For most of us right now, the scope of our day-to-day reality has been drastically reduced to the four walls of our homes. And whilst this is a necessary measure in light of the current situation, it poses some real concerns for the state of many people’s mental health.
Being confined to our homes for an extended period of time can be very challenging — not only physically but mentally. So it’s incredibly important that we all take the time to nurture and protect our mental health whilst we see this period of self-isolation through.
With this in mind, we thought we’d share a few tips on keeping mentally healthy and happy whilst housebound. We hope they can be of some use.
Keeping active is absolutely essential for remaining both physically and mentally healthy. This is of course true in normal circumstances, but at present it’s more important than ever.
Not only does exercise provide us with a regular routine to follow, but it can drastically help to increase and maintain a healthy mental state.
HelpGuide says that regular exercise “relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood”.
And, according to mentalhealth.org.uk, “Participation in regular physical activity can increase our self-esteem and can reduce stress and anxiety. It also plays a role in preventing the development of mental health problems and in improving the quality of life of people experiencing mental health problems”.
By now the positive benefits of meditation have been widely documented. But suffice to say that meditating on a regular basis is a very effective method for keeping emotionally and mentally balanced.
It can be especially helpful for creating mental space — offering a place of silence and stillness when we’re otherwise overwhelmed by news feeds, social media, and other forms of external stimulus.
We’re currently living through times of extreme anxiety and uncertainty. So, for many of us, engaging with activities like meditation is more important and necessary than ever before.
But we’ve covered this topic in a little more depth in a previous post. So if you’d like to read more about meditation and how it can be of huge benefit to both your mental and physical health, see here.
Keep your mind stimulated
Boredom presents a big risk when it comes to our mental health during self-isolation.Having nothing to do can contribute to a general sense of unease, discomfort, and anxiety. And being unoccupied makes us more likely to overthink things and fall into negative mental spirals.
On Mind’s coronavirus advice page, they recommended solving puzzles, reading books, watching films, and listening to podcasts in order to keep occupied. They also suggest learning new skills or taking an online course. OpenLearn and FutureLearn are two excellent resources for finding free courses. Or, if you’re interested in learning a new language, you could try Duolingo.
Connect with friends and family
Humans are social by nature, which means social distancing doesn’t come naturally to many of us. We all enjoy spending time with family and friends, and though most of us are currently isolated from our social circles, being unable to meet face-to-face doesn’t mean we can’t spend time with the people we care about.
We’re lucky to live in such an intimately connected world. Nowadays it’s easy for even the most technophobic of us to make video calls and send voice messages. So it’s both important and feasible to keep in touch with those we’d normally see on a regular basis.
If you have friends you’d usually meet with once a week for a coffee, arrange a group video call instead. You can still drink coffee and chat together, but from the comfort of your own homes.
You could even go old school and write a letter to a friend you haven’t contacted for a while. This also has a 2-for-1 benefit: you can keep your mind active by writing and reconnect with a distant friend at the same time.
For more information and advice on the upkeep of mental health during this difficult time, there are some excellent articles by Time, Mind, Mental Health Foundation, and the BBC.
But beyond all the obvious reasons, why exactly should you volunteer? Well, there are lots of advantages to giving our time to a worthy cause, both for ourselves and the community in general. And though we won’t cover them all today, here are 5 benefits of volunteering that show what a truly worthy pursuit it is. . .
Volunteering develops new skills
Volunteering presents amazing opportunities to learn new skills in easygoing and informal environments.
In voluntary positions, due to the lack of financial incentive, there’s often no performance-based pressure whatsoever. This creates a completely safe environment in which to explore new skills and creative pursuits without fear of judgement.
Helps build experience
Asidefrom allowing you to learn new skills from scratch, volunteering also lets you develop existing skills in order to build experience.
Volunteering can give your CV an enormous boost. But it’s also a fun and rewarding way to simply build on skills that you’d like to develop.
Makes you feel connected to a cause
It’s incredibly important that we feel connected to something bigger than ourselves. It gives us a sense of perspective and purpose, and can really add a lot of extra meaning to our lives.
Volunteering allows us to get out into our communities and really make an impact. And by helping out in even the smallest ways we can come to feel more connected to our towns, cities, and neighbours.
Helps you make friends and expand your network
You’ll meet all sorts of people through volunteering. Some of them might turn into lifelong friends, and others could become valuable contacts who may even help you progress in your career.
It’s especially powerful if you’re new to an area. By volunteering in an unfamiliar place, not only will you meet locals and make friends, but you’ll feel immediately connected to your new location and its residents.
It’s is good for the mind
Volunteering can be an incredibly effective antidote to stress and anxiety. It can help take your mind off your current worries by forcing you to focus on something completely different. And due to the selfless nature of most voluntary positions, they offer a unique and profoundly effective way of getting out of our heads for a little while.
