If even reading that word feels weird right now, it’s safe to say you’re not alone. When I floated this week’s Mind Matter’s topic past a buddy the response I got was telling. “Positivity? Better backdate the article to circa 2019 mate.”
Because, let’s face it, in the current momeent, feeling positive wouldn’t exactly top a list of mental descriptors. Between 12 million of us being in lockdown and the daily cycle of doomsday headlines, you’d be forgiven for telling me to kindly shove my happy chat elsewhere. But, hear me out.
We see and hear a lot about illness and struggling when it comes to mental health – and of course that’s rightly so. But protecting the other end of the spectrum isn’t something we should leave off the table. Resilience, protecting positivity, grounding in purpose, hope: these things are all vital right now too.
So for this week’s MH Mind Matters we’re all about how to build resilience & protect positivity. More importantly too, we’re about some go to tools to make that brighter side a little more circa 2021.
This one likely comes as no surprise, but science shows that social connection is the number one contributor to higher levels of happiness, resilience and wellbeing. Especially in tough times. Connecting with others doesn’t just help stave off anxiety, low mood and struggle but it actively works to lift our mental spirits toward the other end as well.
The good thing for right now is that this holds true for remote contact as well, so change and shift plans or weekly catch ups rather than just cancel. Even phone or camera contact that includes an open space to hear and be heard boosts resilience up a tonne.
- Schedule at least one social contact point each day right now (a call, a Zoom, a walk)
- Contact online or from afar boosts positivity and resilience significantly too
- Get creative with plans in lockdown; try a movie together via zoom or a Facetime round of beers
Flow is a psychological concept that’s been around now for a fair while. But using it in every day life to protect the brighter side? Something we often forget. ‘Flow’ describes a state where enjoyment, focus & challenge from a task collide. Time often loses meaning, there’s a sense of peace and benefits for body & mind are sky high. Research shows time and time again that those who include regular chances for flow in their week are usually those who feel more resilient, content and happy.
- Flow can come from anything; art, exercise, music, a job, cooking
- Schedule a chance for ‘flow’ during lockdown and include at least 20 mins each day
A sense of purpose can be hard to come by right now, but that’s not because it’s not there. Tough times naturally pull our brain away from a bigger why, so remind yourself it is science-backed way to help resilience. Whether it’s lockdown, that dreaded work from home or another challenge, stopping to ground in a positive ‘why’ can really help.
- A greater sense of why behind challenges boosts resilience & positive emotion
- Create a reason that includes a choice or internal sense of control (“I’m doing this because…”)
- Write these down somewhere & read them daily in the morning to ground in purpose
A hallmark of a stressed brain is that it beelines for what’s wrong first. From a survival perspective this makes sense, but when it comes to helping bump up positivity not so much. Regular reminders of what we’ve still got and some of the little wins (even if overall things are pretty crap) can really help here. Gratitude practices might sound a bit woo, but they’re actually evidenced tools for promoting resilience in tough times.
- A gratitude practice done daily goes a big way to upping positivity & mental resilience
- Write down at least 3 things (even just on your phone) to be thankful for each day
- Picking out small everyday things is actually key (the hot shower, Ubereats, calling a mate)
During tough times it’s normal to feel hopeless at points, but what’s interesting is that we often confuse what hope actually is. Psychologically, a sense of hope is actually seeing a clear plan or path for a positive outcome to happen and then hunkering down in the belief that that can come through. Taking advantage of this point can actually boost levels of optimism and hope, so it’s time to get specific.
- If a specific challenge feels hopeless, try writing down a possible pathway out
- It’s not about lying to ourselves, but it is about calling out a potential positive outcome
- Write it down and acknowledge that there’s as much chance & hope of this happening as well
- Read it daily to pull the mind away from catastrophic thoughts.