How to improve yourself during lockdown

Making the most of lockdown

Come out of lockdown better than when you went in

Widespread lockdown, it turns out, has presented many of us with an unexpected opportunity to make changes to our lives. This change can be positive or negative, it really depends on us.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison before leading the movement to end apartheid in South Africa, let alone becoming the South African president. Mandela spent most of his time in jail at the brutal Robben Island Prison. Confined to a small cell without a bed and with a ‘slop bucket’ instead of plumbing, he could write and receive a letter once every six months, and once a year he was allowed to meet with a visitor for 30 minutes. Mandela said "Wounds that can't be seen are more painful than those that can be seen and cured by a doctor. One of the saddest moments of my life in prison was the death of my mother. The next shattering experience was the death of my eldest son in a car accident." He was refused permission to attend either funeral. However, Mandela’s resolve remained unbroken. Upon his eventual release he was proud, wise, and looked and sounded like a polished statesman. He spoke of peace, freedom, and democracy.

How did Mandela emerge from such a long (and often brutal) incarceration, cut off from the world, but go on to become a wise, calm, and globally respected president?

With most Kiwi’s living in a situation of home detention, let’s explore the top four ways we can make the most it.

1. Determine your purpose

What is important to you?

If there is one experience common to us all during the last year or two, it is that the spread of a virus around the world caused everyone — young or old, rich, or poor, male, or female — to reassess our priorities. There is nothing quite like being confined to your home for weeks on end with only your closest family members, flat mates, or perhaps nobody, for company, to help you realise what you really value.

For each of us, what we value — what we prioritise in our lives — is different. We all have our own problems to solve. Each of us has our own set of goals, our own preferences, and each of our circumstances is unique. Depending on our experience through the pandemic and lockdowns, those goals, and preferences and circumstances may have changed.

Are you a settler or a explorer?

Acknowledging that we’re all unique creatures, one way to help determine what we want is to broadly classify ourselves into one of two groups. Most people can relate to being either a “settler” or an “explorer”. Those with a settler mindset aim to get settled and their life’s accomplishments tend towards security in everything from their career to their relationship to their family and social life. Most lifestyle marketing is aimed at settlers. It’s about landing that dream role, signing for that gorgeous house, or finding the perfect partner, getting married and having kids. Routines, contracts, long-term planning. Settlers are happy to have obligations and commitments that they work to sustain. Whilst there is nothing wrong with being a settler, it’s not for everyone.

The flipside is the explorer mindset. Explorers reject the common notion of settling and prefer to change their routine and situations regularly. Perhaps they are consistent travelers or avoid commitments that tie them down. They prize freedom over obligations and have high routine flexibility. They are low-maintenance, adaptable, and easy-going within change. Disorder and irregularity don’t faze them, but long-term contracts and closing off options might. Explorers might not always realise they are explorers because they are fitting in with the norm.

Many are settlers by design but have a strong streak of explorer in them; they retain as much freedom as possible within a relatively settled setup. However, with the restrictions and uncertainty of recent times, especially around travel, many people have been forced into the routine of a settler.

Take care – doublecheck what you really want

At a basic level, we know not to go food shopping when we’re hungry or to send an email when we’re angry.

In the same way, the last 18 months or so has seen most major decisions driven by a settler mindset. It makes sense. No one is exploring too far; our homes have become more important to our existence and the future is uncertain. Pet purchases are on the rise, so is money and time spent on renovations. Money has been saved on travel and going out and it’s being channeled into staying in.

But are home improvement and pets what we really want, or just what we want right now? A puppy may solve our short-term boredom and loneliness and give us a reason to go for a walk, but before 2020 we hadn’t considered getting one. When life isn’t so locked down, even if that takes another year, is a dog really part of the existence we always wanted?

When evaluating what we really want, we need to ensure the decisions we are making right now aren’t shutting off our future freedom, and cutting down the chances of getting what we really want.

Emerge stronger from lockdown

2. Health improvements

During 2020, research from ExerciseNZ concluded Kiwi’s collectively piled on 2.8 million kilograms, all in the midst of a health crisis when you’d hope we’d be getting healthier!

The lockdowns of 2020 and the wider challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic had changed the way people moved and what they ate, ExerciseNZ chief executive Richard Beddie said. Beddie said one thing that was consistent across those who had gained weight or lost weight in the past year was stress. Those who lost the most weight were essential service workers such as police and nurses, Beddie said.

Improving your health – whether through better nutritional habits, less alcohol or tobacco, more sleep, more exercise, or something else – is always a great move. Lockdown offers plenty of opportunities to live a little healthier. How about making food from scratch rather that eating processed nasties? Or even just using a little more of your free time to go on a daily walk if that’s not something you’d usually do?

Maintaining mental health is crucial too. What about trying meditation to relieve stress? If you can, what about giving yourself a mini retreat at home? How about starting a journal? Can you take an online course to keep your mind growing?

Learn more: regular exercise is the sure way to live an awesome life.

3. Family

For those who highly value contact with others, separation from family and friends can be difficult. But lockdown can be an opportunity to stay in better touch with friends and family:

  • Many people living busy lives now have more time to make personal calls or send personal emails and even gifts.
  • It is easier now to stay in touch with older family members as many are familiar with video calls. Even if they are not overly tech-savvy, you can still use the phone to make contact.
  • Keep connected by setting up regular videocalls with friends, family, or colleagues. Or you can set up groups on applications (“apps”) such as WhatsApp.
  • During lockdowns, days and weeks can all become blurred. Setting calendar reminders to reach out to those closest to you can be a way to avoid forgetting to keep up contact.

A lot of this also relates to the first point – determining your purpose. Are friends and family something you value? If so, what practical steps are you putting in place to stay in touch? Will you make a bigger effort to maintain those relationships in a different way when this lockdown ends?

4. Finances

Once the top three areas above are mastered. Turn your attention to your finances to support achieving the things you really want from life. This could include some of the following areas:

Yes, many of the list above might feel impossibly hard if you’re in a role which can’t work from home, you’re facing a job loss, are a shuttered small business owner, or perhaps a budding entrepreneur, but even if that’s the case, then there’s still a nearly endless list of things you can do:

The bottom line – making the most of lockdown

Nelson Mandela has provided an amazing example of how a person can emerge seemingly better after a period of isolation and deprivation.

Whatever situation we’re in currently, lockdown can be a great opportunity to improve our lives. So, how do you want to emerge from the latest lockdown?