Loneliness is an epidemic in America. A 2018 study found that nearly half of the 20,000 American adults surveyed sometimes or always felt alone. On top of that, forty percent of these respondents reported that they sometimes or always felt isolated and that none of their current relationships were meaningful.If you’re stuck at home, whatever the reason, the lack of human contact can be difficult to bear. Thankfully, there are ways you can safeguard your mental wellbeing during this time, and learn how to be happier and healthier than ever.
Stick to a Routine
Routines keep us grounded. Our brains crave structure, especially during times of stress or uncertainty. Knowing what to expect from day to day lowers anxiety levels. Regular routines might even help us sleep better, which is vital for mental health and function. If your normal schedule has been disrupted, plan your days out for your new normal, making sure you build in plenty of time to do things you enjoy.
Stay as productive as possible
Keeping your mind busy with meaningful tasks is essential to your wellbeing. Rumination can be toxic to mental health. Instead of wasting hours checking upsetting social media feeds, use your time to set personal goals for yourself. This might be the time to finally delve into that project you never got around to, or get back into hobbies you enjoy. Challenging yourself to follow through with your goals will give you a strong sense of pride and accomplishment.
Don’t Be too Hard on Yourself
If you feel like taking a day off from being productive, don’t feel guilty. Restfulness is good for the soul, so listen to what your body is telling you. If you’re finding it difficult to slow down and relax, ask your smart device to play a nature soundtrack, like gentle thunder, crickets, or a babbling brook. Studies show that listening to the ambient sounds of nature eases our flight-or-flight response to stress and can even aid in digestion.
Hang Out with Your Pets
Cuddling up to Fido or Mittens during stressful times is comforting. Though our furry companions can’t completely replace human interaction, they may very well be the next best thing. One study found that older adults who owned pets were less likely to report feeling lonely.
Staying present and living “in the moment” can reduce feelings of anxiety brought on by isolation and other factors. One study found evidence that mindfulness-based interventions can prevent relapses of major depression and other mental health conditions.Meditation apps like Headspace can help guild you through breathing techniques, helping you clear your mind of stressful thoughts. You can also let yoga and meditation videos on YouTube assist you in centering your focus on the here and now.
Move Your Body
There’s no question that exercise is excellent for both physical and mental health. While you might not be able to make it to the gym these days, a hike or a brisk half-hour walk outside will give you all the same benefits. You don’t even have to leave the house — just follow exercise videos online (there are thousands of free options) that match your pace and activity level.
Tubs of ice cream might be soothing during times of stress, but don’t overdo it. You’ll actually feel less tense and run-down in the long run if you fuel your body with nourishing food and limit your intake of empty calories. A 2017 study found a direct link between what we eat and how we feel.Here are a few healthy mood-boosting foods:
- Whole grains
- Oily fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring
- Nuts and seeds
- Citrus fruits, blueberries, and strawberries
- Dark leafy greens
Being even slightly dehydrated can sap energy and motivation, which can be a real mood killer. Every system in your body relies on water to function properly — and your brain is no exception! 75% of human brain tissue is made up of water. Because mental health is closely linked to brain activity, low fluid intake can affect mood and cognition, leading to symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Numerous studies show that spending even a brief amount of time in nature makes an enormous difference to overall mental wellbeing. Make a point of going outdoors at least once a day, and let the fresh air clear your mind. You’ll also enjoy the many benefits of natural sunlight, including a boost in serotonin, a feel-good brain chemical. Remember: there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes!
It turns out laughter might be the best medicine after all. Studies show it’s one of the most potent natural stress-busters out there. Don’t let a stressful situation steal your ability to see the funny side of things. Being able to laugh in the face of circumstances that are beyond our control is a healthy human coping mechanism. In fact, cultures that have faced the most adversity often have the keenest sense of humor. Watch your favorite comedies and silly sitcoms, read funny books, and keep sharing jokes and memes with friends and family on social media. It’s for your health!