Mood Homeostasis in COVID-19 Lockdown

July 29, 2020

An earlier post suggested that COVID-19 lockdowns create a ‘perfect storm’ of vulnerabilities that huge numbers of people, and services, are ill-prepared to manage. 

I reviewed the science of human needs as they are expected to play out over prolonged periods of domestic confinement. More details were published in our article in the Journal of Health Psychology.

Psychological homeostasis is a natural ability to maintain stability, security and balance, a universal principle in the regulation of behaviour.

A recent Dutch study indicates the role of mood homeostasis before and during the COVID-19 lockdown among students.

Abstract

Maxime Taquet, Jordi Quoidbach, Eiko I. Fried et al. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online July 29, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.2389

“The impact of lockdowns implemented in response to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on mental health has raised concerns. Understanding the mechanisms underlying this impact to mitigate it is a research priority. We hypothesized that one mechanism involves impaired mood homeostasis (i.e., failure to stabilize mood via mood-modifying activities).”

Taquet et al. conclude: “mood homeostasis appeared to decrease during lockdown due to COVID-19, and larger decreases were associated with larger decreases in mood. The association was larger for vulnerable people with a history of mental illness.” Although their conclusion could not be validated with a control condition in which the lockdown did not occur, the reduced range of activity produced by lockdowns is the likely culprit.

Physical activity enhances homeostasis

The disruption of psychological homeostasis in COVID-19 lockdowns degrades the ability to maintain stability, security and balance by a varied range of activities. In our JHP article, we advocate the increased use of physical activity to bolster the natural ability to enhance well-being during periods of lockdown and isolation:

“One underutilized tool that is freely available to almost everyone can bring profound benefits if applied systematically – regular physical exercise. The impact of exercise is one of the most powerful examples of regulation created by homeostasis. Regular physical activity not only has obvious physical benefits but significant psychological benefits also. During COVID-19 isolation, exercise offers the capability to reset body and mind to a state of equilibrium.

Published by David F Marks

Author, editor, psychologist.

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