When this feature was first discussed with the wider TGIOF team, we all decided that a nice piece on happiness would be perfect – just in time for International Happiness Day. Since then, however, our world has literally been turned upside down.
COVID-19 has pulled the rug from under us and everything we’ve known has been taken away. No socialising. No schools. No contact with elderly relatives. It’s an unprecedented situation and while our old life has stopped, life still does go on. It’s never been more important to ensure our mental health is tip-top – especially if self-isolating alone.
With that in mind, here are the tips we’ll be using to help us try and stay positive during these strange times.
For me, the scariest thing about this whole crisis is that NO-ONE knows how it’s going to pan out. I am a planner and the one thing I love to do has been taken away from me. I’m taking my elderly neighbour’s advice and trying not to think about what I can’t control and instead concentrate on what I can. Whether that’s what we’re having for dinner tonight, or what family movie to watch, I’m learning to let go and just concentrate on those areas – however small – I can control.
The cruellest thing about this virus is that it’s forcing to stay away from each other – at a time when we need it most. However, thanks to technology there’s no need to not be in regular touch with friends and family. Phone them, text them, Skype them – there are so many ways to keep in touch. I’m having my first virtual party this weekend with two friends who I would normally go and have a drink with. We’re using Google Hangout to connect, playing some good tunes, enjoying a couple of glasses of wine and a lot of conversation. I may even have a disco ball on the go…
While big events you’ve been looking forward to for ages may have been cancelled, there’s still enjoyment to be found in the everyday – you just have to look a little harder. The smell of that freshly brewed cuppa. The novel that you’re really enjoying. Playing board games with your kids. Stop and enjoy these moments. There will never be a time like this again – use it so when life goes back to its frantic normality, you can remember how amazing it is to stop and smell those roses.
This is a biggie. Exercise is so important for mental health. It creates serotonin, which is the happy hormone. If you can add some fresh air into it – even if it’s just in your back garden – then you’re winning on increasing your happiness. There are a huge amount of exercise videos to follow on You Tube and Amazon, plus there are loads of apps out there offering routines, so there’s no excuse to work up a sweat a few times a week.
I’ve just bought Ring Fit Adventure for my son’s Nintendo Switch – it’s an adventure game, which comes with equipment for a cardio and muscle workout. It’s really good fun and doesn’t feel like exercise – always a good thing in my book.
Even if you just put some high energy music on and dance around the room a couple of times a day, you’ll be doing your mental health (and your glutes) a favour.
Yes, you need to keep updated, but constantly reading every Coronavirus update on Twitter or having BBC News on all day is not healthy for the state of your mind. Turn it off and watch a comedy or read a good book instead.
If you do need to keep reading, look out for the good news stories, such as the 100-year-old Chinese man who survived the virus!
READ MORE: Easy ways to stress less
If you’re working from home and no longer commuting, you’ve definitely got extra time to start meditating. Use an app like Calm or Oak to help if you’re new to it. While at first, your mind may be full of anxiety and worries about what’s going on, with a little daily practice, you’ll soon be able to free your mind for 2, 5, 10 minutes at a time. Meditation triggers the body’s relaxation response, restoring it to a calm state, helping you chill out and prevent damage from stress.
READ MORE: Four apps to make you happier
Our CEO Andrea McLean is a big fan of a gratitude journal and now is a great time to start one. Yes, some days you may struggle to find things to be grateful for so start out small. Today, I’m grateful because I managed to find some toilet roll. Today I’m grateful because I’m happy and healthy and free of COVID-19. You get the picture. Writing things down, as opposed to just thinking them, is really important for our brains – they prioritise what we’re writing down, sending happy thoughts into your cortex rather than negative doom and gloom thoughts.
READ MORE: Andrea’s night time gratitude download
READ MORE: The health benefits of keeping a journal
It may feel wrong or difficult to have a giggle during these times, but let me tell you, a sense of humour is the one thing that’s going to get you through this. Not only can laughter literally be a good medicine – the endorphins released when you giggle help relieve pain – but it can relax muscles, stimulate your circulation and lower your blood pressure, making you feel much more relaxed. So whether it’s watching funny cat videos or a few episodes of Modern Family, do something today that will really make you belly laugh.
The one thing I’ve noticed during this awful time is those small acts of kindness that are happening all over. My son and I recently delivered leaflets to all our neighbours, offering our support if they’re self-isolating and I’ve heard of many others doing similar great deeds. The responses I’ve had from my flyers has totally overwhelmed me – one told me I had ‘restored their faith in humanity’ – which has given me a great glow all over and made me realise we need to grab the positives whenever we can.
READ MORE: Take our random acts of kindness challenge