Minimise screen time and maximise wellbeing

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“What have you been watching?” “I’ve just finished Peaky Blinders / Schitt’s Creek / The Queen’s Gambit (delete as appropriate) and need a new series to watch.”

Sound familiar? When thinking about this month’s post, the increasing use of our phones and rise in screen time during lockdown – almost 45 hours a week – were at the forefront of my mind. There are many ways we can interpret these figures but based on how many of us are feeling during this winter lockdown, it seems like a form of escapism. If we are limited in where we can go, it makes sense that we escape through the media available to us.

There are other ways of escapism that don’t involve sitting in front of the screen, we just need to be reminded of them. This month’s post is a reminder of how we can get our creative juices flowing in just 15 minutes, escape the mundaneness of lockdown and benefit our wellbeing.

Increased screen time, decreased mental health

Although our growing use of television, streaming and online media is understandable, it’s not always good for our wellbeing. Multiple studies have found links between screen time and/or sedentary behaviour with anxiety and depression.

Since the first lockdown started, researchers have been exploring the effects of screen time and our restricted lifestyles. Those who decreased the amount of time they spent in front of the TV were more likely to report very good or excellent mental health compared to those who increased their screen time. Another study found that even when controlling for a range of demographic factors (i.e. age, income) the more time sat watching television and films, the worse our mental health is likely to be.

Why get creative?

There are multiple benefits to being creative, such as improved:

  • Communication skills
  • Stress management
  • Connections with others
  • Emotional literacy
  • Health management
  • Self-confidence

Participating in creative activities can also lead us to approach situations in our lives in new, positive ways. Have you ever got into the creative ‘flow’? ‘Flow’ experiences are those that engage our whole bodies and result in us concentrating, ruminating less and not focusing on time passing us by. When we experience flow through being creative we tend to have higher self-esteem, value ourselves more and feel more useful – all of which contribute to our wellbeing.

It’s not often we can say we feel the same after bingeing the latest TV series. Here’s three ways you can get creative in just 15 minutes:

Stories in 5 words. As the days often feel like they roll into one at the moment, this creative activity also has the benefit of helping us keep track. Spend 15 minutes each day describing different things that happened with just 5 words. Five words are enough to convey a message, but tricky enough to make us really think about it. Here’s a few examples to help you get in the swing of it:

  • I baked chocolate chip cookies
  • The shed roof came off
  • The cat ate my dinner

Mindfulness colouring. The benefits of this are covered in depth in this previous post. Colouring can help us really get in the ‘flow’ and focusing on just one thing such as colouring can help us take a step back from emotional and stressful situations. Take 15 minutes away from the screen and get your colouring pencils out. Here’s a pattern you can print off and colour in. There are also multiple free designs available online.

Create something to show someone you’re thinking of them on Valentine’s Day. Although we shouldn’t wait for one day each year to tell someone what they mean to us, Valentine’s Day is a useful excuse to do so. It doesn’t have to be a romantic declaration – we all experience different types of love. Whether you’re in a relationship or not, why not use this opportunity to tell someone you appreciate them? Some creative ways to do this include:

  • Turn a photo or doodle into a greetings card
  • Create a simple origami and gift it

I’d love to hear how you get on with these creative activities and the effect they have 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 monthly blog posts so do follow @15minwellbeing on both platforms to keep up to date.

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.