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Wellness trends that prioritize mental health.

The pandemic took a toll on so many of us, in so many different ways. But we’re not here to dwell on the negative—we want to highlight the positives. “The pandemic started off as a collective snow day from work and school filled with Netflix binges, takeout orders, and Tik Tok challenges. But when the world realized that we might be in this for the long haul, it inspired many to focus on self-improvement and create positive changes,” says dating coach, matchmaker, and founder of The Broom List, Tennesha Wood.

Many of those changes included adopting new habits and behaviors—things that we should keep doing even as we start to get back to (somewhat) normal. “Life will present us with other challenges post-pandemic, and the skills and tools we used to get us through one of the most difficult times in a century shouldn’t be tossed aside,” says Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist in New York City and Columbia University faculty member.

Amen to that. From outdoor activity to seeking therapy and making time to connect with people you love, these are the top healthy habits we can take away from past events.

1. Prioritizing mental health

The pandemic put pretty much anyone and everyone’s mental health to the test. While that was brutal, the attention that was placed on taking care of our mental health and acknowledging emotional challenges is undoubtedly a good thing, leading to what’s perhaps one of the biggest wellness trends. “The most important positive effect of lockdown is that it has increased our awareness of how important our mental wellness is. And therefore, we’re prioritizing routines and behaviors to maintain our mental health,” said clinical psychologist Dr. Jenny Yip.

Wood agrees, noting that an uptick in people seeing therapists is something that should be maintained, and emphasizes that the increased introspection that comes with this is yet another positive. Dr. Hafeez also underscores the importance of focusing on mental health. She points out that many people developed easy, at-home practices such as yoga, meditation, and journaling to help keep themselves sane, habits that can easily be kept up and utilized to deal with day-to-day stress, even once the pandemic is over.

2. Eating and cooking together

Whether it was whipping up Instagram-worthy banana bread on the weekend with your significant other or sitting down to dinner every night as a family, the experts we spoke with agree that this intentional time spent preparing and sharing meals is a great habit to keep up. So different than the ‘grab-and-go’ of pre-pandemic life when everyone had busy schedules, sitting down for a meal helps promote strong bonds and is a great way to recap the day and spend quality time together, particularly if you ditch your electronics during dinner time, explains Dr. Hafeez.

3. Outdoor Exercise

As gyms started to close shortly after quarantine began, we were forced to get creative in finding ways to stay active. Bikes quickly sold out, paths became packed with cyclists and joggers, and trainers adapted their programs to be taught in parks. Now, as restrictions are lifted and fitness studios reopen, experts encourage you to keep some of your workouts outdoors, especially as we head into the warm-weather months of late spring and summer.

That’s because outdoor exercise has been shown to provide many health benefits beyond those seen from indoor workouts. In addition to the endorphins released during exercise, exposure to sunshine naturally increases serotonin, another mood-boosting hormone, and helps reduce stress and anxiety. What’s more, changing up the terrain with outdoor exercise challenges your body and can make the activity more enjoyable, so you’re more likely to stick with it.

4. Embracing natural beauty

While yes, many of us might be hungry for a fresh blowout, and the opportunity to put on a red lip, rocking air-dried hair, and going makeup-free for days (okay, weeks) on end has had positive repercussions, according to Dr. Yip. “These days, it’s much more acceptable to not to have a full face of makeup on, especially if you’re just on a Zoom call,” she says. “Overall, appreciating your natural beauty decreases comparison, which can lead to body image issues, anxiety, and depression.”

5. Making time to connect

Zoom happy hours with old friends, and weekly family phone chats, while it was extremely challenging to not be able to see our social network in person, the time in lockdown made us truly appreciate these connections.

Pre-pandemic, many people often didn’t take the time to call friends and family, and instead fired off quick texts, says Dr. Hafeez. “When many of us were isolated we learned to appreciate human connection more. Instead of texts with emojis, we used Facetime or Zoom for more meaningful connections,” she says.

And while these may not necessarily remain the norm, we do now have a better understanding of the value of in-person connections and the importance of maintaining them, points out Dr. Yip.

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