How to Beat the Quarantine Blues
Have you seen that viral video of the golden lab going for a walk and just laying down mid-walk? That has been my mood for the last few weeks. I am thankfully not suffering from any serious depression, but just a case of no motivation. Global pandemic does have a way of bringing out the inner Debbie Downer in even the most positive rays of light in the world. It got me thinking, why am I feeling this way when everyone closest to me is healthy, and I get to stay home with my kids? I can finally do all the things I normally claim I wish I had time to do. So what’s my deal?
Well, into cyberspace I dove to try and find out if there is something to be said for why I am feeling so uninspired. Of course, we are missing our family and friends, we are scared of how the future is going to shape up, and there is a feeling of "ah" in the air, but we can't control those things so is there something we can do? I know when I first found out I would be quarantined, I thought, oh, that is going to be rough, but the bright side is I will get so much done!.... flash forward to now and not so much. I waded my way through ads for supplements and online diagnosis to rare disorders that I thought were sure to be the reason I was feeling so meh. Then I stumbled upon a term that lends to some great information: negativity bias.
Negativity bias is the idea that our brain leans into negative news, versus positive.
This is a primal instinct that has us hyper-aware of troublesome information or possible threats that kept us focused on danger so we survive. Now we all know the news likes to focus on the negative to get better rates, and in today's world, it seems they have A LOT they can focus on. I have never been a big news person. I tend to only really read the top stories of the day and then I'm done. But in the last few weeks, I have found myself watching news broadcasts, press conferences, and so much social media. It's a bit overwhelming to be surrounded by so much (mostly bad) news, but you also don't want to be uninformed. Could all this negativity be weighing us down?
The short answer is absolutely! Think about all the things you should do to keep you mentally strong and happy... now think about all the things that have changed. Those categories have a lot of overlap, don't they? Hang out with friends and family, be social, get out of the house, and go to the gym. I know, bummer. Plus our routines have been totally thrown off. We are working from home, not working, or our work is a totally different environment than it used to be a few months ago. Of course we are feeling lethargic!
Remember when your parents would say you are what you eat? Well it’s the same with our brains. Several studies have shown that even as little as 15 minutes of negative news coverage can increase stress and anxiety well after the program is over. One study in particular had two groups watch a short burst of news reports and then group A went on with their day while group B engaged in stress relief like meditation or physical exercise. Group A, who had little time to detox from the information, showed higher stress levels hours afterward. That is interesting because not only do negative feelings stick around longer than I think all of us would like to think, but it also shows that small habits can help a lot. So what are some realistic steps we can take to fight off the negativity?
Overload on the good stuff
Rick Hanson has said when it comes to negative information, our brain is like Velcro, but with positivity our brain becomes Teflon. So with that in mind, overload on good stories, find positive social media pages, articles, podcasts, and shows to enjoy. If you can't find good news, BE good news. I have found the quickest way to find your happiness is to help out another person. You can perform a random act of kindness, cut the neighbors' grass, or deliver a surprise to a friend's porch.
Stop feeling like you have to be a leading expert in the Coronavirus! It's ok to not know every stat, every update in real-time. Give yourself a limit to how much time you will dedicate to updates and then unplug.
Find something to ignite your passions! What do you love to do? Personally I love art but I have not been feeling like doing much of anything. But you know what, that's 'cause I haven't been giving myself any inspiration. Find a how-to video, listen to a podcast or show on inspiring things or people, read a book filled with information to get your brain going. Whatever it is, pour more good, inspiration, and joy into your cup.
Equally dangerous to bathing in negativity is toxic positivity. Toxic positivity describes how some try to walking around life pretending nothing is wrong and just everything is sunshine. This is a no-go, people. Life is hard! Things go wrong, and not accepting that as humans we have a range of emotion is not healthy. How bright is the sun after you've been in the dark? Allow yourself to be sad, scared, fearful, mad, lazy, whatever, but then come back. Don’t dwell in that darkness too long, but totally wallow while you are there. God knows a good cry is healing. Have your pity party, scream, and punch a pillow to get your anger out, but now it's time to buckle up, buttercup. Go out and be the good news in your world by helping a neighbor, donate your time, do something to lift a friend’s spirit. Even in little ways we can boost ourselves by watching a comedian, read a funny book, listen to a podcast that is all about positivity. Input = output; so get out there are start inputting things that inspire, motivate, and bring you joy!
All this negativity can be addicting, but limiting our absorption of fear and putting in a healthy dose of uplifting content can really do amazing things in your life. So my fellow Michiganders, we are going to get through this and until we can all be together outdoors, whine about how bad the roads are, stay safe, and stay uplifted.