New Year, New You! Tips on How to Stay Healthy During COVID

Jonathan Jenkins

New Year's health tips for the COVID Pandemic

Your overall health is affected by many aspects including your physical, mental, social, spiritual, and intellectual well-being, so we’ve put together some tips and suggestions that will help you develop or support these wellness aspects in case you feel you need a healthy boost in this new year! Many of these tips may help more than one aspect and all are a vital part of being the healthiest possible version of you.[6]

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How To Stay Healthy During the Pandemic

1. Get your workout on at home

Addresses Physical and Mental Wellness

Create a home gym or develop a fitness routine (bonus points if some of it takes place outside!) that you can perform at home, on your property. Staying active is obviously important for being as physically fit and healthy as possible during this time but it is also vital for mental health. The release of endorphins and increased circulation can boost your mood and energize you as well as improve your self-esteem as you achieve new goals [7]. Any exercise is great, but if you really want to de-stress try something completely new to you (like a martial arts or dance workout) that fully engages your brain as well as your body so that you are able to fully disengage from whatever stress has been occupying your mind. Plus, doing this at home where no-one can see you is the perfect opportunity to try something new!

Bonus Tip: You can find affordable gym and fitness equipment secondhand on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace (just make sure you clean and sanitize THOROUGHLY before using).

2. Join an online fitness program

Addresses Physical, Mental, and Social Wellness

You've got a plethora of choices here: if you search online for "online fitness programs" you'll find plenty of options, from phone apps to YouTube channels, with instructors covering yoga to HIIT routines. Make sure you choose a program that is sustainable for YOU, whether that means it fits in your busy schedule, is achievable within your space, or suits your current fitness level. There are many live online classes being conducted if you feel you need more guidance than a recorded workout. These live classes can also provide a social aspect that facilitates accountability and boosts motivation. Exercising with others (even if it’s online) creates camaraderie and combats feelings of loneliness and isolation which many are currently feeling as we try to stay healthy during COVID.

Get outdoors and stay healthy in 2021

3. Get acquainted with your local walks/hikes/cycling routes

Addresses Physical and Mental Wellness

Even if it's just a leisurely walk through a park, getting out and into nature has an immense positive impact on mental and physical wellbeing. Studies show[1] that spending even just 15 minutes outside can reduce stress, anger, and depression. Physically, being outside reduces blood pressure and heart rate as well as improving vitamin D levels (a crucial vitamin for fighting off diseases and promoting overall health). If you combine being outside with an activity like cycling or a scenic hike, the health benefits multiply!   

4. Plant a vegetable and/or flower garden

Addresses Physical, Mental and Spiritual Wellness

Embrace your inner gardener and you'll get the benefits of being outside, connecting to the world around you AND possibly getting some fresh veggies on the table! Use the time spent in your garden to develop your spiritual health. Watching and experiencing the germination, growth, and life-cycle of a plant can in itself be quite meditative and help you feel connected or more attuned to nature. Or you can simply allow your mind to wander and follow thought paths that you would normally stop for the sake of productivity. In a time of global upheaval and uncertainties, allowing yourself time to contemplate your place within it is important for achieving holistic well-being [8]. If you take on a veggie garden an extra perk is a colorful plant-forward diet - the best way to get the variety of vitamins your body needs for nutritional health [2]. However, if you're worried your green thumb (or your schedule) isn't ready for veggie garden maintenance, stick with the flower garden instead. There are plenty of low-maintenance flower options [3] and you can also plant perennials if you don't want to replant every year.

Staying connected with family during lockdown

5. Stay connected with family & friends virtually

Addresses Mental and Social Wellness

One of the best tips on how to stay healthy during COVID lockdowns and isolation is to stay in touch with your loved ones. The support and personal connection you get from friends and family is crucial for mental health. While you might not be able to spend time with your people in person, the next best option is face-to-face time online. Schedule weekly online game nights and have fun together with virtual games and activities[4]. You can also embrace your inner gamer and play multiplayer games[5] on your game consoles or computers.

6. Use social media to engage, not engorge

Addresses Mental, Social, and Spiritual Wellness

Social media, especially Facebook and Instagram, can become a place you habitually turn to for distraction or to connect with the outside world and that’s completely fine - as long as you use it wisely. However, passively scrolling for hours can have the opposite effect: feeling left out (aka FOMO) and can contribute to low self-esteem if you are prone to comparison [9]. Set a strict limit on the time you spend on social media and challenge yourself to use that time to meaningfully engage (more than just a ‘like’) at least 3 times with a loved one or social group/organization that interests you. This will help create healthy, genuine connections that benefit your social, mental, and possibly even spiritual/emotional well-being.

7. Try something crafty or creative

Addresses Mental Wellness

This can seem very vague and scary for anyone with no artistic inclination but it doesn’t have to be anything big like oil painting or sewing; try baking cookies and decorating them [11] or get an adult coloring book [12]. There are plenty of crafty, creative things to do that can distract you from work or stress by engaging your brain and reducing anxiety by giving you a sense of control over what you are doing. Being creative increases happiness (and therefore benefits your mental well-being) as it stimulates Dopamine [10] a hormone associated with the reward center in your brain.

8. Play board games or card games

Addresses Mental, Social, and Intellectual Wellness

Games help stimulate the brain and improve your problem-solving skills in a fun way. Push yourself to learn some new games to boost your intellectual health and, if you are able to play with others, get the added advantage of being social.

Bonus Tip: If you want to challenge your mind further, there are many other ways to improve intellect [13] such as reading, sudoku, crosswords, or learning a new language.

9. Keep track of your progress

Make sure you record your current health stats before getting started so you have a baseline to compare to as you start seeing progress. And when you start hitting milestones, make sure you record them and allow yourself time to celebrate your hard-earned achievements!

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Ready to stay healthy during the pandemic in 2021?

Hopefully this list will help you stick with those 2021 health goals! We'll continue updating it as we brainstorm more ideas on how to stay healthy during COVID!

  

Sources:

[1] https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-03165-9
[2] https://www.discovermagazine.com/health/what-science-says-about-the-health-benefits-of-plant-based-diets
[3] https://blog.gardenloversclub.com/ornamental/flowers-you-cant-kill/
[4] https://www.twoscotsabroad.com/zoom-video-conference-call-games/
[5] https://us.cnn.com/2020/12/22/cnn-underscored/virtual-game-night-ideas/index.html
[6] https://www.rwu.edu/undergraduate/student-life/health-and-counseling/health-education-program/dimensions-wellness
[7] https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm
[8] https://eldercarealliance.org/blog/spiritual-wellness-holistic-wellness-concept/
[9] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s41347-020-00134-x
[10] https://www.healthline.com/health/diy-depression-therapy-how-the-arts-can-heal
[11] https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/desserts/delicious-cookie-recipes
[12] https://www.oprahmag.com/life/g28640347/best-adult-coloring-books/
[13] https://news.illinoisstate.edu/2014/03/seven-simple-steps-increase-intellectual-wellness/