Science-based wellbeing tips to help you through the coronavirus pandemic

For many of us, being stuck at home during the coronavirus lockdown can be stressful, frustrating and lonely.

The strain on our mental health should not be underestimated, and we are being urged to look after our mental wellbeing as well as our physical health during these unprecedented times.

But is it possible to train our minds in the same way that we can train our bodies?

Dr Laurie Santos is a psychologist and cognitive scientist whose free online Yale course 'The Science of Wellbeing' has amassed over a million new subscribers in the last couple of weeks.

Her vast new audience may not come as a surprise when you learn the course offers a series of challenges designed to increase your own happiness.

Dr Santos says that science shows happiness can stem from cultivating healthy practices and routines.

For many adjusting to this temporary way of life, our new routines might actually give us the opportunity to reflect on our daily rituals and form new habits, which if the science is to be believed, could rewire our brains towards a happier life.

With that in mind ITV News asked her if she could share her top tips for well-being during the coronavirus pandemic - and beyond - using evidence-based science.

Psychologist and cognitive scientist Dr Laurie Santos' free online Yale course 'The Science of Wellbeing' got over a million new subscribers in the last couple of weeks. Credit: ITV News
  • Tip one: Prioritise social connections

Make sure you prioritise your social connections. There are lots of studies suggesting being social is key to our happiness.

And the good news is that we can stay social even while maintaining social distancing rules thanks to technology.

We can stay social in virtual ways; hanging out with friends on FaceTime, a virtual yoga class over Zoom and host a long distance movie night with Netflix Party.

Try to maintain social connections using virtual platforms you have access to - the research suggests it can really buffer your health during this critical time.

The science: Very Happy People by Ed Diener and Martin E.P Seligman

  • Tip two: Healthy habits

Make sure that you're doubling down on all your healthy habits. Making time to exercise, getting enough sleep and eating healthy can be powerful tools for protecting your mental health during this challenging time.

Research suggests that half hour of cardio can be as powerful as a prescription of an antidepressant for managing your depression symptoms.

The science: Exercise Treatment for Major Depression: Maintenance of Therapeutic Benefit at 10 Months

  • Tip three: Regulate emotion

Many of us are feeling a little bit more anxious right now.

One of the best ways of regulating our emotions is through our breath.

Research suggests that by taking quick breaths into your belly you can actually regulate your sympathetic nervous system - that's the fight or flight response.

Some times you can dial back that adrenaline rush just by taking a deep breath and so when things are feeling a little bit panicked - take a pause - spend about a minute doing some deep breathing, it can deactivate your flight of flight response and make you feel a lot better.

The science: How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing