Whatever your personal and living situation right now, you are probably feeling some level of disruption, anxiety, or dislocation. There are numerous handy hints advising us what to do and how it will help and then that can feel overwhelming - "There's so much I should be doings!" Sometimes the idea of going out for an hour of exercise, or scavenging the cupboards for baking ingredients just feels like TOO MUCH. No fear. I hear you. Here are 3 super simple and free things that you can do from the comfort of your favourite chair. Are you sitting comfortably?
IT'S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS
That always sounds like a cop out doesn't it? Something you say to placate someone who has tried and failed completely. "It's the thought that counts", you say as you try to choke down the barely edible "meal" someone has (sort of) cooked for you. "It's the thought that counts" you mumble reassuringly in your one bed flat as you try and work out how to use the present of gardening tools that Uncle Kevin has bought for you.
But...what if the thought did count? What if thinking about doing some exercise as you sat on the sofa in your pants really did help? Well, it does.
Based on scientific research, not only does imagining exercising increase your breath and heart rate, it can also improve muscle strength AND in certain scenarios improve our actual performance. There's got to be a catch? Right? Right. This can't totally replace physical activity. But...whilst you might be struggling to get out for exercise or to practice your golf or basketball, 20mins of mental practice can definitely help. The more focused you are, the greater the benefit so properly get your imagination going and picture where you're exercising, what you're doing, the movement of your arms, legs, muscles. If it's a sport, project what your doing and the technique you'd use. So the next time you're chastised for not moving from the sofa, you can confidently tell them that you are in fact, mentally exercising and practicing.
Finger painting, print making, sketching, sculpting; you name it, there's an instagram story or YouTube video lurching about your social media feeds telling you how easy it is. And maybe it is and maybe you've loved it. After all, we know that creating art is good for us and good for our brain, it helps our imagination and it triggers the reward part of our brain. What if you haven't got the right materials and don't have the time/money/facilities to take up an art project, no matter how small? Or maybe you don't want to try it in case it's crap and you'll feel like a failure. Well, I can't help you with that last one right now but we will get to that in the future and on the podcast. HOWEVER, you can still get a brain and mood boost from just looking at art. Research shows that looking at beautiful art "increases blood flow to the brain by as much as 10% -- the equivalent of looking at someone you love." What also happens when we actively engage with the art is that we turn our thoughts into emotions. This helps to stimulate unconscious and conscious brain functions, which in turn can increase your analytical and problem-solving skills in everyday life.
You can visit loads of ace galleries virtually online now, so take your pick from all over the world. You might like to try a game I played at the National Gallery in London, you can access their virtual tour here.
Here's how it works. If you're on your own, pick the following:
A picture for yourself. Where would it go? How do you relate to it? Does it tell a story? How does it make you feel?
A picture for a friend: Why might they like it? Does the picture have any qualities that your friend has?
A picture that makes you feel calm: or makes you smile: What is your eye drawn to first and why? If it's a place, can you imagine being there? If it has a person in it, what might they be feeling? If it's more abstract, how was the artist feeling when they made it?
You can also do this with someone else. You each pick three pictures for yourself, and three for the other person and then tell each other why. Whilst we're not able to travel, having a nosy around galleries in New York and Paris might at least feel a little like an adventure.
Yes, alright, this is obvious and might even sound patronising and possibly stupid and maybe you're thinking - dude ran out of things for his blog. But ask yourself when you last stopped to think about your breathing and take a deep breath? Or several deep breaths? Or that you're breathing "properly"? You might be suffering from the chattering mind lately where your brain is like an annoying child who's constantly interrupting your normal day just as DO WE HAVE ANY CHOCOLATE? we try and focus on our daily WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU LET A FIREWORK OFF IN SPACE? tasks and try to keep a routine IS IT SATURDAY? WHAT HAPPENED ON THURSDAY? that keeps us sane. Sometimes our head is just full.
It might be hard to find some peace and quiet but you can do this whenever you get the chance to lie or sit still for a minute. Most people do the type of deep breathing where you suck air in and your stomach shrinks like you're trying to fit into your fave trousers after 5 weeks of lock down snacking. DON'T. You want to try diaphragmatic breathing for lots of reasons such as it lowers your heart rate and blood pressure and improves your core muscle stability for starters. Lowering your stress also helps your immune system, which might be pretty useful right now. This link has a guide on how to do and just in case you're really pushed and don't want extra clicking, I've copied it below.
Feel free to share this and don't be shy in telling me about any sitting down stuff you find useful as I am BRILLIANT at sitting doing absolutely zilch, but it's nice to break the nothing up with anything that is a little more than nothing. Enjoy your weekend.
Here’s the basic procedure for diaphragmatic breathing:
Sit in a comfortable position or lie flat on the floor, your bed, or another comfortable, flat surface.
Relax your shoulders.
Put a hand on your chest and a hand on your stomach.
Breathe in through your nose for about two seconds. You should experience the air moving through your nostrils into your abdomen, making your stomach expand. During this type of breathing, make sure your stomach is moving outward while your chest remains relatively still.
Purse your lips (as if you’re about to drink through a straw), press gently on your stomach, and exhale slowly for about two seconds.
Repeat these steps several times for best results.