Many of us have our own hacks for managing mental health, but how do they fare in lockdown? In these unprecedented times, we’re all having to adapt to a new way of living, and with that, new ways of managing our wellbeing, too.
In these trying times, and with social interaction being largely off limits, it’s important we give our brains that extra bit of love. While experts have been calling self-isolation ‘a mental health crisis waiting to happen’, there are some ways that we can strengthen our emotional regulation and cognitive abilities through simple daily practices.
Specialist lawyers Bolt Burdon Kemp have released a Mental Health Training guide, with some top tips for boosting your brain health – all from the comfort of our own homes.
- Let the music play
When we’re spending a lot of time at home, this leaves a lot of time to think. And, amid a global pandemic, this isn’t always a good thing – perhaps even leading to feelings of anxiety, depression or low self-esteem. Music, as it turns out, is a great way to turn the ‘on’ switch off, stilling our brain, while keeping it active at the same time.
According to Elizabeth Nightingale, a neurologic music therapist at Chiltern Music Therapy, “Playing music is the best form of exercise for our brains.” Further to this, Bernice Chu – a music therapist at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability – goes on to explain that “listening to music releases endorphins in our brain, boosting people’s moods, and evoking emotions and memories.”
And is classical music always better? As Chu points out “the idea that classical music is the most effective for brain health is really a myth.” Whatever genre, whatever song – just press play, and let it take your stress away (dancing optional!).
- Find some hobbies that are both stimulating and fun
You may have noticed that lockdown has inspired some new skills in your friends. From jigsaw specialists to sourdough-making connoisseurs, we’ve seen an uplift in home-based activities.
Studies have shown that activities that may help maintain our mental wellbeing are those that are “cognitively stimulating” – and include the likes of brainteasers and educational activities, as well as creative hobbies like baking, painting, crafts, drama, dancing and music. So, rather than focusing on what we could be doing if we weren’t on lockdown, consider what we can do because we are. These simple pleasures tend to be put on the backburner in normal life, so perhaps now is the perfect time to master those Italian lessons, become the next Mary Berry, or brush up on your portraiture skills.
Another hobby, but also a combination of fun and fitness? Yoga. For those spending weeks at home, adopting a physical activity you enjoy will ensure the brain stays healthy. In fact, studies have found yoga-based mindfulness can have cognitive benefits, as well as decreasing negative emotions. And with health and fitness brands adapting to the current climate, there is a wealth of free content across the likes of YouTube and other platforms for you to try.
- Treat yourself to the Mediterranean diet!
Of course, it’s not been easy to get all we need at the shops lately (anyone else suffering from a major flour shortage!?). However, the best food for brain health is a low sodium, Mediterranean diet, so do try to get your hands on the likes of olive oil, veggies, nuts, beans and cereal grains.
And, good news for those of us that love a treat…red wine and dark chocolate make the cut, too. According to Judy Rocher, registered nutritional therapist and naturopath at the London Clinic of Nutrition, “the Mediterranean diet, being predominantly vegetable based, provides a high level of phytonutrients and antioxidants.”
Finally, invest in some healthy fats, such as the Omega-3 fatty acids in salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel. For those not fond of fish, other sources of Omega-3 goodness include coconut oil, egg yolks, liver, soya beans and hemp seeds.
Read the full guide to a healthy brain here.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.