The world is opening up to us, and we’re excited to to get back out there. It’s still hard to believe that we were all told to stay home more than a year ago… and it’s only now, coming out of quarantine slowly, that the effects are showing themselves. Life under lockdown has given us mental and physical challenges — and Seenyer is looking more closely at one of them — the unfortunate Quarantine 15 (or 5 or 10!).
Quarantine changed our routines which changed our habits. We had more unstructured time, our gyms and yoga studios closed, we stopped racing here and there, and there were new stressors we felt living through a pandemic! This, in turn, changed our sleep patterns, how we ate, what we ate, and when we ate. Plus, quite possibly, we added a nightly nightcap. (OK, we did.) Shelter-in-place created new lockdown habits and we humans, are creatures of habit.
Thanks to our smart scales, researchers have grabbed our personal stats as they bounced off satellites, and determined that, according to JAMA Network Open, many adults gained two pounds a month during quarantine.
Other stats point to a huge increase in the purchasing of snack foods — which we seemed to need to watch streaming series — and which gave providers sky high profits. It’s easy to see where we were spending our money… and our time.
Seenyer spoke with Jessica Li Phillips, health coach and mindfulness teacher, about reconnecting to our good habits from the good old days. “Weight gain is about so much more than exercise and food. It makes sense that quarantining has created a whole new set of stressors that has contributed to people gaining pounds,” explained Jessica. “Now that our year of staying home is ending, people can reconnect with life as before, and begin to make better decisions about their self-care.”
In the meantime, we asked Jessica where’s a good place to start to resurrect our past behaviors. “First,” said Jessica, “begin with a mindful pause when you walk into the kitchen. Ask yourself, ‘Am I really hungry?’ This simple question can help you begin to notice and change the habit of reaching for food when you’re actually just bored, or tired, or stressed.”
So, if the answer is ‘No,” we asked Jessica what should we do next. “Being honest with yourself is the first step to making real change, and new habits,” explained Jessica. “Be prepared with alternatives such as listening to music or an audio book, calling a friend, or taking an exercise or yoga class online. And only go into the kitchen when you are hungry.”
“Also,” shared Jessica, “think broadly about change. I tell clients you aren’t going to make or break your healthy eating plans with one meal or one day. And the guilt and anxiety of ‘messing up’ can negatively impact your ability to intuit what you really know you need to do. Help towards reducing stress and sleeping better can be found by just going outside,” suggests Jessica.
After a year inside, what a novel idea! There’s a scientific field of research, called ecotherapy, that shows a strong connection between time spent in nature and a positive mental attitude. A Harvard Medical School study in 2015 found that people who took a 90 minute walk in nature had lower activity in the prefrontal cortex — the brain region that is active during rumination — and we all know that circling around and around on the same thoughts creates negative emotions. If tall trees and green grass keep the lid on ruminating, let’s get out there!
Also, tuning into nature before you sleep, in the form of soothing natural soundscapes, has shown zzzzs can greatly improve. We all know that our Blue-light emitting screens should be turned off 30 minutes before hitting the pillow. Now you might try the sounds of light rain in the forest or ocean waves coming in and going out… ahhhh… we’re asleep already.
So as we move forward into our new normal, it’s self-care that is essential. As Jessica recommends, “We all were living our days on autopilot, but now it’s important to be mindful. Be aware of what you can control to improve your health. “All change comes from small actions,” shared Jessica. ” A tiny decision that is repeated begins to take hold.” Voila!
The secret of success can be found in our daily routine. So resurrect your ‘Before Times’ behaviors and let the new habits begin.