5 Ways to Improve Your Mental Health Under Quarantine
Updated: Jul 30, 2020
In the 5th episode of Uncomfortable Conversations Season 1, we spoke with psychologist Dr. Jaya Mathew of Wellness 360 in Dallas, TX, about some of the ways she suggests we can stay mentally healthy during the quarantine. We’re happy to relay these tips. The Uncomfortable Team will certainly be working these practices into our lives. Here are 5 ways to improve your mental health under quarantine.
1. Take Your Nature Pill
Dr. Mathew says that she often writes her patients prescriptions for a “nature pill”. She says this has become even more important under quarantine since we are spending virtually all of our time inside. So what’s a “nature pill”, how does it work, and where can you fill the prescription?
Taking a nature pill means spending time out in nature. Dr. Mathew advises that you spend around 20 minutes outdoors with no other distractions. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. We live in a world with constant digital distraction and “doom scrolling”. But if you can put your phone in your pocket and go out and try to observe nature, you’ll soon find yourself benefitting in several ways.
A 2020 study in Scientific Reports revealed that those who spent 120 minutes per week in nature had better health and higher psychological well-being. Time spent in nature is also proven to reduce anxiety and improve depression. It also lowers blood pressure.
Across cultures, nature is known to have physical, mental, and spiritual healing properties. One example: the Japanese have a term for this. It’s called shinrin-yoku -- forest bathing. Where will you take your next forest bath or walk in the park?
2. Engage the Senses
The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed our lives, which has led to a phenomenal increase in anxiety for hundreds of millions of people. This anxiety takes many forms. Perhaps you’re too focused on thinking about the world as it was pre-COVID-19. Or, maybe you’re spending all of your time drifting into worst-case-scenarios about the future.
One way to combat anxiety is to embrace mindfulness. Mindfulness involves recognizing your present for what it is and addressing, but not being overcome by, any associated emotions.
Here’s a quick exercise that helps you center yourself in the present:
Look around the room you are in and look for different colors. Now feel the textures around you. Is there a pillow or desk or chair nearby that is pleasing to touch?
What about the smell? Light a candle and take in the aroma.
Enjoy tastes, as well. What sensations do you feel when tasting your coffee or afternoon snack?
And finally, there’s sound. What does it sound like outside right now?
When you engage the senses, you are acting in the “now”. This allows you to come back to the life you are living in the present. So often we zoom through life and time passes by like we are on auto-pilot. Mindfulness involves living in the present, taking one moment at a time.
3. Avoid Your Vices
Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, gambling, or any other vice you have an issue with, the temptation will likely be compounded when you are home and more bored and anxious than ever. If you avoided something pre-COVID, avoid it even more now. Its negative impact will be even greater.
4. Stay Virtually Connected
The pandemic has drastically altered our social lives. We’re unable to visit, in person, the friends, and family members that bring joy to our lives. But that doesn’t mean you should socially distance yourself entirely. Embrace modern tools like Zoom that allow you to video chat with friends. Phone calls are great, but there’s something about seeing a face, and sharing a smile, that is far more rewarding. The brain craves structure and if you can find new ways to facilitate your old social activities, you’ll feel more like yourself.
You might be surprised to learn that exercise benefits more than your physique. For those who are used to a steadfast routine at the gym, being stuck at home with nothing but a couple of dumbbells can be discouraging. And then there are those of us who don’t necessarily have any sort of exercise routine. For both groups of people, there’s a way to move forward.
Dr. Mathew advises that you don’t need an extremely heavy workout to feel the benefits of exercise. You just need moderate exercise. “Even getting your body moving moderately sets off your feel-good hormones and endorphins,” Dr. Mathew says. Even a 10-minute workout is a great thing for your mind and body. There are all kinds of ways to exercise at home, including yoga, crunches, jumping jacks, pushups, and more. And each time you do them, you’ll walk away feeling better.
This is a concise breakdown, but to get a better understanding, we suggest you watch our season one episode of Uncomfortable Conversations, How to Improve Your Mental Health Under Quarantine ft. Dr. Jaya Mathew.
Dr. Mathew's practice is now accepting clients. Learn more at www.wellness360dallas.com.