#1 Stay connected
Nothing beats coffee, cake and a chin-wag in-person, but you can still connect with friends if you’re in self-isolation, thanks to technology. Pick up your phone and dial in to family and friends. Or, better still, see them in person, via some of the many video services including Facetime (iPhone users), WhatsApp, Viber or Skype. If technology isn’t your thing, write a letter!
The important thing is that you ‘connect’ – particularly during times of isolation. “Having a strong connection and regular positive contact with family, co-workers, friends or other community is essential to a healthy wellbeing,” explains Tony Coggins, Lead Associate on Mental Health Promotion at Implemental.
#2 Brain training
Challenge your mind with puzzles, cross words, a game of chess or Sudoku, or learn something new – like how to make a tasty sponge cake as light and bouncy as your sister does! “Just like bodies, our brain need regular exercise otherwise it gets flabby, lifelong learning not only helps daily brain health and wellbeing, but it can also prevent or delay dementia and Alzheimer’s disease symptoms,” explains Tony.
#3 Get outdoors
OK technically you are in self-isolation, but if you have a backyard, there’s nothing to stop you from stepping outside into the fresh air, sinking your toes into the (squidgy!) green grass and soaking up a few Vitamin D sunshiny rays (just a few, ok?). Or planting a herb garden!
Spending time in green space or bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing – exponentially. From reducing anxiety, stress and feelings of anger, to improving physical health, mood, self-esteem and feeling more relaxed. “In a number of countries time in nature is prescribed by health services,” explains Tony. “In Japan they call it Shinrin Yoku, which translates as ‘forest bathing’. There has even been research that shows a view of nature from your hospital bed increases recovery rates.”
#4 Practice mindfulness
Research shows that just 10 mins of mindfulness per day delays ageing, helps prevent stress and diseases including stroke, cardiovascular disease and improves mental health and wellbeing. How? By enhancing feelings of calm, relaxation, empathy and connectedness, as well as regulating emotions, increasing energy and alertness, and much more.
Not sure what mindfulness is?
Simply, mindfulness is being aware of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, without judgment. Mindfulness can be as simple as pausing, then taking a few deep, mindful breaths, or you might practice a guided mindfulness mediation or exercise, via an App such as Smiling Mind.
#5 Stay active
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. “Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact mental health,” explains Tony. “It relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, boosts overall mood and helps people feel positive about themselves and their lives. It’s also powerful medicine for many common mental health challenges.”
If you can’t remember the last time you broke a sweat, relax, it’s never too late to get back on the, err, treadmill. “Research indicates that modest amounts of exercise can make a difference,” explains Tony. “Start small, even five or 10 minutes at a time, then gradually increase. It doesn’t matter what your age or fitness level is, anyone can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to feel better.” Work your way up to the Australia’s Physical Activity & Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Adults (18-64 years) recommend minimum of 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous each day, and slowly add in muscle strengthening activities, aiming for at least two days each week.
Tip: Try a little loungeroom fitness. If you have streaming services such as Netflix, or Amazon Prime. Additionally, catch-up TV and Youtube have loads of exercise options. There’s exercise physio and speciality subscription video-on-demand services too.
#6 Nourish your body
It can be easy to reach for the popcorn or crisps when you’re housebound, but reaching for nourishing foods instead will benefit both your waistline and your brain. “How we think and feel depends on our brain function, and like our body, our brain functions well or poor depending on what fuel it receives - from the food we eat,” explains Tony. “Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and oily fish. Swap white refined foods to brown whole foods, and don’t forget to drink plenty of water to hydrate our body and mind.”