While social distancing measures continue to stay in effect to slow the spread of the coronavirus, staying at home without any physical contact with anyone outside your immediate family is good at first. However, over the long run and with nothing engaging to do around the house, it can break you mentally — and physically.
“Social distancing is the perfect recipe for depression. Staying indoors, less contact with people, and fewer fun activities are just some of the things that can increase your risk of depression,” Amy Morin, psychotherapist, mental health coach and international bestselling author of four books, said. Writing for Business Insider, Morin has shared some activities that will help boost your mental health for weeks or months to come while on quarantine amid the coronavirus outbreak. Here are top activities she shared:
Positive Social Interaction
Social distancing measures has caused planned gatherings such as parties and movie screenings to be canceled. If you feel that this sudden halt of social life affects your mental health, know that you are not the only one who feels that way.
Socializing has been shown by studies to help keep depression at bay. However, socializing should be positive in nature, one that does not burn bridges especially in the middle of an increasingly stressful time.
“Avoid those heated political discussions on social media that leave you feeling angry and exhausted,” Morin said. “Get proactive about your social interactions. Schedule a time to chat with friends, connect with family, and speak to positive people.”
The good news is that “social interaction” does not have to be physical in nature. “Video chats and text messages can help lift your spirits as well,” Morin said. “The key is to ensure (that) these interactions are ‘positive.'”
“Physical activity has a huge impact on your psychological well-being,” Morin said, citing studies that show that just 200 minutes of walking (or about 3.5 hours) weekly can prevent and reduce symptoms of depression.
It goes without saying that working out may not be the same like before. Most gyms across the country are closed for the time being, and not everyone can get outside to exercise.
Fortunately, there are more creative ways for you to work out at home with relative ease and minimal equipment. “There are plenty of fitness trainers who are teaching workout moves on social media. Download an app, find some videos, or just get moving while you watch TV,” Morin said. “Moving your body is good for your mind.”
Engage In Fun Activities
A fun, engaging activity goes a long way in the fight against depression. Dubbed “behavioral activation” or “pleasant activity scheduling” by therapists, it is shown by research to be effective in preventing and decreasing depression.
Because your options are limited, finding something fun to do may require a little more creativity than usual. However, even simple things such as watching a movie you have been meaning to see or scheduling time for baking something special are all it takes to boost your mental health while at home.
“The trick is to put (a fun activity) in your schedule. Planning ahead and actually putting it in your calendar give you a powerful psychological boost,” Morin said. “Putting something fun in your schedule gives you something to look forward to, which improves your mood. Then, you get an additional boost in your mood when you do that fun thing. Finally, your mood will stay elevated for a bit when that activity is over because you’ll have created positive memories.”
Change Your Mindset
Your attitude towards, for example, home/community lockdowns can also alter your mood. Now is time to stop saying “I am stuck at home with nothing to do,” and start reminding yourself that “I am staying home to protect others.”
“Remind yourself that it’s a choice you’re making right now because it’s the responsible thing to do for your own health as well as the health of others,” Morin said. “What you do with your time while you’re at home is completely up to you. That slight shift in mindset can make a big difference to your well-being.”
Practice gratitude to get the boost of happiness you need. In fact, a 2003 study found that counting the good things in your life, as opposed to your burdens, can give you an instant 25 percent boost in happiness.
“Gratitude has also been linked to a lengthy list of other benefits, ranging from higher self-esteem to better sleep,” Morin said. “And the good news is that it’s one of the fastest and simplest ways to feel better. Whether you write in a gratitude journal, or you share the things you’re grateful for with your family over dinner, becoming more mindful of the good things in life makes you feel better.”
For an extra mood boost, Morin suggested expressing gratitude for someone else. “Write a thank you letter to someone about why you appreciate them. You’ll feel happier — and so will that person,” she said.