How to Thrive While Social Distancing

Seven research-backed ideas to promote physical and mental health

Seven research-backed ideas to promote physical and mental health

  • KEEP TO A CONSISTENT ROUTINE. Studies show that a regular daily routine, especially a consistent pattern of sleeping and waking, has distinct benefits for mental health. Create new routines for daily and weekly activities, including time for self-care, such as exercise or meditation.
  • SPEND TIME WITH CRAFTS AND HOBBIES. People who take part in creative activities feel higher levels of positive emotion, according to recent studies. Creativity includes not only hobbies such as drawing, knitting, or woodworking but even simple activities like coloring or keeping a diary.
  • TAKE A DAILY WALK. Walking helps maintain a healthy weight, improves heart health, and elevates your mood by increasing your body’s levels of endorphins, the feel-good hormones. If you can get outside, so much the better: Numerous studies have shown that time in nature is an antidote for stress. If weather or slippery conditions prevent going outside, put on your sneakers, put on some music, and walk in place at home.
  • READ BOOKS. Reading books reduces stress, decreases blood pressure, and lowers heart rate. Reading actually strengthens the brain by promoting the development of neurons. Moreover, studies show that reading fiction books increase the ability to empathize. If you use an e-reader, turn to a print book at bedtime. The blue light from screens can interfere with sleep.
  • LISTEN TO PODCASTS. Podcasts are mini-radio shows created on every topic you can imagine, and they’re available free online or through apps for iPhone or Android. A 2016 study found that listening to podcasts activates multiple parts of the brain and can soothe, excite, or make you laugh.
  • LISTEN TO YOUR FAVORITE MUSIC. Music is an effective form of mood regulation, helping us to calm down, feel pleasure or even indulge in a good cry. One study found that adults with chronic osteoarthritis who listened to music daily for two weeks reported less pain.
  • KEEP AND BUILD YOUR SOCIAL NETWORK. A range of studies has shown that meaningful social connections increase longevity and feelings of well-being. Stay connected by reaching out to friends and family, whether it’s via your phone or laptop, or the “old- fashioned” pen-and-paper way.

To reach the physician referral service at RWJBarnabas Health, call (888) 724-7123. To learn about mental health services, call the RWJBarnabas Health Behavioral Health hotline at (800) 300-0628.