Bits & Bites



Whether you've been bound to the confines of an apartment, a house or your basement in an attempt to escape restless children, one thing is for sure: Quarantine has put a damper on your summer plans. But physical limitations don't mean limits on health and happiness. Here are some DIY projects to keep active, buoyant and serene within the boundaries of your home.

Start an indoor garden. Spice up solitary by growing herbs and veggies indoors. With a few good-drainage pots, some seed packets, well-drained soil, a windowsill with direct sunlight and regular watering, you can have steady access to fresh produce, all while keeping busy. Basil, thyme, parsley, scallions, tomatoes, spinach and lettuce are some easy, low-maintenance plants to get your garden growing. Not only is consuming these edibles good for your body, gardening is therapeutic for the mind. Moreover, research shows that indoor plants boost your mood and reduce anxiety.

Make your own gym equipment. Canned beans, wine bottles, a sack of flour, and a jug of water can all be used as free weights during home workouts. Those paint cans you've been eyeing since the start of quarantine? Use them for dumbbell rows until you muster up the motivation to repaint the bathroom. Use a T-shirt or sweatshirt as a makeshift resistance band. Keep that heart rate up using your old jump rope or the basement flight of stairs. Fill a backpack with some books for extra poundage to wear during squats and lunges. Still too easy? Bench press a kid or two!

Have a staycation. Although forgoing travel feels like a rain-onyour-parade restraint, you don't need a resort to reap the benefits of vacation. Turn off the news and turn up the tunes. Never underestimate the teleportation powers of a beach playlist partnered with your favourite cocktail, a feel-good book and the sun beating down on you in your backyard or on your balcony. Up for something more adventurous? Travel virtually and visit the museums offering free virtual tours (hint: there are a lot). Stream a musical online, attend an online cooking class. Take time for you within the comfort of your own home without having to fight anyone for the window seat.


Does the sound of others eating drive you up the wall? Have you ever snapped at your spouse for breathing too loudly? Do your coworkers' sniffles trigger a visceral reaction of rage? You might have misophonia.

Loosely translated, misophonia means "hatred of sound" and is expressed by strong, negative reactions toward everyday human sounds; it can even result in physical aggression. The most common "offensive sounds" are mouth-related, like yawning, chewing, slurping, whispering or breathing, while other triggers can be keyboard clicking, leg thumping or joint cracking.

Misophonia has been considered a chronic condition since 2000 but is not classified as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This sometimes makes it hard for sufferers to be taken seriously. I mean, who can get that angry at the sound of popping gum? Well, it turns out about 20 per cent of the population suffers from differing degrees of misophonia. In severe cases, the condition can be debilitating by way of preventing those afflicted from going out to eat with friends or avoiding interpersonal relationships altogether.

To date, there is no known single cause of misophonia, but theories range from heightened hearing pathways to the central nervous system to behavioural theories related to trauma. Known to researchers is that the condition often accompanies obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety disorders.

To cope with misophonia, people with mild cases often subconsciously mimic their trigger sounds as they happen, and others wear earphones to drown them out. While there is no known cure for the condition, people with severe cases can find tinnitus retraining therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy helpful in dealing with symptoms. But until a cure is found, we can all show a little compassion and opt to chew with our mouths closed.


While it might be your boss's way of telling you to file that mountain of papers, there is truth to the "cluttered desk, cluttered mind" maxim. Too much stuff in a frequented space can negatively impact mental and physical wellbeing. But as a result of life under lockdown, this copious amount of time can be spent "Marie Kondo-ing" your abode and reaping the health benefits of a decluttered dwelling.

Reduce anxiety. Studies show high correlation between mess and stress. A study out of UCLA found higher cortisol levels in women who lived in homes with an abundance of toys and household items. Excessive stimuli strain the brain with visual, olfactory and tactile stressors, which leads to feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and anxious. The act of cleaning paired with the gratifying sense of accomplishment is shown to reduce anxiety and foster a better sense of self through the reclamation of control.

Clean house, clean diet. A Cornell University study showed clutter can lead to overconsumption of junk food by virtue of an out-ofcontrol mindset and a chaotic environment. Moreover, stress is a key factor in weight gain; clutter equals stress, stress equals weight gain. Damn you, logic.

Break a sweat! If clutter cost you a few pounds, remember that cleaning is a form of exercise. Sorting through piles of books, passing the vacuum back and forth, squatting to clean baseboards and moving boxes of clothes will have you mopping up sweat in no time.

If you're new to decluttering, start with these tips:

  • Start small: one counter, one shelf, one closet.
  • Create a sorting system. Make three piles: keep, donate, trash.
  • If you haven’t used it in a year, donate or recycle or refurbish.
  • If it doesn’t kindle joy, see above.
  • Trinkets and mementos are important, but if it serves no purpose, toss it.
  • Hesitant? Sleep on it.


Summer 2020, Vol 12 N°3

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The Science of Prevention