Remaining positive in today’s modern world sometimes feels like an impossible task, particularly with the endless, sensationalised bad news broadcasted daily. Rather than allow yourself to get bogged down in the mental mire, there are things you can do to boost your mood and increase positivity, and Chartered Psychologist Dr Audrey Tang explains how to do it.
Self-care doesn’t need to be a chore, nor another thing to add to the to-do list. There are some quick tips that fall within one of the three key tenets of happiness suggested by Martin Seligman’s book Positive Psychology:
- Finding meaning & purpose
- Being in “flow”
- Healthy relationships
For Seligman, little ways to bolster happiness informally work well as energisers to keep us motivated and just that little bit more protected against everyday stresses. Some of these tips can help reduce the amount of cortisol produced under stress. Others help us feel that little bit better, and most of them will hopefully give you a moment of positivity – even at the dip of life’s roller-coaster to help you take the most effective next steps for you.
Finding meaning & purpose
(1). Join a class or a club – something you always wanted to try or something you always enjoyed. Here, it is highly likely you’ll meet some like-minded people where you know it will be possible to connect on some topics of conversation.
(2). Volunteer – this may also allow you to feel fulfilled at being able to give a little time back to the community.
(3). Build a ‘positivity reservoir’. Save images of things you like and the things that make you smile, such as photos of friends or experiences; these can also include thankyou’s from clients, friends, or anyone whose lives you have impacted.
Build Healthy Relationships
(4). Call an old friend – randomly. If you find yourself out walking, why not scroll down your phone contacts and give someone a call. There’s an excellent chance that they will be delighted to hear from you. If you don’t feel like you are ready for a chat, you could send them a text instead?
Most of us never set out to lose contact with people; more often than not, it’s down to time and other things getting in the way that causes people to forget. Try not to have a guilty mindset when it come to re-establishing contact, as the chances are whoever you call will be feeling just as guilty as you about the lack of contact.
(5). Accept invitations – even if you are unsure if you will enjoy the event. At least you will know for next time, and you might meet other people who think the same while you are there.
(6). Be honest with your values – it’s OK to edit your life.
Look carefully at your current relationships. Ask yourself:
- Which ones are reciprocal?
- Which ones bring me joy?
- Which ones encourage honesty?
- Which ones can I rely on?
and most importantly
Which ones are with people I respect for their own values and actions?
Then actively CHOOSE to spend time with those people (which means you can tell the ones who do not feature, quite truthfully, “Sorry, I’m busy”).
(7). Invite people over. Being a host can be energising and reinvigorating. The best thing with this is you will be in the comfort of your own home, and let’s be honest; it’s not hard to pop out a few nibbles and pour some drinks! You might also consider getting out some such that involve co-operation as they are an excellent way to get some conversations flowing and building teamwork.
Find your flow
(8). Make your living environment positive as well – photos of the people you love or feelings of comfort in the place you like to spend time can at least help you feel good in any downtime you might get. Having at least one clear space that feels relaxing and safe can make a massive difference to how you feel.
(9). Be effective in your self-care choices
- Recognise when you are enjoying something.
- Decide if that activity energises or relaxes you.
- Decide what you need – and pick from the list of things you know you enjoy.
The secret to this is that if we are feeling stressed, then something that relaxes us is going to be far more effective than something that energises us, but if we are feeling down or apathetic, then an energiser may be more useful than a relaxant.
(10). I am sure you know that your physical health also has a bearing on your mental wellbeing. Good sleep, exercise and a good diet can all help to get the blood pumping and will help to clear out any unwanted thoughts in your mind. Over-indulging in things is also a bad thing as it often results in guilty feelings and often excess weight, which can increase the feeling of loneliness.
On the flip-side, undereating, coupled with a lack of sleep, can also result in feelings of anxiety and makes focusing difficult. One sure-fire way to help with this is to get outdoors. The fresh air, the escaping of boundaries, along with a good dose of Vitamin D, can work wonders. It will allow you to form a new perspective on things and is ideal for combatting Seasonal Affective Disorder.
(11). Make your bed every day!! Although this seems like such a trivial thing to do, is it an act of self-care. Remember, we spend around 8 hours (a third of our day) in the bedroom, and you are worth being welcomed back to a straightened duvet cover. (This also goes for washing up and taking the bins out!)
…and, of course, always try to acknowledge the little wins and the little things that make you feel great – gratitude practice is an excellent way to do this. Try writing down what you’re grateful for, and if you don’t feel like writing, do it as a thought exercise first thing in the morning and last thing at night. This was, you start and end the day in a positive mood.
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist, wellness expert and author of The Leaders Guide to Resilience.
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