Living in a pandemic is tough, even for folks who generally don’t struggle mentally. The problem now seems to be the length of time we’ve been at this. We may be doing all the things we know we should but, well, we’re tired. So I offer here a few novel ways to shake things up while staying home, plus one especially empowering yet usually overlooked point of view. Pick a goal, any goal, but make it unusual. Do some kind of 30 day challenge or make it a 7 day challenge if 30 days is too daunting. It doesn’t have to be something like healthy exercise or food related (though those are great, too, of course). Try a “Use it up” challenge where the goal is eating all the food in your pantry before doing groceries again. See how creative you can get pulling meals together. If you have kids, make sure to involve them. Or commit to getting up to watch the sunrise every morning for a week. Or try a no-spend month, spending on nothing that isn’t a necessity. Insomnia? Make a 3am phone arrangement with a friend. Or memorize a poem a week so that by month end you’ll be able to recite at least four. This past month, I challenged myself to spend half an hour a day on a new language, y mi español ha mejorado.
Do weird things. Shower in the dark. It’s unusually calming. Doodle a self portrait or perfect your signature using your less dominant hand. Try a weird food combo, or eat only foods of a certain colour for an entire day – fun for kids. Watch a movie first thing in the morning. Pick what you’ll watch the night before, then enjoy your coffee and breakfast engrossed in a classic. Eat dinner for breakfast, and breakfast foods for dinner. Walk out in the snow and lay down. Just hang out there a bit staring at the sky. Put your phone at the other end of your house or apartment for a few hours. Read a book aloud with a partner. Take turns as reader and listener. You could do this with a book-loving friend by phone, too, if you live alone. Have a dance party.
Use a therapy light. I don’t usually recommend purchasing things because I don’t feel buying things is a smart way to make myself feel better. Being frugal also makes me happier than spending money. I did get a therapy light, though, and it’s been boosting my mood whenever I use it on those grey days.
Change up your surroundings. Move furniture around. Go looking for things you like around the house and move them to other rooms. Move photos and art to different walls.
Put things like a journal, nice pen, a candle, and book, sketch pad, or whatever you need that supports your passtime, on a tray to carry from room to room to use in different spaces. Turn a chair to look out of a window for a different view. Move plants to new windows. Burn candles every night at dinner. Camp out in a different room one night. Build something interesting outside to look at from your window.
Lastly, this is the one thing rarely mentioned when we talk about mental health and what can be done to improve it. These thoughts are gleaned from one of my favourite podcasts, Citations Needed.
The episode in question is linked below, and this is the accompanying blurb: “Missing from the vast bulk of coverage (referring to articles with tips for mental health struggles) is the glaringly obvious third option: actionable, proven, political solutions to mental health crises that operate under the radical assumption that social problems may require social solutions. Nowhere in any of these articles is the idea that socialized medicine, guaranteed income, free childcare, student debt relief or rent and mortgage cancellations (I would add increased worker power here) may be the best and most rational “hacks” or “tricks” to actually improve mental health of people at scale. Obviously, a robust social safety net wouldn’t solve all mental health problems — after all, countries with universal healthcare and generous unemployment and childcare benefits still have depression and suicides — but we have decades of data showing basic social welfare clearly improves mental welfare. But because mental health crises are seen as moral failings rather than diseases thrust upon innocent people, we are conditioned to view those suffering from their effects as inevitable, losses simply factored into the moral framework of the world.” It’s crucial, I feel, that in addition to making ourselves feel better through healthy lifestyle and practical ideas, that we accept the fact that we are not at individually at fault for our mental health conditions. And if we are able, joining in collective struggle for social change may be one of the best things we can do, not only for the collective good, but for our own sense of purpose, which is a key component of good mental health.
That’s it for this week. As always, I’d appreciate a “follow” if any of this content is helpful or entertaining. Simply hit the follow button and you’ll receive an e-mail when I upload a new post. Take care, Christine