The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us in ways we never could have imagined. Every part of our lives has been impacted – from our health, to the economy, to family life, education, social connections and more. After a year of doom and gloom and with continuing high COVID-19 case counts,it’s going to be difficult for even the most optimistic of people to stay positive. However, as we enter 2021, encouraging optimistic thinking will help you focus on the positive and face challenges with solutions, instead of becoming overwhelmed by fear and hopelessness. Here are some suggestions to help you embrace a positive outlook in the new year:
Be Mindful: Mindfulness, or trying to centre your thoughts and be in the moment, can be really helpful as we face an uncertain future. Mindful activities like mediation, deep breathing, colouring, listening to music or making the time to simply drink a cup of coffee without your mind wandering have been shown to reduce the physical and mental difficulties that can come with stress. Making time for mindfulness will also help you develop a mindset that focuses on doing your best in the moment rather than worrying about things in the past, which will help you continue to build healthy coping skills.
Take Inventory: Being grateful for the good things in your life will help you dilute the negativity around you as we enter another challenging year. Keep a gratitude journal or end each day by taking a mental note of three things in your life that you are thankful for. Maybe it’s spending time with your college-aged child learning virtually at home, getting an extra two hours a day without a commute into the office, speaking on the phone with your grandchildren or enjoying the nature trails around your home. We are naturally wired to notice when things go wrong, so by actively acknowledging the things that you appreciate—both large and small—you will start to experience a more positive outlook.
Spread Kindness: Set a goal to be kinder to others this year and you’ll notice how good it makes you feel. Helping other people activates the part of your brain that makes you feel pleasure, and research shows that regular acts of kindness significantly impact your attitude, outlook on life and your overall health. Some examples could be volunteering your time or making a donation, or perhaps writing a co-worker to tell them how much you appreciate them or picking up the tab for the person behind you in a drive-thru line. Generosity is contagious for you and for the people around you.
Take Care of You: As we start another year in pandemic times, self-care is more important than ever before. Make time for the things that bring you joy, whether that’s a good book, a hot cup of tea, connecting with friends or playing catch with your kids. Get regular exercise, make sure to get a good night’s sleep, eat healthy food and limit how much COVID-19 news you consume. Prioritizing your physical and mental health will make the day-to-day easier to handle and will replenish your energy and help you stay more positive this year.
To say that these are difficult and unprecedented times is unfortunately both a cliché and an understatement. It’s going to be challenging to stay positive as we head into this new year, but try to remember that things won’t be like this forever. With vaccines approved and being rolled out, we have reason to be optimistic and hopeful. If you are struggling and your stress levels are affecting your appetite or sleep, if you feel overwhelmed or you are experiencing a worsening of chronic physical or mental health issues, reach out to a health professional today.