The Wellbeing Trifecta: Sleep, Social Interaction and Exercise

Wellbeing trifecta

Sleep, social interaction, exercise!

 

I’ve been watching Philip K. Dick’s, Electric Dreams on Amazon. Based on his science fiction short stories, Season 1 is a star-studded dystopian watch-athon. The marketing blurb says, “…the anthology will question what it means to be human in uniquely ambitious, grounded, yet fantastical worlds.” Which seems to me like a marketing blurb for our current state of affairs.  We have all gone through stranger than fiction times with a worldwide pandemic. Hunkered down in small spaces with uncertain outcomes like space travelers.

 

Mental health is a state of wellbeing in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

World Health Organization

 

The Wellbeing Trifecta

I’ll be honest, in the past year my sleeping, eating, exercising and socializing have gone a bit haywire. It’s no wonder that COVID-19 has caused every marker for mental health and substance use disorders to go off the charts in the wrong direction. In a recent Mental State of the World Report 2020, they single out three lifestyle factors that impact wellbeing. Those factors are sleep, social interaction and exercise. Even the report writers seemed surprised by the magnitude of their affect.

 

Studies on sleep, exercise and social interaction have typically focused on their impact on a single disorder or mental function. When we look across the full spectrum of mental function, however, which dimensions are most likely to be impacted by each of these factors? Surprisingly, each factor appears to impact not just every functional domain but virtually every element within them. In all three cases, every asset of mental function was diminished … and every problem area was magnified.

Mental State of the World 2020 Sapien Labs

 

Sleep deprivation causes problems with self-image, appetite regulation, and outlook and optimism. Also, those who are sleep deprived have a greater experience of pain, guilt and blame, and feelings of sadness, distress or hopelessness.

Loneliness compromises relationships, outlook and optimism, and self-image. Likewise, lack of social interaction causes avoidance and withdrawal, guilt and blame, and feelings of sadness, distress and hopelessness.

Sedentary lifestyles cause problems with appetite regulation, low energy levels and lack of drive and motivation. Those who do not exercise (at least 30 minutes per day), also report more physical health issues.

 

Sleep, Social Interaction and Exercise

So, how do we improve the aspects of our lives we know will make us healthier? Even while we are still dealing with COVID-19 and its ill effects? It behooves us all to take a moment and remember there is help out there (and lots of folks are feeling what you are feeling).

 

Sleep

wellbeing trifecta woman and dog sleep

  • Take a break from the news

  • Create a daily schedule/routine (including bedtime) and stick to it

  • Get light exposure in the morning! Our circadian rhythm is disrupted when working from home

  • Skip naps

  • Avoid clock watching – practice relaxation techniques during the day

  • Also avoid over-the-counter sleep aids and melatonin

  • Get up and distract yourself

  • Read this

Social Interaction

wellbeing trifecta women exercise

 

  • Prioritize loved ones!

  • And by all means, take advantage of telehealth and virtual connection

  • Cuddle your pet (or a baby)

  • Show your true grit and build stamina for the long haul

  • Talk to a therapist

  • Pray, meditate, or find spirituality in nature

  • Read this

Exercise

wellbeing trifecta

 

  • Go for a walk, hike or run outdoors – nature will improve your attitude!

  • Any exercise decreases depression and feelings of hopelessness

  • Sleep? Morning sit-ups improve sleep quality

  • Include your children in the fun

  • Taking the stairs improves cardio-respiratory fitness – your heart and lungs with thank you for it

  • Zoom yoga or exercise with friends

  • Read this

 

In Conclusion – Wellbeing Trifecta Heroes

Interestingly, the heroes of Phillip K. Dick’s stories are always running on treadmills, sleeping like logs, rallying neighbors and outwitting cyborgs. They are the epitome of wellbeing – coping with life’s stressors and contributing to their space station communities. We can take a page out of Dick’s books in our trying times. Remembering to prioritize sleep, our best relationships, and exercise will go a long way to improve our mental and physical health – now and long into the future.

 

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Marilyn Spiller is a writer, sober coach, recovery advocate, and student of the world. (She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Creative Writing). Seven years sober herself, she penned one of the first sobriety blogs, "Waking Up the Ghost" in 2013. The blog garnered an international following, allowing Marilyn to communicate with thousands of folks in all stages of recovery. Marilyn is Sanford's Director of Marketing and serves as Editor-In-Chief for the Sanford online magazine, "Excursions". She also developed and hosts the podcast Anatomy of Addiction.