Challenging times can stir up a lot of conflicting emotions. As our inboxes flood with overwhelming news updates and the world experiences collective anxiety about the future, self-care is more important than ever. Without small practices to keep us afloat, it can be easy to fall into harmful patterns that prevent us from staying calm and grounded.
If you are struggling to stay positive right now, you are not alone. Whether you are feeling unmotivated or find yourself caught in a negative thought spiral, here are a few practical tools to help boost your mood and cultivate resilience over time.
#1: Practice self-compassion.
We can be incredibly hard on ourselves, especially when challenges arise. No matter what, know that you deserve the same kindness and care that you would extend to a friend or loved one. Take a moment to check in with your inner dialogue. Are you speaking kindly to yourself? If not, how can you exercise patience and release the need to do things perfectly? Dr. Kristin Neff has some lovely and practical resources for self-compassion, including free guided meditations.
#2: Show gratitude.
Taking the time to say “thank you” can be more effective for boosting well-being than you think. During difficult times, it can help to start a gratitude journal and jot down what you are thankful for. If you are lacking inspiration, consider writing a gratitude letter and thank someone who has changed your life for the better. These are simple yet transformative exercises for enhancing our well-being, increasing connectivity with others, and feeling happier and less depressed over time.
#3: Make a reverse bucket list.
Travel the world. Run the New York City Marathon. Write a song. These are a few of the many items on my bucket list, which can feel daunting during times of uncertainty. What happens when we hit “reverse” on our bucket list and notice the awesome things we have already done? Research shows that recalling positive experiences, also known as grateful recounting, can enhance our well-being. Instead of getting anxious about all the things you have to do, try writing a list of accomplishments that you are proud of, and bask in the glory. You may be surprised at what you find.
#4: Repeat affirmations.
We all feel confused and anxious at times. Affirmations are one way to change the course of our thoughts and feelings. The trick is to pick a statement that is realistic and authentic: if you say “I am full of joy” when you feel tense and stressed, the affirmation will feel out of place. First, acknowledge your current emotion, however difficult it may be, and respond in a way that feels true to you.
“Things are tough, so I will rest and take care of myself.”
“I am doing the best that I can.”
“I can feel afraid and courageous at the same time.”
“I will get through this.”
#5: Disconnect from social media.
There is no medicine like taking your eyes off the screen and engaging in an activity sans blue light. Try taking a break from the news and resist the urge to constantly check your notifications. Log out of social media. Put your phone to bed, literally. Some of my favorite ways to disconnect: read a book, make a collage, paint your own coffee mug, stretch, meditate, dance, bake cookies, and spend time with a pet or loved one.
As you explore these activities, simply try one at a time, releasing the pressure to implement everything at once. Notice what sensations come up, and notice them without judgment. Times may be difficult, but you are not alone. A little gratitude, positive self-talk, and a batch of chocolate chip cookies can go a long way.