It’s officially wintertime in Kansas City and that means many of us will be spending even more time in our homes due to COVID-19 safety precautions. Right now, it’s understandable that you may have formed some unhealthy habits, like snacking on junk food more often and being less active. Additionally, feelings of isolation exacerbated by the pandemic can make us feel anxious or depressed. The good news: You can find activities that promote health and wellness right in the comfort of your home. Here are five easy, healthy at-home activities to promote wellness for your mind and body this winter.
1. Release Your Body’s Own Feel-Good Hormones Through Movement and Exercise
Keeping your body moving offers more than just physical benefits. It releases hormones like serotonin and endorphins that improve your mood, reduce stress and increase energy. Thankfully, you don’t need a gym membership to stay fit. You can do a virtual class or arrange a regularly scheduled physical activity such as a bundled (and masked) walk around the block with a friend. You will each have a support system, a sense of commitment and the benefits that come with being socially connected.
No one exercise regimen works for everyone. Try different types of exercises to see what works best for you such as building lean muscle through exercises like pushups and burpees or trying a new at-home fitness video or mobile app. Once you find a regimen that works for you, you will be breaking a sweat and releasing those same feel-good hormones you would at the gym.
2. Try New Recipes to Add Variety to Your Diet
Better health not only comes from the energy we exert, it comes from the food we eat. I understand how many of us are facing “pandemic cooking fatigue,” but healthy eating doesn’t have to mean making the same recipes over and over again. We suggest our Healthy Winter Casserole as a new staple to introduce to your dinner rotation this season. To add a little zing to your creation, try experimenting with herbs and spices. Garlic, cumin, cinnamon and other plant-based additions offer more than flavor. Dr. Adrienne Youdmin, an associate clinic professor of medicine at UCLA, says, adding herbs and spices “…make it easier to cut back on less healthy ingredients like salt, sugar, and added fat.”
3. Clean Your Home, Boost Your Mood
As many of us continue to work from home, we find a mess building up in our spaces. The good news: Dr. Scott Bea, a psychiatrist from Cleveland Clinic, says spring cleaning isn’t just good for our homes, it can actually lift our moods. So why not start the annual ritual early? He says, “Your brain likes it when we finish what we’ve started. So, when a task is accomplished, our brains feel good and it reduces tension.”
Dr. Adrian Cotton, Chief of Medical Operations at Loma Linda University in California, says “dust, mold, mildew, pet dander, and other things like this can be immune system triggers for people prone to allergies.” Overall, a clean house helps you breathe better and freely by preventing respiratory issues and boosting your immune system.
4. Powering Through Zoom Fatigue to Socialize
It’s no surprise that many of us suffer from “Zoom fatigue.” Sitting in several video meetings a day at work can make using video chatting to socialize sound unappealing. There’s a medical reason for that. Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Brigham Young University, says “throughout history, humans have had to read others’ emotions and nonverbal cues to help predict our environment and better navigate the world. Those things are harder to do on Zoom.”
Experts from Healthline recommend exploring new ways to change up your Zoom routine when it comes to socializing. Some ideas: starting a virtual book club, cooking the same healthy recipe with a friend or virtually exercising with a friend to stay active and connected.
5. Meditating to Reduce Stress
When our minds are moving a thousand miles a minute, it can be hard to slow down and breathe. In a previous Blueprint article, we offered five tips for relaxing and reducing stress. Experts from Harvard Medical School suggest an activity like deep breathing meditation, which can be performed at home, can boost your mind-body connection too. Try performing yoga as part of your meditation, as poses can help reduce anxiety and stress and build strength to boot. Many yoga resources are available and often free through YouTube and other downloadable mobile apps like Daily Yoga and Down Dog.
We realize that while these tips are helpful, they are not a cure for behavioral health conditions. That’s why we introduced Mindful by Blue KC, which offers trained advocates, expedited access to services, workshops, virtual care and online therapeutic resources for those who need them. Read our introduction to Mindful on The Blueprint or visit MindfulBlueKC.com to learn more.