I think we can all agree that lockdown can be considered as a significant life event. With any significant life event, we usually reset how we live - for example, moving house, retiring or relocating1. This means that life after lockdown is the perfect time to start building new habits and make positive changes in our lives. With a lot of us Aussies starting to come out of another lockdown, it’s important we take care of our physical and mental health. In this article we look at some of the most effective ways to protect our health and wellbeing during this stressful time.
The Link Between Our Environment and Habits
Multiple studies have shown that our environment and surroundings have a significant influence on our behaviour2. For example, if we are working in a messy and cluttered environment it can be hard to find the motivation to clean up your own mess2 3. However, studies have shown that rooms decorated with bright colours and natural or artificial lighting can benefit conditions such as depression, anxiety and sleep disturbance2 3.We recommend keeping curtains open to allow for natural light and consider investing in some bright decorations such as cushions and artwork that can help to brighten up the room and potentially improve your mood4.
Importance of Sleep
Sleep is a key pillar of health as it helps to build a strong immune system, which in turn protects our physical and mental health. The average adult needs at least seven hours of good quality sleep in order to maintain a regular schedule5 and we can all take simple steps to improve our quality of sleep by choosing quality bedding, avoiding light disruption and regulating the number of naps we take6. Studies have shown that 33-45% of Australian adults experience inadequate levels and quality of sleep which has shown to have a significant impact on daytime performance7. Sleep is vital as it helps to improve your attention and concentration, improve memory, helps to prevent life-threatening diseases, supports the immune system, protects your mental health and helps you build strong and healthy relationships. Here are some simple tips to help improve your sleep. Start by creating a cosy nest perfect for sleep by avoiding light and noise disruption, keeping to a schedule by setting an alarm and setting time aside for sleep by avoiding naps when possible. Creating a healthy bedtime routine by keeping away from screens, stepping away from caffeine and trying some relaxing breathing exercises are also proven ways to improve your quality of sleep.
Find and Keep to a Routine
Maintaining a routine can have multiple health benefits, including increased management of stress, improved sleep and overall health8. Routines don’t need to be strict schedules, but having some form of structure can help to reduce feelings of uncertainty and unpredictability9. Going for regular walks in nature and ensuring you have a regular sleep pattern can help to decrease overall levels of anxiety.
Maintain a Healthy and Balanced Diet
It’s no surprise that a healthy diet can protect our physical and mental health, which is incredibly important during the stressful time that we are living in9. Furthermore, with health services stretched to capacity, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet can help to manage conditions such as diabetes and heart disease which in turn helps to reduce demand on healthcare services. This not only can improve our health, but also helps the healthcare sector recover faster10. A healthy diet contains nutrient rich foods from all major food groups, including protein, whole grains, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables11. Thankfully, vybey’s 100% nutritionally complete meal replacement shake provides you with everything you need for a complete meal in its delicious powder options. We deliver all across Australia and New Zealand.
Stay Physically Active
Studies have shown that lockdown has, unsurprisingly, resulted in an overall decrease in physical activity across the board and an increase in the amount of time we spent sitting inactive and consuming unhealthy food12. To combat time sitting around, we recommend exercising this has been shown to help improve circulation, strengthen bones and joints and helps to regulate cortisol levels as well as protecting our immune system by improving the body’s response to fighting viruses13. Physical exercise has significant benefits for not only our overall physical and mental health but can also decrease the long-term effects of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and respiratory disease12. However, vybey’s meal replacement shake is packed with nutrients including complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, nootropics and 26 vitamins and minerals to help maintain energy levels throughout the day.
Spend Time in Nature
There are many benefits of going for a morning walk, preferably in nature as studies show that life in rural areas has been linked to lower rates of heart disease, obesity, asthma related hospital admissions, diabetes, mental illness and overall mortality14. A study from 2019 shows that spending at least 2 hours a week in nature has been associated with better health and wellbeing14. Simply sitting in your back garden or going for a walk can have a significant benefit for your physical and mental health. If you’re lucky and your 5km boundary has a park or nature reserve then we recommend going for a ten-to-fifteen-minute walk, cycle or run as being in nature has been proven to improve our mental and physical health.
It’s well known that being isolated has a significant impact on our mental health but just because we are isolated by distance, we don’t need to be isolated from those we care about. Making sure you stay in touch with people who make you feel safe and you can be yourself around will have significant benefits on your mental health. We recommend group chats, video calls and setting fun tasks and challenges for each other to complete.
Mindfulness exercises such as yoga and meditation have been proven to benefit both our physical and mental wellbeing15. Studies have shown that mindfulness can reduce anxiety, prevent and treat depression, improve body image and increase cognitive functioning16. Techniques such as basic meditation, being aware of bodily sensations and noticing your sensory surroundings can help bring you back into the present and stop your mind from wandering17.
Learn a New Skill
With extra time on our hands, now is the perfect time to fight boredom by learning a new skill. Studies have shown that learning new skills can help you become a more interesting person and improve your brain chemistry which can in turn help you learn faster, adapt to changes better and could even stave off dementia18. A new skill could be anything from learning a new language, learning to code, learning a musical instrument or taking an online course19.
Support Small and Local
Whenever you shop from a small business you support real people and their families and within your community, with most of the profits being reinvested back into your local community. Many local businesses have been significantly damaged by the pandemic and it’s so important that we come together to support small independent businesses during this time. Small businesses are the driving force of our economy and their contribution is vital and can therefore play a key role in helping our economy recover from the pandemic20.
People volunteer for a number of reasons and studies have shown that helping other people can actually improve your own health and wellbeing21. Volunteering can range from donating your time to your local food bank, volunteering online for services such as Lifeline22 or finding other online volunteer opportunities through CatchFire, a volunteer search engine23 24.