On top of this, learning and applying new skills through volunteering can help to keep our brains active and curious. And volunteering with animals could be especially effective when it comes to mental wellbeing.
What’s more, you might even find that after volunteering for a short while you’ll start to feel more self-confident.
There are lots of ways to get involved and volunteer in your local community. For general positions you can check out do-it.org, where you’ll find a huge variety of positions in all sorts of areas.
Exercising isn’t always easy. And truth be told, for many of us it’s sometimes hard enough just mustering the strength to get changed into our workout gear. Luckily, however, we live in the YouTube era, and that means there are countless home-based alternatives for us to try we’re just not feeling up to going out.
All you need is a bit of space and a good internet connection, and you have access to hundreds upon hundreds of high quality exercise videos. All for free.
So for those days when the weather’s too cold, or you’re not feeling your best, or you just want to supplement your gym sessions with some smaller home-workouts, here are 8 Youtube channels for a free workout fix.
You may have heard of High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT for short. It’s an incredibly popular way to workout. Lauded for its ability to yield big results for relatively short bouts of exercise, HIIT is all the rage, and rightly so.
A typical session consists of small bursts of high-intensity exercise (usually anywhere from 20 to 40 seconds) followed by low-intensity recovery periods. With the overall session lasting around 10 to 30 minutes.
This might not seem like much through the lens of an endurance athlete. But the evidence is mounting, and it seems that when it comes to HIIT, short really is sweet.
So here are 5 benefits of High Intensity Interval Training. Who knows, they might even make you think twice before going out on your next 10 mile run.
Fits around tight schedules. . .
To reap the benefits of High Intensity Interval Training, you only need to workout for a total of 10-20 minutes, three times a week. This is perfect for those who otherwise avoid exercise due to time constraints. Pencilling in three 20 minute sessions over the course of a week is much more conceivable than trying to fit in a big run every other day.
Plus, due to the heightened intensity of this style of training, you don’t need to devote huge amounts of time to it in order to see big results.
In a study focussing on healthy but sedentary individuals, it was found that just 1 minute of HIIT performed three times a week could improve blood sugar scores and aerobic capacity after just six weeks. So short, regular bursts of HIIT could prove effective even for the busiest people.
. . . and in tight spaces
A very convenient benefit of HIIT is the fact that it can be performed pretty much anywhere. There are lots of different HIIT sessions out there, designed to suit any fitness level and environmental obstacle. So whether you’re in a small bedroom or a back garden, you can make it work for your situation.
In one study, adults with high blood pressure performed HIIT on a stationary bike three days a week, for 20 minutes per session, over the course of eight weeks. At the end of the study it was found that the HIIT group’s blood pressure decreased as much as a second group who had been training for four days a week at 30 minutes per session.
It burns fat
High Intensity Interval Training is known for its fat-burning effects. And the reason it works so well is that it produces excess post-oxygen consumption (EPOC). Essentially, your body continues to burn calories for a longer period after a HIIT session.
In one study, from Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine, it was concluded that participants who performed HIIT on a stationary bicycle burned more calories in the following 24 hours than participants who cycled at a moderate and steady rate.
In other studies, out of Laval University and East Tennessee State University, researchers found that participants following a HIIT training programme lost more body fat than participants performing steady-state cardio for the same length of time.
So for anyone looking to burn more calories and, ultimately, lose more fat, HIIT could be a very effective option.
It provides variety
HIIT training exposes you to a huge array of exercises, targeting many different muscle groups. Full-body-burning burpees, ab-crunching crunches, shoulder-sculpting push-ups. They’re all there.
The diversity of this kind of workout ensures that your entire body feels the benefit. So it’s a very well-balanced way to stay fit. Plus, with all the variety of HIIT, you’ll be much less likely to grow bored in the long run.
Michael Phelps is regarded as one of the greatest swimmers ever, and is the most decorated Olympian of all time, with a total of 28 medals to his name. No Limits is Phelp’s inspiring account of his preparation for the 2008 Olympics and beyond. It’s a motivating advocation of striving for your goals the good old fashioned way: with hard work and determination.
This book follows a group of budding California-Based Olympians, chronicling their journey to compete in the 2000 Olympic games. Gold in the Water centres around four swimmers and their coach, and shines a light on the highs and lows of the swimming life. A must read for competitive swimmers!
Much like Michael Phelps, Ian Thorpe is swimmer of legend. His achievements (11 World Championship titles; 10 Commonwealth Games gold medals; 22 world records; and 5 gold, 3 silver, and 1 bronze Olympic medals) are nothing short of extraordinary. This Is Me focusses more on Thorpe’s 2012 comeback as opposed to his early career. But it’s an honest account of the life and struggles (especially those outside the pool) of a world class athlete.
