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8 WAYS TO GET THROUGH SOCIAL ISOLATION FEELING HEALTHY AND HAPPY

8 WAYS TO GET THROUGH SOCIAL ISOLATION FEELING HEALTHY AND HAPPY

We're over a week into social isolation (social distancing, isolation, quarantine, lockdown) due to the spread of COVID-19, and beginning to realize even the introverts among us miss going out. Whether it's the energy of a busy park or seeing a live concert, making the conscious decision to forego these activities for the greater health of our communities is essential, albeit challenging.

You may find yourself feeling more lonely, eating past the point of being full, or skipping physical activity.

Our goal is to find simple ways to get through this period of social isolation feeling healthy and happy.

high five the office GIF

 

But first, let's talk about isolation and health.

Experts advise that social isolation is the best thing we can do right now to promote long-term health for ourselves, our families, and the global community. That being said, isolation- when tied to feelings of loneliness- comes with its own maladies.

Among older adults, research links social isolation and loneliness to damaging physical and mental conditions like cognitive decline, high blood pressure, anxiety, and others.

It doesn't take medical experts to tell us that being alone all day, for extended periods of time, can feel unhealthy. Ask yourself right now. Yep, we need some new strategies.

Let's explore the positive, powerful, and restorative activities we can engage in during isolation. Here are science-backed ways to embrace social isolation, reconnect with hobbies and goals, get some rest, and foster community in creative ways.

 

 

Cook

gordon ramsay cooking GIF by Fox TV

You've stocked the fridge and have some time on your hands. Find a complex recipe or something you've never made before and take your time making it. Choose healthy, nutrient-rich dishes that benefit the immune system and the taste buds. Making a meal for yourself or those isolated with you is a great way to step out of your anxiety and get your hands moving.

Doing small everyday creative acts like cooking is proven to cultivate positive psychological functioning. Aka, it makes our minds happier.

Once you're done cooking, sit down. Eat without distractions, even if you're dining solo. Savor and take your time.

 

Sit & Breathe (aka Meditate)

Meditation Self Care GIF by MOODMAN

Our minds are loud right now. Self-isolation can bring up negative self-talk, intensified by the nervous news stories and uncertainties around when life will go back to normal.

One of the best ways to make alone time beneficial is by doing nothing at all. Look, you're meditating! Meditation is the process of sitting and following the breath. When your mind wanders (and it will), gently let the thought pass and return to the sensation of breathing. Set a timer,  sit, breathe.

Benefits? Researchers say meditation promotes calm, lowers blood pressure, improves insomnia, helps alleviate depression and anxiety, and improves our ability to cope with pain.

Try these Deep-Breathing Techniques if you want more guidance on how to begin.

 

Schedule Appointments

Stressed Relax GIF by HannahWitton

If it feels like the world has stopped, check your schedule. You've got stuff to do! Making appointments with yourself can foster the sense of a daily routine, making this irregular period of isolation feel a little more normal.

Schedule an appointment with yourself. Go for a run at the same time every morning. Join group meditation on an app. Write it down, invite friends to feel less isolated, and show up for yourself.  

If you're the type of person who hates schedules, make your appointments fun. Like watching an episode at 6 pm or FaceTime Happy Hour. The point is- you pick an activity, a time, and you stick to it no matter what you're doing. If you choose a healthy or productive task, you may find by the time social isolation is over it's become a daily habit. Researchers suggest choosing a task you'd likely avoid will be more beneficial, but any appointment creates the sensation89 of comfort and normalization.

 

Laugh

Will Ferrell Lol GIF

Dozens of studies done in the fields of critical care, terminal care, psychiatry, rehabilitation, etc. have confirmed that laughter can be healing.

A 2017 study showed laughing reduces blood pressure over time, and another study from the 90s found that humor reduces threat-induced anxiety.  

Scroll through Netflix stand-up, meme-out, and have a good laugh. If you feel guilty for laughing during a time of global stress, remember that keeping yourself healthy is the best thing you can do for the global community. Especially if you're helping others laugh too.

 

Intermittent Fasting

friends fridge GIF

You mean, not eat all my quarantine snacks?

Stress makes us eat. It's a completely normal and evolutionary response where the body seeks to protect itself for survival. Of course, in cases of stress, we don't crave vegetables. The body wants fats, carbs, and immediate energy.

Instead of becoming frustrated by heavy snacking or eating past the point of being full, put a time limit on daily eating. 

Start by choosing a time for your last meal of the day. Say, 7 pm. After this time you can drink water, unsweetened tea or coffee, but wait to eat until the following day. Next, choose a time to begin eating. Traditionally 12-15 hours after your last meal at night. Say, 9 am. Again, drink water, tea, and coffee until then but wait to consume food. Between 9 am - 7 pm, eat regularly.

Need support? Try an intermittent fasting program like Shape that comes with a private Facebook group for support.

Craving food during fasting periods? Remind yourself that you can eat anything you want during non-fasting time. Ask yourself if the craving is emotional or stress-induced. People who try intermittent fasting have attested to more energy, weight loss, increased regularity, and less emotional eating.

 

Spray Perfume

perfume GIF

With full intention to stay indoors, spray perfume (or cologne) on your neck and go about your isolation.

This small act can enhance mood, boost confidence, and act as a form of aromatherapy.

Smell is thought to be the strongest of all five senses so spraying perfume can conjure good memories that remind us of life beyond isolation. The small feel-good actions we do during social distancing can add up and greatly impact our mood.

 

Use Technology, But Not Too Much

app bff GIF by Airtime

Technology is pretty cool. The fact that we're able to virtually sit across from people around the world has made this period of isolation more comforting. By all means, use technology during self-isolation to reach out and check on friends and loved ones.

The WHO suggests talking to people you trust to cope with stress, confusion, and anxiety. Technology can also be used to join strangers in group fitness classes, meditations, lectures, and free concerts.

Then after using technology, step away.

Avoid overloading on news stories and mindless scrolling. Technology overuse can increase anxiety levels instead of making us feel more connected. Put down your phone down throughout the day and be with yourself in the moment. Listen to the sounds around you, breathe deeply, and tap into yourself. Journal, draft a business plan, finally write your memoir. In a month or two this time will be a memory. Do you want to remember spending it on your phone or working on a project that will move you forward professionally or personally?

 

Shower

shower GIF

Nope, it's not a silly reminder. Step away from what you're doing and take a shower or draw a bath. During times of depression or stress, we can forget the most basic actions of self-care.

Showers improve circulation, reduce stress, flush toxins from the body, and promote a feeling of renewal.

Want a challenge? Try cold showers. Here's the research on how this chilly activity can boost health.