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8 ways to banish the pandemic blues

From coffee to Tinder, there are ways to boost your mood

By Ricky Browne

Last year I moved back from the tropical climes of Jamaica to start a new life in the UK. I always knew that January was going to be a hard and depressing month, thanks to the bleak, cold and dreary weather complete with Tupperware sky keeping all that goodness sealed in.

But what I hadn’t realised was that this January was going to be five times worse, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the national lockdown that keeps us as virtual prisoners in our own homes.

And there is no jetting off to somewhere sunny, with that quality of light that you can only get when the sun is straight up in the sky and those vibrant colours that seem so impossible when you are surrounded by grey. The sapphire blue waters of Lime Cay off of the Kingston Harbour is a distant though warm memory.

With no end in sight and no easy escape, we have to find alternate ways to lift the blues of another shade.

Here are eight ways that I am currently using to brighten my day. Maybe you can try some of them, or maybe you have some ideas of your own to add to the list.

  1. SETTLE YOUR MIND

A journal can help to put things into perspective. Photo: Ricky Browne

There are various ways of doing this .. meditation, prayer or writing a journal. I think all three work in different ways and all three can be followed. Currently I’m writing a journal entry every morning which gives me a chance to collect my thoughts and to think a bit more clearly about how my life is going, things I’m doing, things I want to do, challenges, opportunities. But I end each one by listing three things that I’m grateful for, maybe something that happened the previous day, or someone that I’m pleased to have in my life, or something that I’m about to do. But just three things to acknowledge to myself the positive things that are happening around me or which I am a part of. This helps to create a more positive state of mind than only dwelling on the problems. And there’s something rewarding about being faced with a blank page and then filling it with your thoughts — a small feeling of accomplishment to start the day.

2. EAT WELL AND DRINK WELL TOO

A cup of Sangsters Blue Mountain Coffee, brings with it flashes of Jamaica’s lush surroundings. Photo: Sangster’s Coffee

Due to health considerations I need to watch my diet. But food should be a joy, not just sustenance. Especially at a time like this. So if you are fortunate enough to have someone around who loves to cook good food, that is a definite plus. But also remember that even when you are feeding yourself, to spoil yourself with good foods that you enjoy and which you know are good for you. Make it something to look forward to three times a day, rather than thinking of it a fuel stop. Those three meals should be mini breaks from the rest of your day, that will refresh you for the job at hand. That doesn’t mean you should sit down and eat a tub of Ben and Jerry’s every day. But treat yourself to a treat now and again as well. Oh and Eat Well means Drink Well as well. This is a dry January for me – which isn’t particularly easy, as you may be tempted to drown some of your sorrows in some quality 8-year-old Appleton rum from Jamaica. But just because you are off the booze, doesn’t mean you can’t drink well. Some freshly brewed, top quality Blue Mountain coffee, like the one produced by my friend Bindley Sangster, can hit the spot. You can check that out at https://sangsterscoffee.com/. Or some top quality teas. Or some coconut water. But stay away from too many fruit juices. And really stay away from rot gut sodas. And avoid sugar. But eat chocolate.

3. TAKE THAT WALK

You never know what you might see when you go out without your gun. Photo: Ricky Browne

In England we are now in lockdown. The rules change every week, but basically we are not supposed to leave our houses at all, except to get food from the grocery store or to exercise – for one hour per day. Maybe with some people from your household. Maybe on your tod. Its no good seeing how you can get around the rules. They are really there for our own good. And with one in 30 people around London having been hit by this disease, the odds of you avoiding it while being careless aren’t great. But for our mental health we need to get out into the fresh air and see for ourselves that life really does exist beyond our four walls. That the Earth is still spinning. So I make a conscious effort to get out every day for that hour and take a walk around the neighbourhood or the nearby parks – keeping clear of people – come rain or shine. And most of the time these days, its rain. But I feel much better as a result of the exercise, no matter what the weather.Oh — and don’t forget to take your camera phone with you, you never know when you might see an inspiring photo opportunity.

4. TAKE VITAMIN D

Unfortunately, we can’t get all our Vitamin D from the beach at Lime Cay. Photo: Ricky Browne

In Jamaica I would get a daily dose of Vitamin D from the sun, completely devoid of suntan lotion, often on the beach at Lime Cay. But back here in the UK, even with that daily walk, I know that I’m not getting enough Vitamin D, and a lack of it can bring on depression. So to boost my Vitamin D and therefore my mood I now take it in tablet form. I’m not overdosing on it or anything. But knowing that that little pill is giving me a daily dose of sunshine is rewarding in a way. As an extra benefit, it can help to boost your immunity. If you go onto the NHS site it doesn’t really say much about Vitamin D combatting depression or boosting immunity. But it does recommend taking supplements during these winter months of 10 micrograms (400IU) per day.