This one’s for anyone who thinks they’re too old. It’s a story of stepping up to the challenge, despite your age and the age of your competitors, and following your dreams. It sends a wonderful and inspiring message for us to continue competing and staying active in older age.
You don’t need to be a swimmer to be inspired by this story of unfaltering motivation. By the age of 16, Lynne Cox had broken all records for swimming the English Channel. She then went on to become the first person to swim the Strait of Magellan — and that hardly scratches the surface of her achievements. This is the story of a passionate, determined, and daring individual, and one that should strike a chord with all readers.
In short, Born to Run isthe story of a journalist who sets out to Mexico to discover how Tarahumara Indians can run hundreds of miles without needing rest or injury. But it goes much deeper than that. It’s a fascinating journey into the heart and science of long-distance running.
Non-runners, don’t be skeptical. You don’t need to enter ultra marathons to benefit from these pages. There’s something here for everyone — but who knows, it might just inspire you to dust off those old running shoes!
Known as “the bible of bodybuilding” and written by one of the most famous bodybuilders of all time. Not much more needs to be said about this one, except that it’s an invaluable resource for weight trainers of all levels and abilities.
It’s true that this book will naturally appeal more to bodybuilders. But it’s worth noting that it does go into detail about aerobic training for fat loss too, which may be beneficial for exercisers with different goals.
A pop science book all about the science behind exercise. Simplistic, informative, and presented in a Q&A style, Which Come First dispels lots of fitness myths, and calls on reliable scientific evidence to provide information, insight, and advice on all things exercise.
Men’s Health is an online fitness juggernaut, and this volume is a brilliant resource for gym enthusiasts. It explores lots of different exercises, detailing how to perform them and their benefits. You’ll also find nutritional information and training session examples.
There’s a strong focus here on building functional strength, as well. Which makes it perfect reading for everyone, from pro athletes to furniture lifters!
An honest and inspirational account of Sharapova’s rise to international tennis stardom. It documents everything from her humble Siberian roots to her first Wimbledon win, and everything in-between and beyond.
For tennis players, athletes, fitness enthusiasts, or anyone who simply enjoys an interesting life story, Unstoppable is an absolute must read.
According to On Your Feet Britain, 45% of women and 30% of men spend less than 30 minutes a day on their feet at work. In the long term, this level of workplace inactivity can lead to a host of physical and mental health problems. Resulting, ultimately, in an overall reduction in life expectancy.
But desk dwellers need not despair. The positive news is that, according to studies, regular physical exercise may help to alleviate the negative impacts of sedentary working environments.
And exercise could do more than simply offset the risks of sitting at a desk all day. In fact, it may contribute to an altogether more rewarding and effective work life.
Here’s why exercise is so important for office workers (or anyone who sits down a lot, really).
So by exercising regularly we stand to improve both our mental and emotional wellbeing. Which, in turn, may increase our motivation and enthusiasm to work!
It also improves concentrationand memory
We’ve all experienced the mid-afternoon slump. Reading an email four times in a row, completely unable to focus our attention on account of our post-lunch fatigue. But exercise may help us see the end of that problem.
In one interesting study from HEC Montreal, researchers found that workers who walked on a treadmill whilst reading text and emails not only perceived themselves to be more attentive, but actually demonstrated increased levels of memory and attention.
Another study, this one by UCI researchers, showed that a single burst of moderately intense exercise improves all-round memory function.
It enhances cognition
Other research has shown that regular aerobic exercise actually increases the size of the hippocampus. That’s the part of the brain associated with learning and verbal memory.
Investigators have found that irisin (a molecule believed to have neuroprotective effects) is elevated in the brain though endurance exercise. Experimenting on mice, they “found that raising levels of irisin in the circulation caused the molecule to cross the blood brain barrier, which then increased the expression of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) and activated genes involved in cognition.”
The results of these investigations suggest that increasing BDNF improves cognition and prevents the brain from degeneration. And it seems like one way to encourage this increase is by exercising.
Also, of course, improvements in cognition means improvements in work!
Small changes can make a big difference
Get Britain Standing says that just a few tweaks to our workday can make a big difference to our health. Here are some minor things we can do around the office for positive change:
Standing for phone calls.
Using the stairs instead of elevators and escalators.
Taking a standing break from your desk every 30 minutes.
Conducting standing/walking meetings.
Stepping away from the desk to eat lunch.
Walking to colleagues’s desks instead of phoning/email them.
Get up off the desk!
There’s nothing like exercise to keep us feeling healthy, happy, and productive. If you work in Jesmond and are looking to get more active, why not take advantage of our Corporate Membership? It includes access to all our facilities, 10% off Pilates and massage therapies, and a complimentary 30 minute personal training session. Get in touch today on 0191 281 2482 for more details!