off your list of healthy to-do's.
The best way to go about your morning walk:
Don't check your phone or computer notifications when you wake up, have an educational or inspirational podcast / audiobook ready for you the night before, lay your clothes out next to your bed the night before, and set no expectations!
Expose Yourself To Sunshine Upon Waking
Exposing yourself to the sun upon waking has very important biological effects on the body, especially when it comes to maintaining a healthy sleep-wake cycle, one of our bodies circadian rhythms.
Your Sleep-Wake Cycle in a Nutshell:
As soon as your eyes hit the light in the morning, melatonin levels are inhibited while serotonin levels are boosted up, helping you to feel more alert and motivated and ready to start the day. Conversely, when the sun sets and the lights start going down, melatonin is created in the body and you become tired, prepping your body for sleep. This is why people are more tired on gloomy days, and are recommended to wear blue-light blocking glasses at night.
Natural light, namely sunlight, is the ultimate source of not only waking up your body's systems in the morning, but also maintaining a healthy sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythm in general. Yes- morning sunlight exposure can affect your sleep at night, just as sleep can affect your days!
A healthy sleep-wake cycle is critical for a healthy immune system.
That being said, even if you don't go for a walk, simply stepping outside to bask in the sunshine for a bit upon waking can be highly beneficial.
The term "isolation" has floated around more than ever during the times of quarantine and social-distancing, but this doesn't need to be a reality for everyone.
The fact is that it's almost hard to not stay connected with people in some way through social media, phone calls, texting, and more. However, it's important to set some intentionality behind how we connect with people, and not let the "like" button be the only way we show our presence.
While social media has ironically been criticized for cultivating loneliness and less social interaction amongst the population, some studies have shown that if you use it in the right way, it can be a massive tool in feeling connected with others, even when you can't see them in person. Some helpful methods include video chats (non-verbal communication is extremely important and can't be utilized through messages alone), sending direct messages to people rather than simply liking posts or commenting on them, and reaching out to people you haven't spoken to in a while.
*However, make sure you aren't staying up late and using your devices at night so that you can maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle as mentioned previously! It's all about balance.
Clean Out Your Pantry
Besides the fact that you probably have more expired cans of beans and spices in your pantry than you think, this tip is more about cleaning out the junk food from your kitchen.
If you've found that it was hard enough to resist that Ben & Jerry's in your freezer (non-dairy or not) when you'd cozy up on the couch after a long day at work or school, you've probably also realized that being around your pantry almost 24/7 during quarantine has almost guaranteed an unofficially scheduled snack-time...every day...maybe hourly. If the Quarantine 15 has affected you and your loved ones, please know that the issue isn't your lack of self-control, but rather the contents of your pantry and fridge.
And the cure to this secondary pandemic filling people's kitchens? Out with the junk, in with the good. I could write an entire series of articles on what foods to fill your pantries with, but for now, get rid of the empty-calorie temptations in your home, and don't pick them back up when you go to the store.
And, remember: you have control over what you buy, and it's harder to binge on ice cream that isn't at an arm's reach.
Bring Plants Inside:
Have you ever noticed how your mood lightens up when you see a space filled with plants? Or how it's hard not to pass by beautiful flowers without feeling a sense of awe? In my opinion, it'd be pretty hard to walk through a flower garden and leave it less happy than when you entered.
This study showed that there is a significant relationship between exposure to nature and low levels of anxiety, and that public health is significantly modified with the utilization of green spaces after times of stress. Even the color green alone can enhance creativity and performance!
So bring some plants inside your home, and around your workspace especially! When you're feeling stressed, stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and smell the roses (or tulips, or hydrangeas, or whichever flower you choose!).
Who would have thought that getting more sunlight, going outside, staying connected with friends and family, eating clean, and placing some nice flowers in your home could have such a massive effect on your mood and overall health? Well, actually, it seems almost obvious that these things would have such an impact, and yet it's these small practices that we oftentimes forget about in the rush of life.
So go smell your flowers, take your walks, and call an old friend. Oh, and try not to schedule the phone call too late so you can get a good night's sleep, too!