Battling lockdown boredom with purpose and joy

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Happy New Year! 2021 is finally here and with it comes expectations for a healthier, happier and more ‘normal’ year.

Here’s hoping that Lockdown 3.0 really is the last in the coronavirus trilogy and we don’t have to endure an ongoing franchise of disruptions to our daily lives. With the vaccine rolling out, hopefully like Frodo and Samwise in Lord of the Rings, we can overcome the odds and return to a restriction-free life.

Although we have more hope third time round, the impact of another lockdown can take its toll on our wellbeing. The monotony of Groundhog Day – great film, not so great in real life – can affect our mood, motivation and satisfaction with life. How can we get through this and keep our wellbeing afloat? All it takes is spending 15 minutes planning, so every day involves two things: something purposeful and something enjoyable.

Battling boredom

Sometimes, it can be good to be bored. Boredom can spark creativity and give our minds a rest from the constant comings and goings of everyday (pre-lockdown) life. However, the boredom experienced during lockdown tends to be more enduring. Nearly two-thirds of people in the UK were negatively impacted by boredom in the previous lockdowns, with life satisfaction, happiness and feeling worthwhile consistently lower and anxiety levels remaining higher than before the first lockdown.

Research has shown that boredom is linked with anxiety, depression, overeating and drug and alcohol abuse, so it’s essential we battle the boredom! Our usual resources of meeting friends, going to the cinema, group exercise and just changing our environment is not available at the moment, so we need to reflect on what gave us purpose and joy in the previous lockdowns and factor these into our days over the coming months.

The importance of purpose

Having a sense of purpose can really benefit our wellbeing, which you can read more about in this previous blog post. Feeling purposeful can result in:

  • Increased exercise and health-promoting behaviours
  • Feeling better about how we look
  • Feeling more satisfied with life
  • Better recovery from negative and stressful life events – so we could infer that doing something purposeful can help us cope better with the lockdown

How can we do something purposeful during lockdown? Well, it doesn’t have to be a huge, big, life-altering thing. It can be simple achievements such as:

  • Finally sending back the online delivery which doesn’t look right
  • Planting seeds or bulbs in the garden or in pots
  • Sorting out your home / car / pet insurance before it’s up for renewal
  • Cooking a recipe you’ve never tried before
  • Ticking off each item on your life admin list

Make joy a daily habit

Day to day joy and happiness can improve our mental wellbeing. This may sound obvious, but with so many of us experiencing, stress, anxiety and other negative emotions during lockdown, it can be hard to be happy. Feeling happy and joyful have multiple positive effects on our wellbeing such as having stronger relationships with others and increased life satisfaction.

We can increase feelings of happiness and joy during lockdown by:

  • Spending time in natural environments such as parks and forests
  • Being kind to others
  • Being near, in or under water. If you can’t make it to a lake or a beach, a simple bath or shower can also work
  • Exercising

This month’s activity

Above are just a few ideas on how to include something purposeful and joyful into our daily lives. However, before you start planning the days ahead, first think back to the previous two lockdowns. What gave you a sense of purpose or achievement? What brought you joy?

This month’s activity is to plan one purposeful and one enjoyable thing for each day, to help maintain your wellbeing through Lockdown 3.0 and finish the coronavirus trilogy a wellbeing hero. You can do this the night before, in the morning or you can plan one week at a time, whatever works for you. It shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes. Give it a go and see what difference it makes to your wellbeing.

You don’t need a worksheet to complete this activity, but one is provided here in case you find it useful to work from. It includes space to jot down your plans for something purposeful and enjoyable over a 7-day period, as well as some questions to help you reflect.

I’d love to hear how you get on with eating incorporating purpose and joy into your day and the effect on your wellbeing. Please do get in touch 15minutewellbeing@gmail.com or comment in the box below.

I deliver online wellbeing workshops, so if that’s something that would benefit you or your organisation, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

I also share wellbeing-related research, news and stories on twitter and Instagram in between weekly blog posts so do follow @15minwellbeing on both platforms to keep up to date.

The wellbeing breather: pause to make better use of your time

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When was the last time you got through your to-do list? Yesterday? Last month? Sometime before Covid? With lockdown came this mystical idea of us having extra time on our hands to do more and be more productive: finally write that novel; upcycle that old piece of furniture; or even just do that extra bit of reading to get ahead on the big project at work. For many of us, that hasn’t been the case and the pressures on us have intensified.

We all need a break, but time is going so fast and there’s so much to do. It feels like we don’t have the time. But we do, we just need to allow ourselves a few minutes to take stock of our thoughts and feelings and focus on our wellbeing. A short time out can help us reset, refocus and make better use of our time. This month’s post offers a short, simple, mindfulness technique that can help us increase our efficiency: The wellbeing breather.

