Most people felt somewhat “OKAY” during the first week or so of lockdown, but by now many could be experiencing a dip in their mental health.
Studies have shown that “social distancing” is the perfect recipe for depression. Staying indoors, less contact with loved ones and less fun activities is only a shortlist of the things that can increase the risk of a mental dip or even depression.
Looking on the bright side, there are things you can do to fight this, even when options are more limited than usual.
Below are 5 tools you could use to improve your mental health while social distancing.
1. Create opportunities for positive social interaction
If the effects of having everything closed all at once and being forced to stay indoors feels harsh and are taking a toll on your psychological well-being, trust me you are not alone.
Studies have shown that socialising can help keep depression under control. This doesn’t mean just any interaction with others though, it has to be positive social interaction.
Avoid those heated political discussions on social media that leave you feeling angry and exhausted. Get proactive about your social interactions. Declutter your social media if you must and start following pages and people that promote positivity, these will start to rub off on you eventually.
Schedule a time to chat with friends, connect with family, and speak to positive people, these are all great ways to make you feel like you’re in the loop while being indoors.
Thanks to technology, “social interaction” doesn’t have to take place in person. Video chats and text messages can also help lift your spirits. The key is to make sure these interactions are always “positive”.
2. Exercise…just move
Yes, we all say we’ll do it but that workout video has 6 layers of dust on it already. Physical activity improves your mental health.
Studies have shown just 200 minutes of walking each week, which is roughly 30 minutes per day, can prevent and reduce symptoms of depression.
I hear you, working out can be a little more complicated than usual. With gyms being closed and all…BUT, you can work out from home with relative ease and minimal equipment, if you’re creative.
Being creative with your home exercise is so easy these days, a number of fitness trainers are posting fun workout routines on social media. You could even choose to download an exercise app or just do some stretching while you watch TV.
Moving your body is good for your mind.
3. Schedule fun activities
Adding fun things to your schedule has a powerful impact in the battle against depression. Therapists call it “behavioural activation” or “pleasant activity scheduling,” and there’s research that shows its effectiveness in preventing and decreasing depression.
Planning fun may not sound fun but having something that you can look forward to creates excitement and boosts your mood. This can be anything from baking to scheduling your favourite movie.
The trick is to put it in your schedule. Planning ahead and actually putting it in your calendar can give you a powerful psychological boost and a sense of control.
Your mood will stay elevated for a little while after the activity because you will have created a positive memory.
4. Change your language
“Victim language” breaks down your mental health. “Empowering language”, will help you feel good about yourself and boosts your mental health.
Instead of using the terms “stuck at home with nothing to do,” remind yourself that you are “staying home to keep everyone safer” and curb the spread. You’re actually being a hero.
Remind yourself that the choices you’re making right now are because it’s the responsible thing to do for your own health as well as the health of others.
And what you do with your time while you’re at home is completely in your hands. That slight shift in mindset can make a big difference to your well-being.
5. Practice gratitude
Want to be happier? Practice gratitude. A 2003 study found that counting your blessings, as opposed to your burdens, can give you an instant boost in happiness.
Gratitude has also been linked to a lengthy list of other benefits, ranging from higher self-esteem to better sleep.
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.
If you want an extra boost in your mood, express gratitude toward someone else. Write a thank you letter to someone about why you appreciate them. You’ll feel happier and so will that person.
If at any time you feel yourself sinking into a hole that you just can’t get yourself out of, seek help. Call your therapist or the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) on 0800 456 789.