As quarantine changes for some, it is still essential to stay healthy and happy. Try these three five-minute exercises to quiet your mind and calm your body.
When we are stressed, our breathing often becomes quick and shallow. By taking a deep breath, you are taking in oxygen and letting your body know everything is okay. The goal is to slow down your breathing, and with practice, this technique will be there in times of stress or anxiety.
While counting to four inhale deeply through your nose.
Now hold your breath as you count to seven.
Then exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of eight.
Repeat this 4–7–8 breathing for five minutes.
Scroll Through Happy Photos
Spending five minutes looking through photographs of a special time can elicit positive emotions you associate with those memories. Seeing your loved ones can invoke the feelings you feel for them and affect your emotional state of being. Reminding yourself of the reason you’re trying so hard in life, can put things back into perspective. If this does not work, trying scrolling through photographs of animals, nature, or art that you find engaging or visually appealing. It would be a good idea to make a folder of your favorite images or try to make a Pinterest board.
Identify One Happy Thing
Describe one moment that made you happy today in as much detail as possible.
You want to savor the moments that make you happy. As you get better at changing your attention to the present moment, your happy thoughts will stick with you longer. Good thoughts and moments will feel like a blur if you allow the more worrisome ones to occupy your thoughts. You have a choice over what you give your attention.
The next time your focus is on a happy moment, purposely try to cling to what makes it a happy moment. Notice it. Roll it around like a piece of hard candy. The more you experience joys like this, the more you can recall it during the tougher times. Negative emotions are inflexible and narrow your thinking. So, if you learn how to redirect your emotions to the positive, you will be able to think with flexibility.
Instead of resisting the obsession to worry, you will choose a time during the day that you purposely devote to worrying.
I know what you are thinking. It sounds counter-intuitive?! Surely this cannot be helpful, but it can if it is done correctly.
Schedule 15 minutes of Worry Time every day.
Start by saying, “This time is for my worries, and I will not give attention to these worries outside of this time.”
Spend this entire time thinking ONLY about your worries
Write them all down (multiple times)
At the end of 15 minutes immediately let go of those worries with some deep breaths
Return to your regular activities letting all your worries go
The goal is to think of nothing positive. Don’t look for the positive side. Look for every bad side of your worries. Let them come up in your mind, and continue to look for more of them. Try to be as miserable as possible. Make sure you use up the entire 15 minutes, not a second less.
After days of this, most people will find it difficult to fill 15 minutes. That is one of the goals. Instead of worrying, you begin to have other emotions. You’re tricking your body’s emergency response system.
Tips & Tricks
Don’t do it before or near your bedtime. There’s no reason to lose sleep.
Put it on your calendar. Scheduling worry-time can set the tone for your day, so try to do it early.
Really let go of your worries. I like to crumple up the paper and throw it away to signify that I am letting it all go.
If you start to worry outside of worry-time, tell yourself to let go of those thoughts until the next appointed time. This will be hard at first and may require positive self-talk.
If you kept the worry-time writings, you can review them at the end of the week with your therapist. It might help you find worry-loops or reoccurring themes.
Keep in mind that worrying is an attempt at problem-solving and a way to deal with the uncertainty of life. Those who worry too often get stuck in the what-ifs which can be overwhelming. If you are able to identify an issue and take action, take it. If not, tell yourself you’re doing the best you can. Put your attention on something else until worry-time happens again. This will help.
The state of the world might have you down, but don’t have to let it steal your happy moments. If you need a distraction, here are some ways to do so:
Warning: This is for someone with a sense of humor.
Take a step outside into the sunlight, but only long enough to twinkle and not burn. The sunlight is restorative unless you’re vampire, in which case, please wait until the moon is high.
Finally, pick something from that to-do list to accomplish, a small something. Then reward yourself with tea and cookies. Not into tea? Have a brutally blonde cup of coffee and spin like a top for a few hours. You’ll get a lot more done.
Be mindful, sit in silence, and reflect upon the day. Don’t worry about work, family, or our impending doom…well damn, I knew this one was silly, now I am sure the world is coming to an end…I know, breathe and think happy thoughts…cats, rainbows, ice cream, the noise turtles make when they’re getting busy…. Ah, okay, maybe go to the next one.
No, not an all-day snooze. Just fifteen minutes to an hour for optimal dreams. Dreams of sailing the seven seas as a pirate captain or simply being the queen of your domain for once. Those are high-pressure jobs… even in my dreams, I can’t take it easy. So, don’t listen to me, just dream about whatever you want: puppies, Korean pop music, sitar playing naked men or whatever you ordinary people like.
Listen to music — something with a rhythmic beat and heavy bass like a RuPaul song or any other gay anthem. Us gays really love a good rhythm.
Vent to an imaginary friend via phone or text, but ask their permission first. Start the message, “Dear Friend, I’m having a tough day and need to vent.” Then they’ll reply, “Sure, I can’t wait.” And you’ll let them have it, really make them cry. Imaginary friends can take on anything.
Write down your feelings. I would say to write in a journal, but there are some thoughts that no one should read. So, get a piece of paper and just start writing. Cuss, scream and spit if you have to, but on a piece of paper. Then burn it.
If you’re moved by art, perhaps visit a virtual museum. Stare at a piece of art for so long that your computer puts itself to sleep.
