Six unusual expert tips
for surviving in lockdown
Tired of lockdown, tired of life… Try these tip-top-tips to spark some joy and bring that buzz back to being stuck indoors. As we’re now a year deep into our world being different, we’re looking outside of the box for ways to keep our spirits high and our endorphins flowing. So, we thought we’d share some of our favourite, more unusual ways to boost morale, feel fabulous and keep that zest for life buzzing!
1.Head to a gallery… virtually
Getting arty at home is a lovely concept, until you actually consider the seismic paint-strewn aftershocks on your house after an evening spent squeezing acrylic tubes… but fear not! There are ways of getting the same bountiful benefits of flexing your fearlessly artistic flair without requiring you to deep clean the splattered carpet afterwards.
Think back to when you last felt butterflies in your stomach… what if we told you that you could get the same buzzy JOY by sitting back and looking at some landscapes? Researchers at University College London have found that looking at art we consider to be beautiful triggers the same electrifying physical response as when we’re starting to fall madly, hopelessly, magnificently… in love. That’s dopamine, honey!
And while you might not be able to pop out with a coffee and peruse the walls right now, grab the opportunity to go a little further afield! The Louvre, The Vatican, The Met in New York and London’s National Gallery all have beautiful virtual tours and interactive galleries. Why not make a digital date of it with a friend and peruse the same online gallery together? You’ll never have to queue for the toilets.
With the relentless news and lack of usual scenery changes, we’ve all got to light our own sparklers at the minute. And while we’re being told about all the very serious, grown-up things we can do to bring ourselves inner serenity, we’re ripping up the self care rule book! Now and again, we’re swapping mindfulness and meditation for some bounce-off-the-walls bonkersness.
Did you know that anything that makes you feel like a kid again or puts you in a silly mindset can totally change your outlook for the day by flooding your mind with happy hormones? Dr Loretta Graziano Breuning, author of Habits of a Happy Brain, states that just one minute of playing like a child can cause a good-chemical surge into even the most stressed brain.
Tickle your partner, watch your favourite comedian on YouTube, have a go at putting your makeup on with your eyes closed… Whatever you choose to trigger the giggles, the Mayo Clinic cites laughter as one of the most efficient forms of short-term stress relief, as it enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air. That may be scientifically correct, but we like it because frankly, we all deserve a good laugh right now! Humour has even been linked to improved immune function, since it activates the body’s protective T-cells…
Fancy giving it a go but not sure where to start? Try some ‘laughter yoga’, where you fake it ‘til you make it. Your body responds in the same way even if it’s not a genuine laugh, which sees those hug-in-a-mug hormones come rushing forward – The Royal Society’s recent study on laughter yoga went as far as to say laughter creates ‘an endorphin-mediated opiate effect’. That’s high praise indeed.
3.Yoga for Dummies
We’d all love to be bendy, flexy, pious yoga gurus, but when there’s one too many mental bees buzzing around the hive of your mind and frankly you’re just a bit knackered, it can be hard to concentrate on perfecting your padangustasana. But luckily, one of the best poses for your mind requires absolutely no va-va-voom whatsoever. Try the shavsana – also known as ‘the corpse pose’. It requires you to… do absolutely nothing.
Just lie down on the floor, with your arms at your sides, your legs straight in front, and that’s it. Do absolutely nothing. When was the last time you did that?! Breathe deeply through the nose, down to your belly and out through your mouth a few times. Let your body be heavy and full, and loosen any tensed muscles. That’s it! You are a yoga superstar!
There’s something unique about the shavsana that really revitalises the frazzled spirit. By completely absolving ourselves of any responsibility to be, see, do or hear, just for a few moments, we allow our body to come out of a flighty stress mode, and to just ‘be still’. We love being kick-ass, but remember that sometimes the ass-kicker needs a rest, too.
4.Turn it up to eleven!
It’s time to channel your inner Beyonce (yes, even if you sound more like Jedward with the flu). When we sing along to our favourite music, large parts of our brain ‘light up’ with activity, as discovered by a study at the University of Melbourne last year. When we speak, the half of the brain that deals with language is lit up. But when we sing… the whole of your brain glows like a spotlight on Adele at Glastonbury!
Perhaps that’s why as the world went into lockdown last year, so many people turned to music, with Italian arias from Milanese balconies and online choirs offering virtual virtuosos. Those goosebumps you get when listening to beautiful music have a name in Sanskrit – kama muta. Combine this with your rockstar sing-along, and you’ll be sparking joy all over the shop.
And no, you don’t need to be good at singing to see the benefits. Baishali Mukherjee of the World Federation of Music Therapy told the BBC that it’s the physical exertion involved with singing – filling the lungs, controlling the vocal cords, the inevitable dancing – which boost your mood, not how tuneful you are. Roll over, Beethoven, there’s a new muso in town.
5.Give up (just one!) coffee
Don’t worry, we’d never dare say that you needed to ditch all caffeine during a global pandemic, while homeschooling and working from the dining table and all the other myriad plates we’re currently spinning. But hear us out for a very small case of decaffeinating!
Having over three cups of coffee a day takes you over the 400mg threshold set by the US Centre for Science in the Public Interest, and going over even just slightly can increase your anxiety and stress levels as it overstimulates your nervous system.
So have your morning coffee and your afternoon pick-up, but consider ditching the lunchtime brew for something a little less buzzy. As a mind-nourishing alternative, green tea contains L-Theanine which actually reduces the body’s stress responses. And if it’s been a reeeealllllly long day, colour theory tells us that green is the most calming colour for the brain to process, so if all else fails you can just stare into the cup for a little mental break!
6. Take a different kind of bath
Bubble baths are soooo Lockdown 1. This time around, we’re really into Shinrin-Yoku, or ‘Forest Bathing’. There’s an uplifting quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, where he talks about how we “come out of the wrangle of the shop and office, and see the sky and the woods, and are human again. In their eternal calm, we find ourselves…”, and let’s be honest – it has never rung truer than when shop, office AND home are all under the same roof.
So how does it work? Just find your nearest forest, whether that’s a dense park or a real life woodland, but ideally somewhere where you can’t hear the traffic or see any buildings – you’re liberating your inner cavewoman here, so nothing that reminds you of paying the council tax or picking up the dry cleaning. Leave all screens at home, even your phone. Be by yourself (or at least pick a quiet friend as your outdoor walking buddy – now is not the time to be catching up on Line of Duty).
And once you’re there… stop.
Then try and trigger four senses – touch, sight, smell, hearing.
Yes okay, it sounds a bit pseudoscience. But it packs a real powerful punch – Shinrin-Yoku has measurable and proven scientific benefits, such as improved mood, reduced blood pressure, increased immune activity and a boost to your ability to focus. All from hugging a tree.
Pretty good deal, really.