Life with no parole. That's what sheltering at home has begun to feel like after just a few months. Yet some people are coping with it much better than others. What's their secret?

Well, there's more than one. Taking good care of yourself but also remaining socially connected with others tops the list, according to researchers from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Social media browsing — scrolling through feeds and looking for updates — was strongly linked to anxiety and other negative feelings.

With normal life disrupted, exercise, hobbies and any spiritual activity, from prayer to meditation, helps keep mood positive. That's from the personal experiences of 600 adults in the United States, recounted in April.

“The tie between time spent on these sorts of activities and positive states was particularly strong for people who felt more of the negative states. So, the more stressed, anxious, lonely or depressed you are, the more it matters that you take the time to exercise and care for yourself,” says Barbara L. Fredrickson, the head of the UNC's Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology (PEP) lab, Distinguished Professor in the university's Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and co-author of this study on how people are coping in the times of COVID-19.

Social media browsing — scrolling through feeds and looking for updates — was, on the other hand, strongly linked to anxiety and other negative feelings. “If your feeds are like ours, they're mostly composed of distressing news and politicking. Keeping up with these endless streams is far from uplifting,” says Frederickson.

Taking care of yourself is only half the story. There's also the need to keep connected with others. And how you connect with others makes a big difference. Texting doesn't seem to be very helpful. Face-to-face meetings and voice or video calls are much more satisfying, according to the study findings. Interacting with others does not seem to help as much when you can't see or at least hear the people you are communicating with.

Those who spent more time actively interacting with others experienced more positive emotions and fewer negative ones. This was even true for introverts and was especially true for people who live alone, showing once again that no one is an island.

Those who went out of their way to lend a helping hand to others experienced more positive states than those who didn't.

“Crises provide ample opportunities for kindness,” said Frederickson. “You can donate face masks or other equipment to healthcare workers. If you're healthy, you can donate much-needed blood. Such altruistic acts aren't just good for those receiving help. They're good for those giving it as well.”

The researchers hope to publish their study soon. It has not yet been peer-reviewed.

Though not covered in the research, those endless bowls of pasta many of us have been indulging in, while extremely comforting, should be avoided. They will stay with you much longer than you want.