5. KEEP IN TOUCH

Modern technology means that you can celebrate birthdays from afar. Photo Chris Montgomery

Thanks to modern technology we are able to keep in touch with friends and family all over the world at virtually no cost. The other day I celebrated by Uncle Ronnie’s 90th birthday. I was at home in England, he was in his apartment in Canada, and along with us on the call were family and friends from Canada, England and Jamaica — all thanks to the wonders of Google Meet. So that’s one big plus for this pandemic over the Spanish Flu of 100 years ago. We can actually look at the person we are talking to on our little cell phone screen or laptops, and have a chat as if they were with us in the flesh so to speak. So I try to have conversations with friends and/or family every day, whether it is by texting, voice call or video call. That’s not just to make me feel good, but to help them feel good too. Everyone is going through a trying time right now – well except maybe Elon Musk who just became the world’s richest man – so try not to dwell on everything that’s going wrong, and think instead of the bright days ahead and what you plan to do with them. Actually, it was by having a chat with one of my friends yesterday, that I got the idea of writing this kind of story, looking to ‘feel good’ rather than dwelling on the news of the day.

6. TAKE PRIDE IN YOUR APPEARANCE

Has Jack Dorsey taken his yeard a little too far? And what about that nose ring?

At some point this thing is going to be over and you don’t want to emerge from your hole looking like Howard Hughes —no matter how rich you are. So fine. You can’t go to the barber or hairdresser. My barber actually got the virus in December. I was able to get a trim from him once he got better, and then a couple days later – Boom! Lockdown number whatever, meant all barbers and beauty salons where closed. Who knows when I’ll get the chance to go again. So I’m now growing a beard, a ‘yeard’ to be exact. And while I don’t want to end up looking like Jack Dorsey of Twitter fame, I am changing my look and trying to keep the thing looking as cool as possible. If I was going grey and didn’t want to show it, I’d buy some hair dye and maybe become a suicide blonde (dyed by my own hands).

My yeard is coming along .. but it still can’t compete with Jack’s. Nor is it likely to. Photo: Ricky Browne

Whatever the case, just because few people will see you doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to look as decent as possible. I mean, you don’t want the man in the mirror to look back at you like some depressed caveman do you? Oh, and whilst you’re at it, if you are single, you might want to cruise dating or hook-up sites like Tinder. It might be that someone out there finds you mildly attractive and that can be a confidence boost and help cheer you up a little as well. But bear in mind there’s not much chance you’ll actually meet these admirers — just about everything is locked down in this lockdown. It may also be a good time to think about getting some tattoos or body piercings. A Prince Albert perhaps? Unlike Jack, I haven’t really given much thought to a nose ring. Or any piercings at all really.

7. CUT BACK ON NEWS AND SOCIAL MEDIA

Are you getting too much social media? Image: Gerd Altmann

Now as a journalist I love keeping up to date with what’s happening in the world around me. But the constant barrage of negativity on the news these days is too much even for me. Hence me writing this type of article for a change. Its OK to not view the nightly news every day. Its OK to not know how much worse everything is today compared to yesterday. Trust me, when the news is good, it will filter through to you soon enough, whether or not you are watching it on the gogglebox. Still, I can’t resist. But I can try to limit the amount of negative news that I am exposing myself to. Social media has its place – but try to limit yourself on that too. There is a lot of negativity there, or fake positivity which is almost worse, and there’s only so much of it that you can take before it’ll start to drag you down!

8. REFRESH YOUR MIND

Curl up with a good book. Photo: Ricky Browne

Lastly but not leastly, I try to refresh my mind every day. I know this sounds a bit like the first one. But its different. Its about re-energizing rather than relaxing. There are various ways of doing this. The TV is one of them – to hunt down enjoyable shows, with bright colours in hot locations works for me. A bit of murder works as well. So watching Inspector Montalbano solve a murder in hot Sicily or watching the latest Death in Paradise, set somewhere in the Caribbean, does it for me. A good book is also a great thing. I’m currently reading Boris Johnson – The Gambler by Tom Bower, which takes my mind off the pandemic, and I just finished reading a thriller End Game by David Baldacci – death and destruction in the warm climate of Arizona. I wouldn’t want to read anything too depressing – though some of you may think that by reading The Gambler I’m not really following my own advice.  The way things are going, I think I may need to find some PG Wodehouse soon and see what Bertie Wooster and Jeeves are up to. Or better yet, some Anthony Winkler — Jamaica’s answer to PG Wodehouse — and The Duppy. But back to social media, its not all negative. You can find some positive posters there – showing off their beautiful and uplifting photography or giving good advice on how to improve your life – so you can try and look out for those.

Time for some monumental sex?

On the subject of literature, you could also try the Karma Sutra, and try out a different position each day with your willing partner(s). But with this thing being so long (I’m talking about the pandemic here, obviously) you may have to come up with some positions of your own to see you through.

So that’s about it. All combined I think these eight things can help you to combat the pandemic blues. There are probably a few other things that you can add to the list, some more PG than others perhaps. But I think this is a good foundation, and maybe they will be worth continuing even when we get through to the other side of this.

Do you have any tips that you’d like to add to this list?

OK, I’m off for my walk now. One step at a time…

Something good lies just ahead. Photo: Ricky Browne

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