Mental health has become a trending topic after the spread of COVID 19. Starting from hanging out with friends, waiting for cold winters to end, and taking part in athletic competitions in an open environment all ended for me pretty soon. March 8th, I left for India to visit family while on Spring Break from Georgetown University, little did I know about how my 1-week stay would turn into an extended 3-month lockdown. On March 24th, the Government of India ordered a nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 pandemic around the world. The world changed not only for me but for many more.
My life involved studying in classes where I got to raise my hand and ask a question, interact with the professor, high-five and laugh with my friends at stupid things, quickly changed to awkward zoom meetings and virtual classes. I’m thankful for my parents for providing me with basic necessities and a comfortable environment to survive in a pandemic. However, I wish I could say the same for everyone.
Referring to the metropolitan area planning council (Research Brief, n.d.) and talking to friends in the US, I can see an exponential increase in unemployment, evictions, and food scarcity. These are pretty terrible things to think about, but I would be lying to myself if I did not appreciate the silver lining to the lockdown. Delhi, the capital of India, has seen the worst health indexes (CNN, n.d.) to live in. In the past few months, with the lockdown still in place, I can breathe fresh air, look over long distances without smog (Air Pollution Levels in Delhi Drop by 49% Post-Lockdown, n.d.), and considering we are all in this, I feel much closer to my friends. We appreciate each other, have empathy for sadness, and connect more frequently than before. I have to come to value the significance of mental health and community in one’s life.
While in lockdown, I started researching articles that discuss the impact of mental health and life hacks that can have a long-lasting effect on a person. So, I’ll share with you a few habits that you can add in your daily schedule to activate your five senses. If you’re thinking that I’m writing this opinion piece just to gain attention, well, then you are correct. I do want your focus on improving your lifestyle. If you’re struggling, then I can guarantee you that this article will boost your endorphin secretion because I have tested these habits on myself. According to research by the Harvard School of Public Health, “People underestimate the happiness effect of being outdoors,” “We don’t think of it as a way to increase happiness. We think other things will, like shopping or watching TV. We evolved in nature. Strangely, we’d be so disconnected.”
But some people like me are starting to do something about it. Nature walks provide a great opportunity to be mindful and connect to ourselves and the world around us. We too include opportunities to be in or near nature, below is an example of a Netwalk held in 2017 during DC Startup Week.
Here are more ways to activate your five senses whether you are inside or outside:
HEAR – Hearing can initiate one’s neural Alpha & Beta waves, thereby increasing productivity and secrete endorphins. Taking a walk can help you reset. Beta waves are responsible for a brain’s alertness whereas the Alpha waves are only triggered when a person is in a state of relaxation and is responsible for learning, performing challenging tasks, and triggers the artistic part of a human being. (Henley, n.d.)
SMELL – Smell can improve a sense of perception about anything, for example, scented candles & essential oils. I began using essential oils like lavender for sleeping and saw a great improvement in my mood the next day. Moreover, other oils like peppermint or orange boosted my focus and increased my productivity.
TASTE – To ward off dehydration, Dr. Seifter recommends that healthy people should get 30 to 50 ounces of water per day (about 1 to 1.5 liters), but not all together. After reading tons of articles and to get my parents off my back about not drinking too much water, I went ahead and tried drinking 8 glasses of water every day for 6 months. I can assure you that staying hydrated will change your life. I feel so energetic, ready to pounce on problems, and calm at the same time. Although going to the bathroom every hour did decrease my motivation for staying hydrated but I got used to it, I actually feel that I have much better bladder control now. If you feel getting bored and you need more motivation, consider trying different flavors of water, obviously do not try sugar-filled water but sparkling water of different flavors should keep you motivated. Talking about flavors, I noticed one really important aspect after moving to the states i.e. the relationship between tastes and your moods. Being in India, I was exposed to a variety of dishes with different flavors which made me a little moody. But after moving to the states, I noticed that the absence of flavor in the food made me calmer. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try flavored food but you might want to think about eating a simple meal without much flavor or salt before going to an interview or an important meeting.
TOUCH – Concentration and focus can be improved based on the touch sense. One has muscle memory when we touch something. In this age of distractions, it’s difficult to focus on one task when you have challenges thrown at you from all directions. It is important to control yourself and be present in the world. I know it sounds philosophical but hear me out or better try it out yourself. When you feel distracted, use 2-3 minutes of your time to grab an object closest to you. Since we can’t let go of our phones so I’ll use that as an example. Remove the cover of your phone and try to really feel the back of your phone. Going around in circles, feeling the camera, volume buttons, etc. I know this sounds like I’m massaging the phone but think of it as the phone is massaging you, sending impulse signals to your brain about the texture of the phone, and making your brain take a break from everything except the phone massage. After 2-3 minutes, try going back to work and see the difference.
SIGHT – Vision problems and eye disease also stem from high blood pressure and high cholesterol. A healthy diet and regular exercise are two of the most important steps you can take to lower these instances. I recently discovered the importance of decluttering. Clutter overloads, and stresses our senses, impairing our ability to think clearly and creatively.
REMINDER – Sleeping in a comfortable environment is essential, but sleeping with a TV does not help at all. Pink noise has been observed to create robust memory, and a quick memory results in ineffective decisions, an increase in productivity, and hence more time for family or for things that help you relax more.
Why it matters: To be most productive and recover from these circumstances, we need to take care of ourselves and others around us.
I look forward to hearing your stories and seeing photos on Instagram of how you, too have rediscovered walking and engaging your 5 senses with your friends/colleagues/family member(s) at home while following safety and health guidelines.
About the Author:
Meet Soumya: Soumya’s international
experience and 5-year commitment to be an
active consultant in the communications field
through Digital Marketing and Public
Relations have improved the reputation of
retail brands across the world. Soumya fluently
speaks Hindi, English, and German. She is currently in India since the COVID outbreak and is waiting for school to start in the fall.
Air pollution levels in Delhi drop by 49% post-lockdown. (n.d.). The New Indian Express.
CNN, H. R. (n.d.). 21 of the world’s 30 cities with the worst air pollution are in India. CNN. R
Henley, D. (n.d.). Rewire Your Brain For Greater Productivity With This Simple Technique. Forbes.
Research Brief: The COVID-19 Layoff Housing Gap. (n.d.). MAPC.