Don’t dismiss this as nonsense. Numerous studies have shown that when people practice gratitude, the flow of favourable neurochemicals in the brain multiplies, and the neural structure of the brain is resculpted. Practising gratitude leads to better sleep, better relationships with others, better mental clarity, and even healthier hearts in people with heart conditions.
Every day search for 3 things to be grateful for, even when it’s really difficult. They will often be things we take for granted and so don’t obviously spring to mind. Just like a power cut really makes us appreciate and miss electricity, think about the things without which, your day would have been that much harder. Examples might be ‘a day of sunshine,’ ‘I am healthy’,’the daffodils are out’, ‘I slept well last night’, ‘my children played well together today,’ ‘my partner cooked for me last night’ ‘I had a phonecall from my oldest friend who made me laugh non stop’, and in these strange times maybe ‘I have loo roll.’! Write the 3 things in a journal either morning or evening , and spend a few moments thinking about them.
How can you help or give back to someone? This could mean volunteering for a local group that helps vulnerable and elderly people during lockdown by collecting medicines or picking up shopping, or it could be simply connecting with a friend online or over the phone, or even writing a thank you letter to a relative or friend or someone that has made a genuine difference to your life. Helping others increases our oxytocin levels (the cuddle hormone), and makes us feel good.
10 minutes or more daily can ease anxiety, boost empathy and increase focus as well as numerous other benefits. There's a great quote 'if you say you don't have time to meditate once a day, then you need to meditate twice a day.'
Sit in a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed (you may need to get up half an hour earlier to achieve this at the moment, but the benefits will be worth it) . Sit in a comfortable position with your back upright and focus on your breath. Move your attention to your feet, relaxing them, and then move your attention slowly all the way up your body relaxing each part and focussing on your breath. When thoughts come into your mind, imagine flicking them away with a feather. Or try an app such as Guided Mind or Headspace.
Physical activity releases feel-good endorphins which help lift mood and reduce depression as well as boosting brain power. There are numerous free online sessions that you can do in our living room or just set yourself a goal such as 20 squats/20 press ups and 20 lunges every day - these can be done whilst waiting for the kettle to boil!! Or put some music on and have a half hour dance in the kitchen. Just warn the family what you’re doing or get them all involved.
Better still, get outside for a walk or run (observing social distancing of course).
One of my favourite quotes is 'This Too Shall Pass'. It refers to the ephemerality of life events - the bad times will pass but so will the good ones.
Use this once in a lifetime opportunity to think ahead and plan for after this is over. Look inward and think about what areas of your life you are not happy with or what things are going well for you that you would like more of?
Psychologists have a phrase 'collective resilience' that refers to people redefining themselves when faced with an external threat such as a pandemic. The collective self becomes more important than the individual self, so people begin to collaborate with each other and support each other as has already been seen in the formation of volunteer groups, random acts of kindness, clapping for the NHS and so on. Post Covid-19 could well be a better, re-imagined and more evolved new world. New ways of schooling and working, increased connection with family and friends and living life in a way that benefits not just ourselves but others too, as well as living in coherence with our natural surroundings.
Take a few minutes to think about Life After Pandemic - what will you be glad that you did, what will you be thankful you started or stopped and what will you do differently?