Maintaining Healthy Habits Post-Lockdown
Okay, so we have all these new healthy habits; how do we maintain them now that everything is on the route back to 'normal'? We recommend starting small and introducing daily habits that you know you can maintain such as setting a consistent time for sleep, keeping in touch with loved ones and improving your diet and overall lifestyle. Remember that everyone has different needs and what’s important to you may not meet the needs of someone else. It’s important to be kind to yourself and others and we will get through this together. If you have any questions about what we’ve talked about above or want to reach out for tips then please feel free to get in touch via email.
1 Moncrieff, F., (2020). Lockdown: The Perfect Time to Build New Habits. Second Nature. [online]. Available from https://www.secondnature.io/blog/lockdown-healthy-habits
2 UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA, (2021). What Impact Does the Environment Have on Us? University of Minnesota. [online]. Available from https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/what-impact-does-environment-have-us
3 BLASCHKA, A., (2018). If You Want to Change Your Life, Change Your Environment. Forbes. [online]. Available from https://www.forbes.com/sites/amyblaschka/2018/09/27/if-you-want-to-change-your-life-change-your-environment/?sh=76bdce43734d
4 Nafie, C., (2020). 10 Ways to Add Colours to Your Living Room. The Spruce. [online]. Available from https://www.thespruce.com/add-color-to-a-living-room-1976484
5 MY HEALTH FINDER. (2021). Get Enough Sleep. My Health Finder. [online]. Available from https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/everyday-healthy-living/mental-health-and-relationships/get-enough-sleep
6 SUNI, E., (2020). Healthy Sleep Tips. Sleep Foundation. [online]. Available from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene/healthy-sleep-tips
7 CHU, M., (2021). Why Your Environment is The Biggest Factor in Changing Your Life: Willpower on Its Own Isn’t Enough. Inc. [online]. Available from https://www.inc.com/melissa-chu/its-possible-to-design-your-environment-to-help-yo.html
8 NORTHWESTERN MEDICINE., (2021). Health Benefits of Having a Routine. Northwestern Medicine. [online]. Available from https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/health-benefits-of-having-a-routine
9 CHERRY, K., (2020). The Importance of Maintaining Structure and Routine During Stressful Times. Very Well Mind. [online]. Available from https://www.verywellmind.com/the-importance-of-keeping-a-routine-during-stressful-times-4802638
10 BRITISH NUTRITION FOUNDATION. (2021). Good Food for Thought: BNF Shares Top Tips for Eating Well During Lockdown. British Nutrition Foundation. [online]. Available from https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/covid19/food-for-thought.html
11 CRICHTON, C., (2020). What are the Benefits of Eating Healthy? Medical News Today. [online]. Available from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322268
12 KAUR, H., SINGH, T., ARYA, Y., MITTAL, S., (2020). Physical Fitness and Exercise During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Qualitative Enquiry. Movement Science and Sport Psychology. [online] 11(590172), pp. 1-10. Available from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.590172/full
13 FERNANDES, C., (2020). The Importance of Exercise During Lockdown. SOM. [online]. Available from https://www.som.org.uk/importance-exercise-during-lockdown
14 WHITE, M., ALCOCK, I., GRELLIER, J., WHEELER, B., HARTIG, T., WARBER, S., BONE, A., DEPLEDGE, M., FLEMING, L., (2019). Spending at Least 120 Minutes a Week in Nature is Associated with Good Health and Wellbeing. Scientific Reports. [online]. 9(7730), pp. 1. Available from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44097-3
15 ACKERMAN, C., (2021). 23 Amazing Health Benefits of Mindfulness for Body and Brain. Positive Psychology. [online] Available from https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-mindfulness/
16 CHO, J., (2016). 6 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation. Forbes. [online]. Available from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeenacho/2016/07/14/10-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-mindfulness-and-meditation/?sh=156b461263ce
17 HELP GUIDE, (2021). Benefits of Mindfulness. Help Guide. [online]. Available from https://www.helpguide.org/harvard/benefits-of-mindfulness.htm#
18 WGREICOMEDIASHOWERCOM. (2017). The Top 7 Benefits of Learning a New Skill. CCSU Continuing Education. [online]. Available from https://ccsuconed.wordpress.com/2017/01/23/the-top-7-benefits-of-learning-a-new-skill/
19 JOBS.AC.UK. (2021). Gaining New Skills and Knowledge During Lockdown. Jobs.ac.uk. [online]. Available from https://career-advice.jobs.ac.uk/jobseeking-and-interview-tips/jobseeking-tips/gaining-new-skills-and-knowledge-during-lockdown/
20 HARDOON, A., (2015). The Importance of Small Businesses in the UK Economy. SmallBusiness.co.uk. [online]. Available from https://smallbusiness.co.uk/the-importance-of-small-businesses-in-the-uk-economy-2492626/
21 MENTAL HEALTH FOUNDATION, (2021). Kindness Matters Guide. Mental Health Foundation. [online]. Available from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/kindness/kindness-matters-guide#:~:text=Evidence%20shows%20that%20helping%20others,%2C%20self%2Desteem%20and%20happiness
22 LIFELINE, (2021). Text Service Information. Lifeline. [online]. Available from https://www.lifeline.org.au/crisis-text/
23 CATCHFIRE, (2021). Volunteer Your Skills and Make a Difference. CatchFire. [online]. Available from https://www.catchafire.org/
24 MENJIVAR, J., (2021). 9 Places to Volunteer Online (And Make a Real Impact). Do Something. [online]. Available from https://www.dosomething.org/us/articles/9-places-to-volunteer-online-and-make-a-real-impact