The fear and uncertainty caused by the pandemic have taken a toll on us. As we head back to the new normal, our lives still center around our homes, and for some of us, the isolation and social distancing remain a reality for the foreseeable future. As social beings, this uncertainty and isolation can be stressful and overwhelming. A recent study found that 4 out of 10 people in the US have reported signs of depression and anxiety during the pandemic. These feelings trigger strong emotional outbursts or breakdowns. And though staying inside is one of the safest ways to fight the pandemic, it has taken a toll on our mental and emotional wellbeing.
While we cannot always be in control of these feelings, the silver lining is that there are a few simple things that we can do to alleviate the negative feelings and instill some sort of normalcy. All of these activities can be done at home, with little to no preparation.
Our homes are extensions of ourselves. Our home walls carry the stories of our highs and lows, our moods, secrets, memories, our personality, and more. It’s our shell, our safe place.
Winston Churchill beautifully said, “We shape our homes, and then our homes shape us”. All living creatures have this innate feeling of building a safe space for them, where they can peacefully rest without the fears, pressures, and dangers of the world outside. We build our homes, adorn them with memories and leave a little piece of our hearts in them. This is where Hiraeth (deep longing for home) stems from, and why our childhood homes carry a special place in our hearts - they are our entire world, our castles, our sanctuary.
We are optimistic that the current situation will get better, and we will emerge stronger from it. In the meantime, here are a few tried and tested things you can do at home to uplift your mood and feel better:
It might sound cliché, but cleaning around the house is one of the best ways to take our minds off of anything that might be weighing us down. An interesting study found that women with untidy homes show higher cortisol levels (stress hormones). Clutter is also shown to impact moods and may lead to decreased focus and anxiety. Whereas cleaner surroundings trigger feelings of restoration, tranquility, and improve focus. Not to mention, cleaning around the house is great to get in some physical activity after long hours of sitting.
We don’t have to clean the entire home at once (a lot of people wrestle with that and deprioritize cleaning because of how elaborate it feels). You can start small, even set a timer to not go overboard, tidying one corner at a time. Start by decluttering your work desk, scrubbing your kitchen counters or washrooms, doing a load of laundry, or even just changing your sheets. These are low lift tasks, which will make you feel better when completed.
2. Rearrange the furniture
With the pandemic keeping us indoors most of the time, there isn’t much we can do to get a change of scenery. A simple (and free!) thing you could try is to rearrange the furniture. Shuffling furniture stimulates our artistic or creative brain. It also helps us see things in a new light. This study found that swapping things around the home, made people happier and sparked joy. This simple task widens our perspective towards our homes, making us appreciate it even more. It also makes us feel accomplished and in control of our surroundings.
3. Change the lighting
The lighting in our homes plays an important part in our overall mood and has significant physical and psychological effects. It is known that gloomy weather can bring up certain feelings of depression or demotivation. Several studies have found that different kinds of light have varying effects on our wellbeing and circadian rhythms. Since light has a biological impact on us, it might be worth the effort to invest in better lighting for your home.
Blue lights make you feel alert, suppress melatonin (sleep hormone levels), and heighten focus in general (hence the trouble in falling asleep after endlessly scrolling Instagram). On the other hand, warmer tones evoke comfort, warmth, and optimism.
You can get a few inexpensive light bulbs for your bedroom to start with and even experiment with smart bulbs.
4. Take a shower/ bath
This wouldn’t come as a surprise, but a warm shower or long soak can be a sure-shot remedy for our “blues” and rightfully so. There are several benefits to a warm shower- it relaxes our muscles, stimulate cell recovery, decongests, and detox. Cold showers can refresh and recharge us.
Bring in some bath oils (lavender, rosemary, and geranium are our top suggestions) or bath salts, scented candles, etc. to truly indulge in a spa-like experience.
5. Create a routine/ Switch up your current routine
Feel like you’re stuck in a rut? Although having a routine contributes to feeling in control and some of us thrive with a schedule; quite often, the routine can make us feel dazed, overwhelmed, and unmotivated. Especially while we are confined within the four walls of our home, following the same routine can blur work/play boundaries and take a toll on our mental health.
Shuffling your daily routine can sound daunting but has numerous benefits for our mental and physical development.
There are quite a few things you can try at home that can revive your motivation by shaking things up in your day-to-day life. Start the day with a new form of physical exercise or take a new jogging route. Experiment with reading different genres of books, or even try out a new cuisine/hobby, learn a language, switch up the meetings (if possible).
Such activities can bring in a wave of excitement to our otherwise mundane lives, open us to newer experiences, improve our focus, creativity, prevent burnout, and mental aging.
6. Sing, Dance, Listen to Music
One of the easiest things to feel better at any given moment is to just pop on the headphones and play that favorite track. Neuroscientists have explained that listening to music has a special association with how our brains work. Listening to music that we’ve grown up with, can spark different memories from our past, which in turn, lights up our brains differently. So, the next time you need a pick me up, play that favorite track, dance, and sing aloud. We do not need to tell you how good it feels to sing along and unleash your inner dancer to your favorite music!
PS: Here is Lifeism’s mood-boosting music playlist to cheer you on: https://lifeism.co/mood-boosting-music-for-a-perfect-day/
7. Watch animal cams
Who doesn’t love pandas chewing on bamboo and being silly, or otters floating in a pond? (Even the strong and headstrong character of Russel in Madam Secretary doted the pandas). Animals are known to reduce stress and make us feel happier. They have significant benefits for our well-being. If you’re feeling down, just look for any animal cam - plenty of zoos offer them. Better yet, if you own a pet, just spend some undistracted time playing with them.
By watching animals be themselves, we get a sense of happiness, unconditional love, and a wider perspective of our lives. Plus! They’re cute! Here is San Diego Zoo’s animal cam to get you started: https://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/live-cams.
If you are reading this, loosen your shoulders, unclench your jaw, and take a few deep breaths. We’re usually so worked up in our daily turmoil that we forget to simply breathe. If you’ve been feeling anxious, or bothered by something, just take a couple of deep breaths before you tackle it. If you can, spend a few minutes every day to inculcate the practice of meditation. It can improve focus, restore mental balance, and increase awareness.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are six super simple ways to add meditation to your daily life.
9. Connect with loved ones
Technology may have its downsides, but the greatest advantage it offers is the ability to connect with our loved ones at a button’s click. Sometimes, hearing our loved one's voices can be an instant remedy when we’re feeling downhearted. They can be the sounding board to our thoughts, share our emotions, and uplift our spirits. By verbalizing our problems, we develop the ability to work them out.
So, the next time something is weighing on your mind, instead of sweeping it under the rug, try reaching out to someone you love, share old memories, and reminisce about things you cherish. Or, if you need professional help in dealing with your negative emotions, connecting with a therapist could prove beneficial, too.
If anything, the movies have taught us, it is that there is nothing a box of donuts cannot fix. More seriously, if you feel like you have hit a wall, cooking can prove to be a delicious distraction from worries. You can try a new cuisine if you fancy, or even whip up your favorite comfort food. Comfort foods have strong associations with our memories and emotional experience of nostalgia or belonging, a study found. It does not have to be a bucket of chicken or fries; you can just cook up something healthy that is nutritious yet fulfilling.