It’s officially 2021 and we have two approved vaccines for COVID-19 that are rolling out across the country. While this is great news, the reality is that we’re still facing a few more months of social distancing before we’re able to return to any type of “normal” lifestyle. And in the chill and darkness of winter, staying positive can be especially challenging.
For some ideas on how to get through these next few months, we sat down with Erica Lee, a psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at Boston Children’s Hospital. She offers eight tips to keep your spirits up as we wait for the vaccine and warmer weather to prevail.
1. Stick to a healthy routine
Keeping up with healthy habits is especially important in the winter, when many of us have the “blahs.” This is exactly the time of year when you might be tempted to skip your afternoon walk or to reach for a bag of chips and ice cream for dinner. But, keeping up with healthy routines will help improve your mood and energy level. Try your best to eat a heathy diet, get enough sleep, and engage in some type of exercise every day.
2. Do at least one mood-boosting activity every day
This could include having a quick dance party with the kids, playing a board game, spending time reading, taking a socially-distant walk with friends, or cooking a new recipe. On busy days, try to set aside even a few minutes to stretch, play with the dog, or listen to your favorite music. Whatever it is, be planful about it, and add it to your schedule so you save time for yourself.
3. Get outside
It’s easy to rule out outdoor activities once it gets cold. But we all benefit from sunshine, fresh air, open space, and exercise, especially during the winter. So as often as you can, bundle up and get outside. Let the kids run around your backyard or local park, take a walk, or enjoy a winter activity like sledding or ice skating. You can even set up a challenge with other families to see who can spend the most time outdoors every week.
4. Make inside more interesting
Since we’re all spending more time than ever inside our homes, find a way to make it more appealing. Here are three ways to do that.
- Make it more relaxing. Create a “calming corner,” where you have soothing scents, some sensory toys, a soft pillow or blanket, or some peaceful artwork.
- Make it more fun. Try out new activities or games, or choose a new theme each week, such as polka dots or animals. Then let everyone in the family participate in some way.
- Make it look different. You can spice up your interior simply by rearranging a room or moving decorations from one room into another. Try mixing things up every month or so to keep it fresh.
5. Start a new hobby
With both parents and kids spending a lot more time online, it’s a good idea to balance that screen time with other activities. Hearken back to the days before the internet by encouraging everyone in your family to find a new hobby. It can be something they do alone, such as knitting or painting, or a family endeavor like bird watching, rock collecting, baking, or puzzles.
6. Do nice things for other people
Helping others is one way to boost your mood while helping you feel more connected to your community. This might include checking in on elderly family members or neighbors, running errands for those who can’t get out, donating blood at your local hospital, or finding a community charity to support.
7. Practice gratitude
Spend some time each day identifying a few things you’re thankful for, even on those days when everything feels awful. This could include writing letters to someone you’re grateful for, having everyone in your family make a short list to share at dinner every night, or adding ideas to a gratitude jar to read later. Pull these out when you’ve had a particularly hard day.
8. Make a wish list
Eventually the pandemic will be over and we will be able to get back to a more “normal” lifestyle. Make a list of the top 10 things you’re looking forward to doing once we’ve made it through the pandemic, whether it be hanging out with friends, traveling, or having a party. Invite your family do the same. Then hang your lists somewhere prominent in your home and add to them as new ideas come up.
Get more answers about Boston Children’s response to COVID-19.
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