Color in a coloring book. If you don’t have one, go to Google Image Search and search for your favorite characters, but at the words “coloring pages” to the end. You can print an have a blast. Act like you’re a toddler again — color outside the lines. Hell, if you are sans printer, just color a piece of paper randomly. You could be the next Picasso.
Got a pet? Spoil it with attention. If you don’t have a pet, adopt one then spoil it. If you can’t adopt one, get a stuffed animal, and pretend like you have one. If you don’t have a stuffed animal, then what is wrong with you?! Who hurt you?!
It is time to workout. No not your normal routine. Did you get this far in the list and assume I’d suggest something normal? Nope. It is time to do some silly walking around your home or neighborhood if you’re brave enough. If you haven’t broken a sweat you aren’t walking silly enough.
Eat healthily. Don’t eat chocolate and snacks because you’re bored. Eat them because you are sad. Don’t eat them all at once because you’ll be sad for a while yet.
Live with someone? Try pushing all their buttons. Sing off-key or sing the wrong words to a song. Leave small things in the wrong place. Do they keep their headphones in one place, move them seven inches away. When they notice what you’re doing, own it and tell them how much you love them.
In unprecedented times, your story may be more important than ever before.
When we look back on our lives, we’re going to have a story to tell. Like those that have lived through the Great Depression, we can say we’ve experienced an unprecedented time that could forever change the way we live our lives. If you want to remember this time, the thoughts, emotions, and events, I suggest writing it all down. Keeping a journal will help.
Top 3 Reasons to Write in Journal
Your journal can be a best friend or even a therapist who is there for you at any time of the day. The journal is there to absorb anything you would not dare to say to another person. It is cathartic to write down any poisonous emotions. It can help you understand why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling and help you find the next steps.
I don’t think that I would ever allow someone to read my journal. I need to be dead and gone because I have a mighty temper that scorches the page, but once I’ve done it, it is over. I don’t aim the rage at another person. I get it out. I make sure that I note that it was just a temporary emotion that was solved by writing it out. And now, with the world shifting so much every day, I need a place to put my feelings of unease and fear without worry.
When you look back at your journal, you can often track patterns of behavior. Some help you achieve goals and respond effectively. Others allow you to see personal or professional growth and healthy relationships. By viewing these patterns, you can make smarter decisions or reflect on changes you might need to make in your life.
As someone with a bipolar disorder, this is one of the best ways that I can keep my psychiatrist and therapist informed. It is easier to discuss patterns and let them know my medication is or is not working. But outside of this, I can see my personal growth. I can see that three years ago, I was in bad shape and that the person I am now has grown and improved.
Journals can be a creative space. Writers like Virginia Woolf and Maya Angelou regularly wrote in journals. There are hundreds maybe thousands more that do or have done the same.
For me, journals can be a starting point for an idea. I can nurture it quietly until I’m ready to release it to the world. This doesn’t have to be just writing. I like journals without lines so that I can draw if I get the urge. Sometimes drawing is all I can do.
Apps to Help You Journal
Grabbing a pen and paper journal is not always the easiest method of journaling. In this day and age, we’re more likely to have our phone, tablet, or computer nearby. So it makes sense to find apps to help you journal. The following is a review of some apps that I’ve found to be helpful when trying to journal.
Daylio (FREE & PAID)
If you are a person of few words, Daylio may be for you. This app lets you track your mood and activities without typing a single word. The FREE version has a lot of features to track social activities, hobbies, sleep, food choices, mindfulness, and chores that are all editable so you can create your own. It has reminders, goals, and achievements you can earn as you use it. You could discover patterns or create some habits like “running, eating more healthy, or waking up earlier.” For someone interested in statistics and not a general overview, you will have to pay $2.99 monthly or $23.99 a year. It is simple and quick.
Day One (FREE & PAID)
Day One is always at the top of the list. The layout is gorgeous and has everything you need to type and format within the app itself. You can also include pictures, videos, drawings, and voice in the daily entries. It is easy to revisit any and all past events. The app can be secured with a password or fingerprint. It can be used on any Apple device. I just wish it let you sync across devices for FREE. The paid version is almost worth it at $2.92 a month billed annually. Additionally, with the paid version, you get unlimited photos, drawings, videos, and audio.
Momento (FREE & PAID)
Momento is what I call an all-in app. It lets you connect ALL your social media to your journal. Not only do you get written words, you get your Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Uber, and many more posts in your feed. In the PAID version ($2.49/mo or $16.49/yr), they extend the number of services you can connect, number of photos, and password protection.
Grid Diary (FREE & PAID)
If you struggle with knowing what to write in a diary, then Grid Diary may be for you. Instead of wondering what to write about each day, it combines diary and planner templates with reflective prompts to help you focus on the areas of life you want to track. The grid layout is unique to the journal game and entertaining. Many of Grid Diary’s features are free to use. However, in their PAID option, they offer advanced features, including sync between all your devices, passcode lock, and more color themes. The membership subscription has two options $2.49 monthly or $19.99 annually.
These are the most basic apps that function like a journal without the bells and whistles. Very often, they are AD supported, but if you can overlook that, then you’re golden.
Diaro — simple interface, limited use, but does sync using dropbox
Daygram — the most straightforward app, if you don’t have a lot to say
Longwalks — works if you want to short-form journal with a friend