February 23rd, 2021
Healthy Habits to Help You Ride Out the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be paradoxical for our health: it’s engendered unhealthy habits by incentivizing some people to eat and drink more, exercise less, and consume more screen time in a sedentary state. Conversely, it also fomented a new culture of self-improvement, inspiring people to learn how to eat healthier, and pushing them to use their free time to exercise more and get in shape.
Here’s how you can be part of the latter category if you wish to stay happy and healthy as we continue to ride out the pandemic.
One way to pursue improved mental and physical health is by reducing screen time. Excessive screen time can languish our mental and physical health in a myriad of ways, according to Dr. Jordan Porter, a lecturer with UMaine Orono School of Nursing.
“Prolonged exposure to blue light emitted from computer screens and hand-held devices can suppress natural melatonin production, which upends our circadian rhythm and often results in sleep difficulties,” said Porter. In addition, he said, “Some research has found an association between exposure to blue light at night . . . and chronic conditions like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.”
To consciously seek out ways to buffer your screen time, consider picking up a book. The Maine Book Club/discussion group on Facebook is a great resource to get an idea of what to read, with nearly 2,000 members in the group offering recommendations and forming small, online book clubs.
Another way to combat the adverse health effects of the pandemic is to head outdoors, where again, we can divorce from our screens and delight in all the vitamin D the sun offers, which studies show improves both physical and mental health.
“It’s time to trade blue light for regular bright light, especially in the mornings,” Porter advised. “Exposure to regular bright light during day hours can help maximize alertness, maintain a regular circadian rhythm, and counteract the winter blues, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).”
There’s a slew of ways to be active outdoors in Maine, whether it’s mountain biking the 50+ official trails throughout the state, paddling along a lake or river, or hiking in the western Maine mountains. Visit NEMBA.org for mountain bike trails and visit mainetrailfinder.com to browse hikes all over Maine.
Since the pandemic hit, online fitness and meditation classes have multiplied. According to a 2021 Bloomberg article, “How COVID-19 Has Permanently Affected the Fitness Industry,” 72 percent of fitness club-owners currently offer on-demand and livestream group workouts. Some workouts are pre-recorded and allow for pausing or rewinding, and others are live-streamed to emulate group exercise.
One Portland-based cycling studio has mastered the balance of online and socially distanced in-person training. Réve Cycling Studio moved their business entirely online in March 2020 and launched an on-demand platform, Réve At-Home. Once the weather got warm, Réve Cycling switched to in-person mode, offering to meet clients at Thompson’s Point and cycle next to the ocean.
“Beyond all of the amazing mental and physical health benefits that come with working out, we go beyond that and really tap into the community through human connection,” said Marketing Manager Meghan Courchesne.
Another critical struggle for people who are pandemic-weary, is staying apart from friends and family, and the toll that has taken on their mental and emotional health. It’s still important to socialize—safely. With the warmer weather here, spend time with family or friends by enjoying the outdoors together at a state park such as Wolfe’s Neck Woods in Freeport, or visiting a restaurant or brewery with outdoor seating. With more people being vaccinated each day, we’ll soon be able to spend more time with each other, safely.
At the end of the 1994 prison film The Shawshank Redemption, the character, Red reads a letter from his escaped fellow inmate Andy Dufresne: “Remember Red: Hope is a good thing— maybe the best of the things—and no good thing ever dies.”
Even though it feels like we’ve been crawling through a 500-yard tunnel of horror this last year like Andy did, just remember: hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and it’s on the other side of this tunnel.
— Story and photos by Garrick Hoffman, a freelance photographer, writer, and graphic designer based in Auburn. Visit his website at GarrickHoffman.com. Follow him on Instagram at @garrickhoffmanphotography and @garrickhoffmanportraits and on Facebook at @Garrick Hoffman Photography.