It’s getting old. We’re getting antsy. Some places are doing a gradual re-opening while the rest of us obliged to “stay home to save lives.” There’s no denying that adapting to this “new normal” is tricky, and makes it easy to fall into bad habits and become greasy couch potatoes. And there is, of course, plenty of time and room to be a potato right now, and I encourage you to enjoy that time while striving for more. Life is happening now, and just like before, it’s what you make it.
These are 10 proven mood boosting habits to add to your quarantine routine to help you feel happier, more productive, positive, and healthier:
Your unwashed hair and ratty sweatpants have a time and a place, and that time and place is re-painting a room in your house or giving your dog a bath, not in your every day life.
Even mental health professionals recommend getting dressed early in the day to boost productivity, confidence, motivation, and overall mood. You don’t have to wear tight, uncomfortable clothes, but for the love of god take a shower, put on clean clothes that essentially aren’t pajamas. According to a psychotherapist, getting dressed will help you eat better, drink less, and stay positive.
First thing in the morning works best for most people because you can get it out of the way, but also because you reap the benefits of endorphins throughout the day, and we could all use more of those feel-good chemicals right now. Exercise is proven to boost your mood and your immune system, reduce stress, help you sleep better, and prevent unwanted weight gain.
If the morning time isn’t your thing, that’s cool, too, afternoon and evening workouts are still beneficial.
With what feels like a constant stream of bad news, it’s the perfect time to make room for meditation. It’s all too easy to refresh our phones every five minutes, and potentially stumble upon some anxiety-producing news headline.
The most helpful tip I have to stay calm in a storm of uncertainty, and to keep your thoughts from scary “what ifs” is to ground yourself in the present moment and ask yourself to notice the sensations of now: what do you smell, see, feel, taste, and hear right now, in this very moment? Remind yourself to be present.
Meditation not only helps us strengthen our “muscle memory” in being present, but it also reduces stress, anxiety and blood pressure, helps us sleep, stay focused, manage pain and even helps fight addictions at a time when risk for relapse is high, no pun intended.
Much like meditation, creativity and working with our hands allows us to focus on the present moment by focusing on the task at hand often in repetitive, “mindless” tasks, or tasks that require our absolute focus.
Plus, you’ll feel better having done something productive that you can see. So, bake your banana bread, re-paint your furniture, start on those landscaping projects, get in the garden, make your vision board, do those baby photo shoots, learn the fancy French recipes, write your book, bust out your instruments, and get makin’.
The hardest part is starting, whether thats dusting off and tuning your guitar, or getting out the art supplies and newspaper/cloth to lay down, or getting outside with your gardening gloves. Once you’ve started, you’ll gain that momentum. Just start. Do a half-assed job if you don’t have a whole-assed job in you. You will feel better once you do.
Sing and Dance
We can still have fun. Let yourself sing in the car or shower, leave your friends voice memos in song instead of texting them. Wake up and get ready to hip hop or Ariana Grande or the oldies. Join TikTok and learn those dances. Move around, allow yourself to be silly and have a little fun, and blow off some steam.
These times are serious, but we don’t have to be.
I understand that comfort foods and stress snacking can definitely be soothing in times of stress, but too much of a good thing can lead to more stress long term if we overindulge to the point of compromising our immune systems, nutrition, and health and fitness goals.
Aim for at least five servings of fruits and vegetable a day (I feel best when I eat more than that) and eat whole, unprocessed foods when possible.
I’m also a firm believer that a healthy diet also supports our mental health and allows for freedom, pleasure, flexibility, and the ability to be relaxed about food, so have your comfort foods, have your glass of wine and some chocolate, just not for every single meal.
Aim to find a balance of eating well without becoming obsessive or restrictive, and allow yourself some wiggle room.
Facetime with Friends
If you can’t see your friends in person, use Facetime! Send each other video messages instead of texts. Talk on the phone. Send voice memos. Show your face on Instagram Stories. Send letters. Drop off gifts on your friends porches. We can still stay connected, even if it’s a little altered.
Aim to get outside once a day. Even if it’s raining, gear up and take a ten minute stroll in your rain coat. Being in nature can help us to feel connected at a time when we can’t see our family and friends as easily. Plus, studies have shown that being in nature helps reduce fear, stress, and anger, and promote feelings of well-being.
Open up the windows in your home once a day and let some fresh air in, even if it’s cold, just a couple of minutes will help. You’ll feel so much better once you let in some fresh air.
Be of Service
The best way to feel better is to make someone else feel better. So instead of lying around waiting for someone else to boost your mood, you can be of service and make someone else feel better, and make yourself feel better in the process. It’s a win-win.
“To gain self esteem, do esteemable things.” Whitney Cummings says this a lot in relation to the 12- step program, and it couldn’t be more true. You don’t gain self esteem by willing it to be, you gain it by taking action. You gain self esteem in knowing who you are, and in feeling good about who you are, and we feel good when we are of service to others.
Maybe you help a neighbor with a project, donate to a food bank, use your platform to help someone struggling. Maybe you pick up trash in your neighborhood, or make face masks for your neighbors or coworkers. Whether you donate a million dollars to charity or bake someone cookies, it all counts. It all matters. Be of service.
Yes, rest. I heard somewhere that in response to trauma, there are people who will over-function, and people who will under-function, and others who will do both. So even if you’re type- A and itching for productivity, resting actually is proven to make us more productive and efficient long-term.
No matter what category you fall into, allow yourself time to rest and play. Let yourself sleep in, take naps, take long showers and baths, read in bed, make a giant mess of pillows and blankets and watch movies, give yourself a manicure or face mask and indulge in a six-step skincare routine.
This is most certainly a time to pause, and a blessing for some of us who have been go-go-going for years on end to slow down and see what it feels like to just be.
This list is of course not exhaustive, but something I encourage you to incorporate into your routine and come back to. “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly,” so remember, you don’t have to show up perfectly. You just have to show up.