What’s already happened or what might happen are both beyond our control – and focusing on these can be pretty detrimental to our mental health. Instead, it’s all about being in the moment, which is where – you guessed it – mindfulness comes in. In a study of law school graduates in limbo awaiting exam results, it was discovered that those who did brief mindfulness meditations every week or so fared better. And, get this, those who were, by nature, less optimistic and not great at dealing with uncertainty, benefited the most. (If you’re new to mindfulness, download the completely free Smiling Mind app – you input info and it’ll compile appropriate meditations for you.) You can also try this free 5-day mindfulness challenge (don’t worry, it’s only 15 minutes a day!).
This might seem impossible, especially if you’ve lost your job or aren’t able to leave the house due to lockdown/shielding/self-isolating, but numerous studies have found that helping others by volunteering doesn’t only support mental wellbeing; it may also help you find new meaning and direction. You don’t necessarily need to leave the house, either – check out do-it.org for how you can help out in your local area; or lovinghands.org.uk, which lists various organisations that can you use your skills (whether it’s knitting or sewing) to make clothes for the homeless or fiddle mats for dementia sufferers, for instance.
It may not be a big holiday or anything else extravagant, but we can still list a few we’re giddy about: listening to Kylie’s uplifting album, Disco, binge-watching Season 4 of The Crown (Lady Diana finally joins the story!); and devouring Dolly Parton’s book, Songteller: My Life In Lyrics (it’s packed with previously unseen pictures, personal insights and memories)…
Yes, we know wellbeing experts always recommend this, but it’s for good reason. Counting our blessings has been scientifically proven to help us feel happier and less depressed (even in those with mental health struggles, because we’re affirming that there are good things and people in the world, despite this current crisis. Don’t expect it to work overnight, though – as with a lot of good things (such as exercise and healthy eating), the psychological benefits accrue and get bigger over time. It needn’t take over your life – research has found that writing down what you’re grateful for just three times a week can up your joy factor. And it’s not just about big wins; it’s equally important to be grateful for small things, too. But be specific – like, say, appreciating the lovely cheese sandwich you ate using the bread you baked, or being grateful to a friend who just called to cheer you up.
Finally, try to make peace with the current situation because, unfortunately, other than taking the right precautions and following Government advice, the rest is out of our control. But, if you think about it, we deal with uncertainty daily – there’s risk every time you cross the road or drive a car, so you have to trust you’ll be OK. It’s the same with this pandemic. But to help your ‘uncertainty coping mechanism’ become stronger, avoid triggers such as dramatic news reports, social media rumours and talking about the crisis with friends who are prone to being super OTT about it. Instead, try to focus on what you can control, such as making sure you take at least a 20-minute walk every day, or finally reading that book all your friends have been banging on about.