As the world faces an unprecedented health pandemic unlike anything ever seen before, it’s becoming harder and harder to stay positive. It’s easy to get sucked into the vacuum of bad news and feel overwhelmed by negative thoughts and feelings of helplessness. But it’s not all doom and gloom, and while the situation is undeniably difficult, this won’t be our reality forever.
Focus on enjoyable things that you can do under the current restrictions, rather than ruminate about pleasurable things that you cannot do.’ So why not think about hobbies that are actually achievable right now? It could be learning to crochet, cooking, or even just absorbing yourself into a really good TV show?
Find an entertaining series on TV and allow yourself a break at the end of the day to watch one or two episodes. ‘Avoid binge-watching and allocate a set amount of time for this. Maybe ask Alexa to set an alarm or set one on your phone. When you watch TV, really savour the experience and look forward with anticipation to watching further episodes,’ he said. Binge-watching reduces the pleasure of this anticipation, so try to resist the urge to let Netflix roll on. While some people may be able to spend this time completing their novel or smashing out a song, don’t put yourself under any strain to make your hobby your side hustle, and similarly, don’t load unnecessary pressure on yourself.
Listen to music Listening to – or even creating – music can have immeasurable impacts on your mood, and can help you step back and reframe your thoughts.why not create your own playlist? Pick a selection of songs that take you back and move you forward. When you’re done, why not share it with your friends and family too?
Keep a gratitude journal Research in positive psychology – the scientific study of happiness – suggests that practicing gratitude can help increase overall feelings of happiness and positivity. The format of the journal is not important – the most important thing is to record the good things that happened to you that day.You can incorporate gratitude in your life by listing three things you are grateful for each day before you go to sleep.
‘Try to reflect and think of new things every day, and you’ll find that you’ll start being grateful for the little things, like your coffee in the morning or that your internet worked all day when you were working from home. ‘Reminding yourself daily of what you have, instead of what you don’t, will bring your mind into the present, uplift your spirits, and create a general feeling of gratitude for everything that you are blessed to have in your life during this difficult time,’ he said.
That’s not to say you should ignore negative thoughts, but balancing these thoughts with positive reflections can help lift you up during these challenging times.There is nothing wrong with this, as we are all experiencing challenging circumstances. However, it is important to balance these negative thoughts with positive reflections.’
Limit your news consumption If you are anxious about the state of the world and are overwhelmed by the news at the moment, resist the temptation to continually check your newsfeed. ‘In times of uncertainty or crisis, it is normal to want to have as much relevant information as possible. However, constantly looking at a news app, or watching the news on TV will overwhelm us. ‘The more we hear bad news, the more it will affect our ability to make a balanced judgement of the situation. It is not advised to stop listening to the news altogether—but it might be a good idea to limit news consumption to two or three times a day.
Exercise, or even better, dance The positive impact of exercise is well documented, and while all exercise is great for boosting your mood, many swear by dancing, which, as well as offering the health benefits of exercise, lets you blow off steam and connect with others.
Reframe negative thoughts Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you make sense of overwhelming issues – such as anxieties over coronavirus – and break them into smaller parts.
Be kind It’s no surprise this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week has taken on the theme of kindness, as doing small acts of kindness can not only benefit others, but have an uplifting effect on your own mood.
Smile It might sound trite, but the act of smiling can uplift your mood and help you channel positive thoughts.
Research has shown that the mere act of smiling may have an effect on our mood. ‘While it is true that our emotions shape our facial expressions, it seems that it’s also true that changing our facial expressions can change our emotions. ‘Expressing a so-called “Duchenne smile”, which is associated with a “true smile”, activates the entire face (muscles in the cheeks and around the eyes), causing an increased sense of positive mood and happiness. Unsurprisingly, a “fake smile” (activation of the cheek-muscle only) does not have the same positive effect.
Finally… think about the big picture While the changes we’re experiencing are undeniably monumental and will have far-reaching, long-lasting consequences, remember this won’t last forever. Therefore, working out what you can achieve both short-term, and long term becomes all the more important. ‘It’s important to have both short-term and longer term objectives to work towards during this period. Identify one or two positive short-term goals you want to achieve, such as scheduling a Zoom catchup with your friends over the weekend, or planning a long walk one evening,‘
‘You can also make more longer term plans and goals, such as being able to dance all night for a wedding next year or a career objective you can start working towards now to achieve in 2021. These longer term goals are something that you work towards over time and can be broken down into attainable steps along the way. ‘Once you’ve reflected on your big picture goal, lay out the steps you’ll take to get there. Exploring and writing down the ‘why’ behind that goal will help you understand what’s driving your desire for change and help you internalise it, keeping you motivated over time. It’s important to start small; biting off more than you can chew, especially in the beginning, can be unmotivating and unmanageable.’
‘When it comes to life after lockdown, there’s a great chance that life won’t resume to normal. Bracing and preparing for a ‘new normal’ is one of the greatest ways to use your time during lockdown – allowing you to examine your life, make changes, and focus on building better relationships with yourself and others.’
Making these steps requires a conscious effort, which can understandably be hard to muster at the moment, so it’s important to recognise the difficult reality of the situation while using healthy mechanisms to cope with it.