I’m used to being on my feet and moving around. Now I’m sitting in front of the computer all day. This is taking a toll on my mood. What can I do?
Moving our bodies is critically important to our mental health. In recent weeks, the intimate connection between physical activity and mood has become more obvious because we’re mostly confined to our homes and, by necessity, rooted to our laptops so much of the day.
The mind-body connection means that we need to find ways to stay active. Here are a few suggestions:
- Make a plan. Research shows that it pays to think ahead, so try to decide in advance when and how you’re going to exercise. Specific plans make it more likely to follow through with intentions. Tonight at dinner, for example, you might plan when and where you’ll take a (socially distanced) walk the following day.
- Make a contingency plan. There’s an old adage that the best-laid plans frequently go awry. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan at all. Instead, it means we need two plans: one for what we hope will happen and one for what we’ll do if that plan doesn’t work. For instance, my plan to take a walk just before dinner was terrific—until showers rained on that parade. Now I have a backup plan: If it rains, do a 45-minute session on my favorite yoga app instead.
- Turn your plan into a routine. When you repeatedly do something rewarding at the same time every day, you begin to develop a habit. So consider finding a block of time you can reliably devote to exercise.
There’s no substitute for physical activity. But there are plenty of substitutes for how to get physically activity. Planning and backup planning aren’t easy, but your body and mind will thank you for it.
Angela Duckworth, the founder and CEO of the education nonprofit Character Lab, is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. You can follow Character Lab on Twitter @TheCharacterLab.
The opinions expressed in Ask a Psychologist: Helping Students Thrive Now are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.