Did you know: One minute of anger weakens the immune system for around 4-5 hours, whilst one minute of laughter boosts the immune system for around 24 hours?
Who hasn’t felt anxiety, dread, stress, upset, anger and perhaps even depression within these challenging times? Every day we wake up to the news of how COVID-19 is spreading itself narcissistically around the globe and impacting many lives via social media channels, TV, radio or when we talk online to friends or family.
This virus demands attention and in truth yes we all need to take note of the seriousness of the matter, yet it is crucial to find a balance not to dwell on it for the benefit of our own and other’s health, no matter how much it is impacting our lives. This ironically couldn’t be more apt right now. For example, by feeling anxious or upset, we weaken our our immune systems which could leave us more susceptible to not feeling well. It’s the same when we’re asked not to touch our faces which would normally be an unconscious action in order to soothe ourselves in distressing times, yet at the moment a small unconscious action to soothe our face is ironically one of the main ways COVID-19 is showing to spread through contact with own bodies, surfaces and with others. So yes, you might be thinking I’m being optimistic by talking about how to smile in such a dark time and you may be questioning what is there to smile about at the moment?
Here are 6 tips and steps to help you to smile:
1. Be mindful: Are your thoughts running away with you? Perhaps it’s time to focus on the here and now- not the news or what’s happening, but to focus on YOU in this very moment in time.
Look outside the window, step into your garden if you have one and admire the changing season, scenery and weather. Be aware of how you are breathing, making sure you breathe in positive thoughts and breathe out negative feelings or thoughts.
Allow yourself to calmly sit in a quiet tranquil space for 15 minutes a day. Listen to the birds, watch the clouds drift by, or watch and listen to the raindrops patter onto the window. Take your time to enjoy and savour meals and drinks. Meditate with calming relaxing music or listen to a meditation app such as Headspace, which can be downloaded, from the App store or you can access some calming sleep stories accessed via you tube or spotify.
2. Laughter: Who or what makes you laugh? This is important especially at this time in order to boost your immune system. Why not make time each day to watch a comedy, connect to someone online or via the telephone who makes you laugh. Read an enjoyable book. Watch a funny video on you tube. Look at memories/photos which make you smile and laugh. Turn up the speakers and dance to some positive music either by yourself or with the people in your home. Or take an online exercise class such as Zumba.
3. Self-Care: in the daily rush of life, there is often a begrudging moan from many people complaining that they just don’t have enough time for self care. Well now is the time to practice scheduling at least 30 minutes per day of self-care into your routine. This can be anything from exercising to an online class or exercising once a day outside whilst still maintaining social distancing.
At the moment it’s understandable to want to reach for the biscuit tin of that bottle of wine, but why not use the time to gradually try 1-3 days of the week detoxing your body by substituting fizzy drinks, coffee or alcohol for drinking herbal teas, lemon and warm water. You could also try cutting down on caffeine, fat, sugar, smoking or alcohol and try to prepare and eat balanced meals. Start off with one or two days a week.
Why not take a long warm aromatic bath or shower each day and pamper yourself? Or schedule to talk to a friends or a family member each day in order to feel connected. Personally, listening to some favourite music or watching a great film is always on my to do list!
If you have children and you think I’m being optimistic then why not join in on a family meditation, watch a family film, or engage as a family in story time or a relaxation hour. If you’re finding you’re more busy at home than at work, why not take it in turns with your partner to look after the children in order to schedule in 30 minutes- 1 hour per day of self care for both of you?
4. Re-focus your attention: Instead of focusing on the news 24/7 why not re-focus your attention? This is the perfect time to start a new hobby from your own home, read that book you’ve always wanted to read, watch a film and catch up on work/admin that you may have been putting off.
With spring around the corner, why not detox and spring-clean your home or office. Ask family members or children to help out. Play with your children or engage with them with an online learning or play class. Or why not consider learning something new or improving on a skill?
A fun tip is to also start to look forward to the future by creating a vision board of images, places, role models you admire, fun memories/photographs you have, places you love or would like to travel to, and professional or personal goals for your future. You can create this board using pin interest, or by cutting out images from magazines or the Internet and placing them onto paper. Then place this board up in your home and make sure you look at each day to re-set your mindset. This can also be something that the whole family in your home or online can participate in and it creates a good fun talking point.
5. Re-frame negative thoughts: Understandably negative or anxiety-ridden thoughts are a natural occurrence for everyone at the moment. However, it’s important to positively re-frame these negative thoughts. For example, for every negative thought such as thinking about what is going wrong, consider instead what is going well. These may be the smallest of things such as being grateful for your health, family, friends, connections, work, the weather and every day.
Whilst we are social distancing, pollution has been shown to decrease in many areas of the world, global communities are showing acts of collective kindness and when sometimes we may be too busy to appreciate and feel grateful for these small basics in life, we are now being forced to stop and consider what we are grateful for.
If you find yourself feeling low or encountering negative thoughts, ask yourself for every negative thought how can I turn it into a positive? For example, ‘being stuck at home is awful’ try saying ‘being stuck at home may be challenging BUT at least I may now have time to…’
6. Do one thing a day that your future self will thank you for: If you looked ahead to 3- 6 months time, what positive acts of kindness, productivity and positive initiatives could you undertake today that your future self will thank you for? Remember to keep the action and goal realistic- perhaps try to focus on 1 or 2 larger goals throughout this time, or one mini goal per day. This could be learning a new skill, a hobby or addressing those things you’ve been putting off. Make sure you make time to play or learn with your children. Join an online community initiative. Or start scheduling in ‘me time’ into your daily regime as well as professional and personal time.