Health and Well-Being habits in times of confinement

30 Apr 2020


Unfortunately, we are all currently facing a crisis. The worldwide outbreak of Covid-19 has impacted people’s daily life in an unprecedented way. In just a few months, the rise of this virus has shut schools, offices, stores and factories. Airlines are grounded. Borders are closed. The number of victims keeps rising and many of us are quarantined at home .

It is only natural that people may be feeling afraid, worried, anxious and overwhelmed by the situation seen the constant alerts and the media coverage regarding the spread of the virus. It is already clear that Covid-19 does not only affect people who test positive: its reach is much more widespread and almost everyone experiences an increase of anxiety and stress level, a drop of physical activity, and a dip in social interactions linked to the forced lockdown.

However, small changes in our daily routine, could partly mitigate the negative effect of the temporary confinement we are forced into. Here is a list of habits to Keep, Improve and Stop: they will help us to look after ourselves and each other during these challenging times.


Eating healthy.
Although we do not have concrete evidence regarding specific dietary factors that can reduce the risk of acute infections like Covid-19, we do know that eating a healthy diet, is critical to keeping our immune system strong and our mood positive. Did you know that a diet rich in fibers (wholegrain, fruits and vegetables can contribute to increase your fiber consumption) helps decreasing the overall level of body inflammation and may be associated with lower likelihood of having depressive symptoms [1] [2].

Eating together.
If you live with one or more persons, eat at least one meal together every day and keep the dinner table screen-free, unless you are using the screen to have long distance dinner with loved ones. Did you know that the family breakfast frequency is positively associated with several markers of better diet quality such as higher intake of fruit and whole grains and lower risk for overweight/obesity [3].

Your exercise routine.
There are endless free virtual exercise resources available online. You do not need to leave the house or use expensive equipment to get a good workout. We are all well acquainted with the workout’s physical benefit, but did you know that, according to a recent Eurobarometer survey, there is a significant and positive association between exercise and life satisfaction [4]. As the ancients used to say “Mens sana in corpore sano” (a healthy mind in a healthy body).

Your sleep schedule.
Try to wake up and go to bed around the same time as you would normally do. Having a consistent sleep schedule maintains a balanced sleep/awake rhythm which not only helps us get a deeper, more restful sleep but also regulates appetite and mood. Did you know that high day-to-day variability in sleep duration – more than average sleep duration – is related to poor sleep quality and poor self-reported well-being [5].

[1] Swann, Olivia G., et al. "Dietary fiber and its associations with depression and inflammation." Nutrition reviews (2019).
[2] Miki, Takako, et al. "Dietary fiber intake and depressive symptoms in Japanese employees: the Furukawa Nutrition and Health Study." Nutrition 32.5 (2016): 584-589.
[3] Larson, Nicole, et al. "Eating breakfast and dinner together as a family: associations with sociodemographic characteristics and implications for diet quality and weight status." Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 113.12 (2013): 1601-1609.
[4] Dolan, Paul, Georgios Kavetsos, and Ivo Vlaev. "The happiness workout." Social indicators research 119.3 (2014): 1363-1377.
[5] Lemola, Sakari, Thomas Ledermann, and Elliot M. Friedman. "Variability of sleep duration is related to subjective sleep quality and subjective well-being: an actigraphy study." PloS one 8.8 (2013).


Your cooking skills.
Take advantage of the limited eating out / take out opportunities to get back to cooking healthier meals for yourself and family.
Did you know that eating home cooked meals more than five times a week significantly increases fruit and vegetable consumption, increases the likelihood  of having a normal range BMI and decreases by  28% the likelihood of being overweight [6].

Your handwashing routine.
Together with coughing or sneezing into a tissue and avoiding to exit the house if you have any sign of illness, hand washing is an “old” practice that helps us preventing any kind of viral infection such as the flu virus. Did you know that, to be effective,  you should wash your hands with soap and water or with hand sanitizer for at least 20-30 seconds. An easy way to time it is by singing the full happy birthday song, twice[7].

[6] Mills, Susanna, et al. "Frequency of eating home cooked meals and potential benefits for diet and health: cross-sectional analysis of a population-based cohort study." International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 14.1 (2017): 109.
[8] Paton, Douglas, and Melanie Irons. "Communication, sense of community, and disaster recovery: a Facebook case study." Frontiers in communication 1 (2016): 4.

Your sense of community. 
In these times of fear, uncertainty and isolation (both physical and social) we must strengthen our sense of community by connecting with and supporting each other. 
Did you know that during the 2011 Tasmanian wildfire/bushfire disaster, the community that grew around the Facebook page Tassie Fires – We Can Help played a pivotal role in insuring timely communication. It also helped people to develop new and insightful relations, to feel empowered, to better manage their stress level and increase overall psychological well-being[8].


Excessive exposure to news and media.
Choose specific times during the day when you will get updates, and ensure they are from reputable and reliable sources. Overexposure to media coverage can increase feelings of fear and anxiety without offering any new insight on the matter. Did you know that, according to a recent study, people who mostly get their Covid-19 news from social media are most likely to report made-up news. [9]

Negative thinking.
Focus on the good things in your life and remember: positive thinking can be learned. You can start small by focusing on an area you think can be easily changed, giving yourself permission to laugh even in stressful times, surrounding yourself with positive people and practicing positive self-talk.
Did you know that, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends media people to find opportunities to amplify the voices, positive stories and positive images of local people who have experienced the novel coronavirus and have recovered or who have supported a loved one through recovery and are willing to share their experience . [10] [11].