What to do in lockdown that isn't just doomscrolling

We’re almost two weeks into the third national lockdown.

Once again we find our lives completely on hold, only this time, the weather is miserable, the days are short and there’s no sign of summer to see us through.

There’s little sentiment of togetherness or even hope this time around, and there are certainly no ‘5, 5, 5’ running challenges motivating the nation to get off their phones and into their running shoes in the name of charity.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have spent the first week of lockdown unable to find even a shred of motivation to do something – anything – to make you feel good.

Instead, many of us have spent our time doomscrolling on social media, falling further into despair as the days drag on.

According to accredited counsellor and psychotherapist, Katerina Georgiou, this is no surprise.

‘Social media is actively designed for us to keep scrolling and clicking and refreshing,’ she tells Metro.co.uk. ‘This invariably leads to addictive behaviour and we lose control of what we’re doing.’

Doomscrolling is a prime example of addictive behaviour. No matter how bad the news is, and how bad it makes us feel, we just can’t stop.

Katerina says: ‘This because we’re locked into a platform that is designed to keep us coming back.’

Social pressures to keep up-to-date with news keep us in this loop, according to Katerina, as does the dreaded FOMO we feel if we think we’re missing out on our friends’ posts.

This can have a negative impact on our mental health.

‘When we focus on what we don’t want, we see even more of it,’ says Eve Menezes Cunningham, an online and outdoor therapist and author of 365 Ways to Feel Better: Self-care Ideas for Embodied Wellbeing. ‘We’re also then training the algorithms on our devices (as well as our brains) to show us more of the same.’

‘Comparing ourselves to people who only post edited highlights isn’t healthy,’ she adds.

Katerina agrees: ‘All of this feeds back to feelings of anxiety, feelings of being out of control, addicted, resentful, angry, envious and competitive.’

Clearly, spending the lockdown in a neverending scroll-hole isn’t ideal. But what can you do to break the cycle?

As well as being a little more intentional about how you use social media – curating your feed and taking breaks, for instance – Katerina and Eve suggest some more calming activities to get you through the next few weeks that definitely don’t include double-tapping, swiping or scrolling.

Listen to music

Life right now is not easy. In fact, it’s increasingly stressful, says Katerina. ‘And music can be a very powerful way of expressing those emotions of anger, frustration and tension.’

Whether it’s blasting punk rock from your speakers, dancing to 70s disco in your living room or winding down to classical music, listening to the music you love can be an instant release – however momentarily – and deeply therapeutic.

Our bodies instinctively react to music and listening or playing music is guaranteed to bring you into the present moment. So, next time you find yourself scrolling months down an influencer’s Instagram profile, play an instrument (if you have one), sing in the shower or watch your favourite DJ’s most recent live stream.

Get lost in nature

Nature is paramount for good mental health. In fact, some doctors have been prescribing time in nature to patients with anxiety and depression.

‘Being in nature helps us connect with natural cycles of the earth, the moon and ourselves,’ says Eve. ‘Seeing nature in action brings us perspective on our own lives – walking barefoot on the earth is grounding for the whole body but even seeing nature through a window has soothing, calming benefits. It helps us remember that there’s so much more to life and to us than our stresses.’

Katerina echoes this sentiment, suggesting that watching the sunrise or sunset can have major benefits. ‘Sunrise happens at around 8 am these days and sunset at around 4.20 pm,’ she explains. ‘We get one of each every day, and they can remind us that the world is still spinning as normal.’

Watching animals, too, can be calming.

‘This can be the pigeons outside, your pet, the ducks in a local park, or even a spider spindling a web outside your window,’ says Katerina. ‘Animals can be healing, calming, non-judgemental and – luckily for them – don’t know what social media is.’

Read a book

Some of us use Instagram for pure escapism, others use it for genuine educational purposes. But you can easily do both of these things with a decent book.

‘A good book – be it fiction, a memoir, nonfiction or cookbooks – can help us travel in our minds,’ says Eve. ‘As well as being inspired, learning and having a break from your own day, you can help keep your local bookshop in business.’

Exercise

While it can be hard to motivate yourself to get on your feet, exercising is a great thing to do to pass the time. Not only will a workout have you feeling more accomplished, but it can also take up a decent chunk of your day where you are almost forced to be in the moment.

Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous. ‘The mental health benefits of walking are well documented,’ says Eve – and you can do yoga without leaving your living room.

Whether it is a nice walk, yoga or PE with Joe, Eve says: ‘You should find a form of movement that feels good and create options so you can do something even on the days when finding that motivation is hardest.’

Get creative

Baking was the craze of lockdown number one, so it’s understandable if you’re all baked out. Still, Katerina says: ‘If you have the ingredients, tools and utensils, make something with your hands.

‘That can be a cake, it can be knitting, it can be drawing – but something that uses your hands and enables you to feel those different materials.’

My mum, for instance, has been making leaf-shaped jewellery holders out of clay and another friend has made ashtrays out of resin.

If there was ever a time to get stuck into something new, it’s now. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a new passion.

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