Moving from IRL to URL - 6 Ways To Improve Your Mental Health And Wellbeing During Lockdown
The move from IRL (In Real Life) to URL (Online) has obvious and far reaching consequences. I’m particularly interested in safeguarding our wellbeing during this transition, and It's very much a new landscape that I think we will all be discovering as we walk along this path together.
I’m a mindfulness and wellbeing consultant and I too have gone 100% online these past few months. I'm teaching and chatting with hundreds of people each week, staff in businesses, NHS front line teams and people joining my public classes here at EML. It was bit weird at first, streaming all of my appointments and trainings as I'm quite a personable person and I really do love to be with people, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much genuine connection and joy you can still get during online meetings with clients.
Our individual life circumstances are so different, which means we are all experiencing our own set of unique challenges. For example, the state of our health, wealth, security and companionship varies wildly and for this reason it’s not easy to share a set of generic wellbeing tips. The tips offered here aren't exhaustive, and I will likely share a part 2 and a part 3. But I've taken into account the comments and questions you’ve shared with me in our online sessions and combined them with questions and discoveries of my own to offer a nice jumping off point into the realms of lockdown wellness.
I do hope you enjoy them,
Moving from IRL to URL - 6 Ways To Add Peace To Your Days And Improve Your Mental Health And Wellbeing During Lockdown
ONE: Cold showering is a lot of fun. If you ever feel that switching from sleepy pyjama mode into work mode or even just exercise mode is tricky, go get yourself a cold shower for incredible levels of invigoration. Looking for Cold shower inspiration? Check out the work of the Dutchman Wim Hoff. He's great.
TWO: Being outdoors is just so wonderful. If you feel cooped up, go outside! Go for a walk or go for a run or a hike. It sounds like pretty obvious advice but I hear from lots of people each week who aren’t going outside because they're either too busy or they're feeling too lethargic/unmotivated. But it’s worth it, so stride out. Go out multiple times a day if you can. If you don’t like where you live or if you don’t live in a pretty location why not add new meaning and purpose to your walks by setting yourself a challenge. Here are a few to get started with:
- Go for an open, meandering mystery walk. Set off with a bottle of water and a sense of adventure and stroll around without so much as knowing where you’re going or what you will discover. Let the walk be a mystery that unfolds as you go along. ( Take a map or your phone incase you get lost!)
- Grab a tree/bird/wild foods identifier book and go for regular nature identification strolls. Whether you’re based in the city, the country or somewhere in between you’d be amazed at the incredible wildlife you share your home with.
- Walking with kids? Originally accompanied by a poem or verse Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies, first published in 1923, have enchanted both adults and children alike around the world. These autumn flower pages are so beautiful, and so are the activity sheets. Print them out and take a stroll - HERE
- Have you ever heard the phrase ‘you never step into the same river twice’? I think the same applies to roads and streets. You never step onto the same street twice. See what happens if you set the intention to view your street with new eyes. Or new ears. Discover it freshly as you wander along, really truly looking at the world. Who knows what you’ll find?
- Bored of walking and running? Treat yourself to a skipping rope or take up dancing like no one's watching in your garden or bedroom.
THREE: Take your shoes off. Where safe and appropriate take off your shoes and socks and put your feet on the earth for five or ten minutes. Gosh, how lovely it is to defrag and let off some of that internet static. Many of us spend so much time up in our heads, thinking, listening, talking and communicating, that we can sometimes forget that we even have a body, let alone that we belong to the earth. There is so much information being communicated, it can be hard to know what’s true and what’s not. Take inspiration from the lovely Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa (below) and find solace in the reality of the grass.
That’s why on a hot dayFernando Pessoa, I'm a Keeper Of Sheep (1888 – 1935)
When I enjoy it so much that I feel sad,
And I lie down in the grass
And close my warm eyes,
Then I feel my whole body lying down in reality,
I know the truth, and I’m happy.
