Between isolation and social distancing, COVID-19 is set to affect the wellbeing of thousands of people across the globe. Loneliness is one of the world’s most significant risk factors for premature death , and the mental health of many individuals will be declining without being able to physically see or connect with others.
Mental health is one of Neuroscience Trials Australia’s research specialities. So we are acutely aware of how isolation can affect mental health. As such, as an organisation, we are implementing strategies to ensure that we are doing our best to help our team to maintain a healthy mindset. Finding what makes you happy while in isolation and taking small steps to implement it is crucial. Whether it’s photos of dogs, going for a walk or putting on your favourite show, sometimes it is the little things that can make a big difference to your mood and mindset.
However, there are a couple of clinically proven steps that can help to maintain your mental health and reduce the negative impact on your wellbeing. Here at Neuroscience Trials Australia, we are recommending the following three suggestions:
Suggestion 1: Exercise
Studies have shown aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, are able to reduce anxiety and depression . These improvements are proposed to be generated by an exercise-induced increase in the blood circulation to the brain and by modulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, thereby leading to a physiologic reactivity to stress .
With the current government guidelines and restrictions, there are limitations to what one can do outside the house when it comes to exercise. Exercise and wellness centres, gyms and parks have all been closed to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus- but there are still ways to stay healthy and well through this pandemic.
Some forms of exercise outside the house, including walks, jogs and cycling, are still permitted. This is in addition to exercise that can be performed at home, such as gardening, dancing, yoga, meditation, and swimming (if you have a pool). You are also still able to make this a group exercise, just as long as those joining in are house members or there is no more than one person outside your household (the 2.5 metres social distancing rule still applies here).
Suggestion 2: Mindfulness
Being in tune with your body and your emotions during stressful times is important for maintaining wellbeing. Taking a couple of minutes out of your day to engage in meditation and mindfulness is proven to have positive benefits.
Research has shown that mindfulness, the practice of utilising mediation to be fully present in the moment to gain insight into your mind, can decrease stress . It has also been proven to reduce feelings of sadness, as well as increase levels of happiness and focus , meaning that it can also help improve your productivity while working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mindfulness is also good for addressing “pent up” aggression. Feelings of anger and bubbling anxiety is common during stressful situations, and mindfulness has been demonstrated to decrease aggression in individuals by 57% .
Headspace provides a great app to help with mindfulness through meditation. You can download it via the Headspace website with a two week trial to see if this method of maintaining your wellbeing works for you. Alternatively, keeping a journal may help in practising mindfulness (even if it’s just a line every other day), as well serve as a historical account, documenting this time for future generations.
Suggestion 3: Staying Connected
Being connected to others in a social context is considered a basic human need— essential to both well-being and survival . It is vital during this time that we use digital technology and social media platforms to remain connected with our loved ones. Communication is paramount. Digital technology now provides unprecedented opportunities for people to communicate more efficiently than ever, whether it is via video chat, a text message or a phone call.
At Neuroscience Trials Australia, we are encouraging the use of video chat. Whether it is Zoom, Facetime, Facebook or Microsoft Teams, there are an endless number of digital platforms that can be used to video chat your loved ones or work colleagues. Through a simple click, the faces of those you are unable to see in person can be on the screen in a matter of moments. While a poor substitute for a face-to-face meeting, video calling has become a major avenue for connecting with others, both personally and professionally. For our organisation, video meetings have made it possible to continue with business as usual.
On a more personal level, communicating through means such as video calls is critical as evidence indicates that social isolation and loneliness significantly enhance the risk of premature mortality . More than ever, a simple message to check-in and stay connected with the ones around us can have the power to swing the moods of those suffering.
But connecting can go beyond these virtual means. Connecting can take the form of exchanging meals with friends, sharing a wish jar with family and adding something periodically to it that you want to achieve or do when this is all over, or going grocery shopping for a neighbour who is self-isolating. Strengthening ties both offline and online are power ways to look after mental health.
Going forward at Neuroscience Trials Australia, our highest hopes remain that everybody is taking care of themselves and are working to maintain a healthy mindset. We hope our few steps will not only provide relief during this stressful time but let our community know that they are not alone.
Disclaimer: Some of these restrictions may change over time as COVID-19 continues to grow around the globe. To reaffirm these suggestions you can visit the Australian Government website to confirm if these steps are still feasible.
 American Psychological Association, 2017. So Lonely I Could Die. newswise, [online] Available at:
 Sharma, A., Madaan, V. and Petty, F., 2006. Exercise for Mental Health. The Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, [online] 08(02), p.106. Available at:
 Willgens, A., Craig, S., DeLuca, M., DeSanto, C., Forenza, A., Kenton, T., Previte, E., Woytovich, C. and Yakimec, G., 2016. Physical Therapists’ Perceptions of Mindfulness for Stress Reduction: An Exploratory Study. Journal of Physical Therapy Education, [online] 30(2), pp.45-51. Available at:
 Headspace. 2020. What Is Mindfulness?. [online] Available at:
 DeSteno, D., Lim, D., Duong, F. and Condon, P., 2017. Meditation Inhibits Aggressive Responses to Provocations. Mindfulness, [online] 9(4), pp.1117-1122. Available at: