Sunday, November 28

Forgotten, confused, and a little grumpy? Here Are Some Scientifically Proven Ways To Improve Your Lockdown Mood | Australian lifestyle


Searching through his cabinets for an unopened ballroom dance class DVD was an evidence-based decision for Brett Hayes.

A professor of psychology at the University of New South Wales who focuses on cognition, Hayes was reviewing the literature that has emerged from the waves of coronavirus blockages and saw the positive impact that both exercise and socialization had on health. cognitive performance of people during prolonged periods of isolation.

In Sydney’s current lengthening confinement, he and his partner have been practicing ballroom dancing every Friday and Saturday night. Hayes says that dance, along with exercise-based video games, is both physical and social. “They really get you to commit to someone else. We found it quite useful. “

Two women reading together at a wooden table
Surveys of confined persons show reported difficulties in staying focused on the task, distraction and wandering of the mind. Photograph: Prathan Chorruangsak / Alamy

By now, we are all familiar with the psychological toll of prolonged blockages. In addition to affecting our moods, studies from Italy and Scotland have found that life in confinement can also affect the way you think.

A study in Scotland, which involved subjects completing computer-based tasks to assess their memory, attention and judgment, found that during confinement, “people were much worse than normal at doing those tasks,” says Hayes.

Meanwhile, investigation of a self-reported survey of 4,000 people in Italy during hard shutdowns last year found that at least 30% of people experienced a “mild disruption of cognitive activities,” says Hayes. “Cases of forgetting directly where you left your glasses or your phone… many people reported difficulty concentrating on the task, distractions and distractions. If you are experiencing this, you are not at all alone. It’s very, very common. “

Fortunately, there are a few small steps you can take, not all samba or just spot volta, to help mitigate these issues, and many also have a positive impact on mood.

Force yourself to move

“A lot of work going on in Italy showed that if you can exercise vigorously, that’s great,” says Hayes. “But low key isn’t easy … even getting a reasonable amount of exercise … seems to have a positive effect on well-being and cognition.”

Woman exercising on a Nintendo Wii Fit
Exercise is important for both your mood and your thinking. Photograph: Sarah Lee / The Guardian

Viviana Wuthrich, director of the Macquarie University Center for Aging, Cognition, and Well-being, says it’s completely normal to feel unmotivated about exercise (and everything else), but “it’s about putting in the effort to do it.”

“Motivation is a way of thinking, and confinement creates little motivation … You may have to push yourself to exercise, work or even do something enjoyable … But don’t give up, you may not do your best , but you still have to try. “

Exercise is very important to your mood and your thinking, says Wuthrich. “It burns the stress hormone, cortisol. More vigorous exercise will burn you faster, but … anything is better than nothing. “

Chat as you can

“I know we’re getting tired of Zoom parties, but it actually seems to be important,” says Hayes.

“If you allow yourself to isolate yourself too much, these cognitive problems tend to get worse. You really want that back and forth, ”he says, and says that live chat with members of your household or video chats will help. “It keeps memory and attention focused.”

Mother and baby on a video call with grandmother
Socialize in any way that doesn’t break restrictions. Photograph: NoSystem images / Getty Images

When Australian researchers, including Wuthrich, surveyed older Australians on how they were dealing with lockdowns last year, the positive impact of social (even virtual) contact on mood was clear. “Older people living alone fared worse, but older people who had frequent contact with their grandchildren, including through video calls, fared better,” she says.

Socialize in any way that doesn’t break restrictions, he advises. Whether it’s a walk outside with a friend or a single bubble. “Within the limits that people have, whatever they are, take advantage of those opportunities.”

If every day feels the same, make it different

The importance of maintaining a routine is, by now, well-spent advice. When it comes to work or study, Hayes says a regular schedule is valuable. “Otherwise, every five or six minutes you will have to make a decision about what you are doing now.

“If you have a place that is your workplace or study, keeping that constant association seems to help you get things done … If you associate that chair or table with work, you don’t have to use your intentional willpower. “

Boy with his mother and sister preparing dough with rolling pin at the kitchen table
Introducing variety into your routines can help break the monotony. Photograph: Jacob Lund / Alamy

To avoid blurring the days, introducing small differences can go a long way. “Going out in everyday life meant that we would go to different places, we would have unpredictable social interactions… We encode a lot of these things in the background and that is what helps us to differentiate one memory from the next.

“This is not how things work under Covid, we have our tasks set, but it is more or less Groundhog Day in context.”

Hayes suggests introducing variety, such as changing your walking or running route every day or making a phone call with someone you haven’t talked to in a while. “Anything that breaks the repetitive context.”

While Hayes says there is no “detailed research” on whether binge-watching the same TV show night after night makes “what day is it?” feelings, says “my hunch is yes”.

Lift your mood with little pleasures

If you generally enjoy trying new things, introducing something new to your life can also help your mood, says Wuthrich. But pleasure is the key word. Rereading a favorite book or watching a loved movie is more helpful if you enjoy it more.

Woman lying on a sofa using her mobile phone
Pleasant little activities can gradually improve your mood. Photograph: Aleksei Gorodenkov / Alamy

“We can’t go and do really fun things… but there are a lot of things to do, it’s about changing that attitude. Do something that is enjoyable but not necessarily exciting: solve a puzzle, listen to music, even excavate that old instrument you haven’t played.

“Each of these pleasant little activities will gradually lift your mood and support each other.”

When you’re in control, use it

The lack of control we feel locked in is particularly stressful, says Wuthrich. This means that it is very important to make any agency we have more flexible. “We know that giving people few options makes us feel empowered.

“We need to think about what we can control in our own lives. That’s how often we go out, what we eat and drink, what movies we watch. “

That extends to choosing when to take breaks or let things slide. If you have problems with work or your children have difficulties with studies, “go, go out, do something else … that will break that mental fatigue and you will feel more refreshed”.

Woman running stairs
Studies show that even though your brain feels blocked, it will recover. Photograph: Jacob Lund / Alamy

This is particularly important for parents, Wuthrich notes. “I have to use this advice myself: take a deep breath and accept that you can’t always do your best at work and home school, and just decide what you’re going to give a little bit. You can prioritize tasks at work, or your children, forgive and accept that … there is no right answer. “

Remember this will end

“Stress feels worse when it feels like forever,” says Wuthrich. “That is not the case with this.

“While we don’t know when the end date is… it’s not going to be that restrictive forever. Although the pandemic has lasted 18 months, it has fluctuated. Sometimes it is more restrictive, sometimes less. Remember that.”

In that regard, Hayes also has good news. If your brain feels drained, it will recover.

In the study of blocking cognition conducted in Scotland, researchers repeated tasks after the restrictions were eased. “And there is a clear trajectory where people improved as restrictions were lifted … People’s performance on all tasks improved.”

He points out that those in harsh lockdown conditions “took much longer to recover” but “eventually got there.”


www.theguardian.com

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