FOUR: Silence. Many people have told me that they are fed up with having to talk to their partner or flatmate after so much time indoors together. They are simply running out of things to say and talk about. If this is something you can relate to, I would first of all, refer you back to step Two, part 3 (above). And having explored that tip, I'd invite you into the practice of silent home retreats....Sound intriguing? Here’s how to do your own.
First of all, agree with your companion that you are trialling a day of silence and that you won’t be speaking for however long you determine. Then you just go right ahead and stay silent for the day. If you need to communicate you can write a note. Ie: ‘please bring milk home when you return from your walk’ etc. But other than that you just stay shtum. It can be so refreshing to be relieved of the need to have to speak or say things all day. I have made many interesting discoveries about my speech and thinking habits from doing this and I bet you will too.
KEY NOTES FOR SILENT HOME RETREATS: a) You can do a day of silence at home even if others you live with aren’t doing it, that's to say, it is just you that stays silent. b) Remember to turn off the phone or let relatives know what you’re doing so they don't call you or become worried when you don’t answer. c) Be mindful of the person or people you live with. Not everyone will cope well with living with a silent person, even if it's just for a day so be kind in your actions and find a way to make it work for everyone as people are extra vulnerable at the moment. c) Obviously this idea may not work for all families or setups. But! you could turn it into a game? You could even do it for an hour or 30 mins? Let me know how it goes!
FIVE: Conversation opportunities. On the other hand, many people tell me that they are lonely, isolated and not really getting enough real life in person communication. We all have to cut our cloth accordingly. Some are back at work, some are living alone and unable to travel to see loved ones and others are not permitted to travel due to local restrictions and so these ideas for IRL social connection are things to consider in the context of your circumstances.
- Phone Samaritans for a chat. You can have a nice conversation with someone who’ll listen and it's really quite pleasant. Some people feel awquard about phoning these lines, assuming you have to be suicidal to make a call. But you don’t. If you're isolated, feeling a little low and lonely or struggling with something else, you can call for nice chat over a cuppa. No strings. You can also offer to volunteer and chat to others.
- Go through your phone or address book and update lists of long lost colleagues, friends and family. Give someone a ring and have a catch up chat. Step out, reach out and ask them. Most people are delighted to get such calls and you never know what it will lead too. Maybe better party invites when social life returns to normal.
- Take nourishment from brief moments of interaction. For example, if you see others while out on your walk, smile and really look at them. When buying food or essentials, ask the cashier how they are and what there day has been like. When queuing at stores say hello and make chit chat. All of the people you see out locally will likely live in your community and this is a great opportunity to make new local acquaintances that you will continue to enjoy long after the period of staying at home ends.
- Go for a walk and commune with nature. You may be distancing from people, but trees and wildlife are lovely friends. Apparently Prince Charles talks to his plants and so do I. There is lots of good company and wisdom to be found in nature.
- I’m a little reticent to share this next tip because I’m aware of how hard it is to live alone and feel lonely. Yet, if you really are doing all you can to squeeze drops of company from your days I would then use your time alone to self discover. There are many famous people in history (Buddha, Jesus and Hafiz to name a few) who have disappeared into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights, only to return with lots of enlightened wisdom.
SIX: Go Micro and Macro: If you ever feel like you’re walking on shifting sand, something I like to do to get a better foot hold is to zoom right out and start learning about history. What happened a hundred years ago? 1000 years ago? What happened to the lives of people who survived great hardships or revolutions? How many civilisations has earth seen? Zooming out like this can offer a helpfully broad view of life today.
Another option is to go micro, and meditate. Close your eyes and go all the way inside to the heart of things, attending not to the outside world but to the quiet, simple presence in you. It's like settling into the eye of the storm and the more you do it the more you deepen your familiarity with that quiet, calm, eternal spot. For help here, visit my beginners meditation page or read my book it's very accessible.
And there we have it. I do hope you enjoyed my first 6 ideas for easing the shift from IRL to URL. I hope they help you to make the best of things and keep positive until you can be with your loved ones again.