How mindfulness can support our wellbeing

Mindfulness-based interventions can be effective in reducing stress, anxiety, depressive symptoms, pain and improving quality of life. Mindfulness has been shown to improve wellbeing by addressing cognitive and emotional reactivity and reducing repetitive negative thinking. That is, mindfulness can help us clear our minds, make more rational decisions and feel better about ourselves.

When things feel like they are piling up on top of us, mindfulness can help us regulate ourselves better and feel more positive. If we are aware of what is taking place in the here and now, we are more likely to make choices and behave in ways that meet our needs, interests and values. Therefore, being mindful of what’s going on for us in the moment can improve our wellbeing.

The wellbeing breather

Mindfulness can help us see the present moment clearly and starts with taking notice of our bodily sensations, thoughts and feelings. That’s what this month’s activity is all about, taking notice of what we are thinking and feeling and channelling our energy, so we have the headspace to focus on what we really need to.

The wellbeing breather is a variation of the Transitional Pause, developed by the Mindfulness Centre of Excellence. Over the last three years since I first tried this activity, I have really benefitted from taking a short time out to acknowledge how I am feeling and set a small, manageable goal for the rest of the day.

The purpose of the wellbeing breather is to help us park any overwhelming thoughts and focus on the next task at hand. A key feature of this mindful activity is to silently name our thoughts so we can increase our awareness of them, which is beneficial for our wellbeing. It can help with:

  • Overcoming anxiety about difficult tasks or meetings
  • Setting aside negative thoughts that are intruding on our day
  • Channelling our energy to get things done more efficiently

Here’s how to do the wellbeing breather. If it’s easier, you can listen to this audio recording to guide you through the exercise.

  • You can do this activity sitting or standing. If you are sitting, make sure you are seated comfortably with a straight back and your head, neck and shoulders feeling as if they are neatly stacked on top of each other. You want to be comfortable but attentive. If you are standing, plant your feet firmly on the ground so you feel balanced and grounded. Keep your back straight and position your head, neck and shoulders so they feel neatly aligned.
  • Soften your gaze, or if you feel comfortable, close your eyes.
  • Acknowledge how you are feeling right now. What’s happened in the last 24 hours? What positive things have happened? What’s bothering you? If it’s something that happened more than a day ago, that’s ok. It’s important to acknowledge our positive and negative experiences.
  • Has anything happened in the last 24 hours that has played on your mind? If so, take a moment to silently name it. Now you’ve named it, recognise how it made you feel. Try and name the thoughts and emotions you experienced. Take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Let’s move on to the here and now. Take some time to notice your body. Start with your feet on the floor. Notice the feeling of the floor on your toes, balls of your feet and heels. Notice other parts of your body that are touching each other or objects in the room. Where are your hands resting? How do they feel? If you can feel any tension in your body, draw your awareness to it.
  • If your focus turns to your thoughts, that’s ok. Acknowledge it and return to focusing on your body.
  • Turn your attention to your breathing. As you breathe in through your nose, notice the air entering your nostrils and filling your lungs. As you breathe out, feel the movement through your body and the air leaving your mouth. Continue to focus on your breathing. If you become aware of your thoughts, that’s ok. Acknowledge your thoughts and then turn your focus back to your breathing.
  • Let’s start thinking about what’s happening next in our day and the day ahead. How are you feeling about what’s coming up? Whether it’s positive, negative or mixed feelings, take a moment to silently name them. Take one deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • What is one thing you hope to achieve today? It may be something specific like to complete a task, or it may be something broader like acceptance or patience. Silently name it and make a pledge to yourself to work towards it. Take another deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Open your eyes or refocus your gaze. Centre yourself back in the room and take one last deep breath to ready yourself for the rest of the day.

The workbook for the wellbeing breather encourages you to reflect on how you feel after completing it. Why not take a few minutes to consider how you feel immediately after the exercise, then take a few minutes later in the day to reflect on the impact it had on the rest of your day. This, plus the activity should take no longer than 15 minutes.

I’d love to hear how you get on with the wellbeing breather and what effect it has on your wellbeing. Please do get in touch 15minutewellbeing@gmail.com or comment in the box below.

I share wellbeing-related research, news and stories on twitter and Instagram in between monthly blog posts so do follow @15minwellbeing on both platforms to keep up to date.

4 wellbeing tips for a winter lockdown

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15 minute wellbeing is back! A lot has changed since the last blog post, with the global Covid-19 pandemic changing how many of us live and work. It’s World Mental Health Day on 10th October, so what better time to focus on our wellbeing and try making each day a little bit easier during these uncertain times?

Here’s a quick reminder of what 15 minute wellbeing is about. This blog translates existing research on wellbeing into simple activities you can do in 15 minutes to improve your health and wellbeing.

Each activity will not cost any money to do, because why should we pay to feel good about ourselves? As we progress through the activities, we will discover that we already have all the tools we need to improve our wellbeing. This blog doesn’t tell you what to do either – it offers different exercises for you to try to help you feel better within yourself.

The variety of activities means that you won’t get bored trying the same old thing. Instead, you’ll get to try lots of different things to figure out what works for you and your wellbeing. The activities are grouped into seven themes:

If you’re a new reader (welcome and thank you for visiting!) or want to know more, click on the links above which give more information on the themes. Over the next few months, 15 minute wellbeing will cover these themes and how they can help us during the coronavirus pandemic.

Wellbeing during a global pandemic

Uncertainty and ever-changing situations can take their toll on our wellbeing. In the UK, the number of us experiencing high levels of anxiety has increased dramatically since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Anxiety, stress and fear are normal responses to uncertain situations and for many of us this will pass as we return to some sort of normality (whenever that may be). However, the longer the pandemic continues, the higher the risk to our wellbeing and mental health. It has been estimated that 20% of adults in England will need help with their mental health because of the pandemic.

It’s more important than ever that we help ourselves and each other to stay mentally well. This blog cannot help alleviate mental illness, but it can provide ideas and options to improve wellbeing which contributes to good mental health. If you are concerned about your mental health, please speak to your local GP, local MindSamaritans or Time to Change.

Maintaining and improving our wellbeing during lockdown

Usually on 15 minute wellbeing, each post centres around one activity to try out. However, as this is the first post in a while, here are four things for us all to try to support our wellbeing over the next two weeks. Each activity can be done in 15 minutes, so why not try each of them at least once over the next fortnight and see how you feel?

  1. Make plans with others

Many of us who felt (and may continue to feel) anxious during lockdown also reported feeling lonely a lot of the time. It’s important to stay connected with others as best we can to alleviate these feelings of anxiety.

You may be thinking “How can I make plans with others when social restrictions are in place?” If there is one thing that has accelerated during lockdown, it’s the use of digital technology to virtually connect with our friends, families and colleagues.  Many of us young and old are now able to have video calls and connect with each other without having to leave the safety of our homes. For those of us who can’t or don’t like using video calls, a regular telephone call is just as effective.

Think of 5 things you’d like to do with someone else – it could be 5 activities to do with the same person or different activities with different people. The aim is to have fun spending time connecting with others. You may or may not be able to do these in person, depending on the local restrictions in place in your area so consider how you can do each activity in person and virtually/over the phone. The worksheet at the end of this post has a few ideas if you need inspiration.

Healthy body, healthy mind

Juvenal (abridged)

2. Keep exercising!

Lockdown has impacted our exercise habits, with some of us finding it gives us more time to exercise, whereas social distancing has prevented many sports teams from training together and competing. In England, exercise levels have fluctuated over the course of the pandemic. In May, they peaked with 35% of adults doing at least 30 minutes of activity 5 times a week. By September 29% of adults reported exercising regularly.

Physical activity has numerous benefits for our wellbeing including: distracting us from our negative thoughts, improving our quality of life and improving our mood. If the changing weather makes it feel too cold for you to exercise outside, there are thousands of free videos available online to get you moving, many of which are 15 minutes long. As the saying goes, “Healthy body, healthy mind” so see what difference 15 minutes of physical activity does for your wellbeing. You can use the worksheet at the end of this post to reflect on how you feel after exercising.

3. Reading

To combat feelings of stress, why not try reading or listening to an audiobook for 15 minutes? In an international survey of 18,000 people, 58% of respondents rated reading as the most restful activity they did. Those that read were also more likely to be optimistic and have a sense of purpose – both key to wellbeing.

Many local libraries have re-opened across the UK – check your local council website for information on opening times – and stock books and audiobooks. Some offer contactless reserve and collect services. If you’re unable to get to a library, e-loans may be available. Alternatively, there are lots of free access articles and stories available online.

You can use the worksheet to reflect on what effects (if any) 15 minutes of reading has on your wellbeing.

This will bring out the best and worst in people

said by many

4. Give 15 minutes of your time

A phrase that has been often repeated over the last few months (as well as “You’re still on mute!”) is “This will bring out the best and worst in people.” One of the best things it has brought out is people’s willingness to volunteer to help others. Within one week of the Royal Voluntary Service appealing for volunteers to help vulnerable people during lockdown, 750,000 people signed up to deliver medication and shopping; transport equipment; and check-in and chat with those who needed help.

Giving just 15 minutes of our time can make a huge difference to someone else and improve our own wellbeing. If you’re unsure what you can do in 15 minutes, the worksheet below has plenty of ideas to inspire you.

I’d love to hear how you get on with these activities and what effect they have on your wellbeing. Please do get in touch 15minutewellbeing@gmail.com or comment in the box below.

I share wellbeing-related research, news and stories on twitter and Instagram in between weekly blog posts so do follow @15minwellbeing on both platforms to keep up to date.