The new year normally heralds in the promise of a better, more prosperous and happier year and after a year such as 2020, that seems to be a widespread and collective desire. However, although vaccinations for COVID-19 have begun to be rolled out across the world it will still take some time for countries to get back to normal after the coronavirus pandemic. Many countries are still facing waves of cases, and millions of people are still dealing with grief, stress, loneliness, job loss, financial strain, isolation, depression and much more at the hands of the coronavirus pandemic. The Northern hemisphere are still in the depths of winter, making the ‘winter blues’ return for many. So whilst there is a light at the end of the tunnel, getting through the remainder of that tunnel may seem like a gargantuan task and you may feel like you don’t have much left in you to see out the remainder of the pandemic. Here are some great ways to boost or maintain your positivity levels and arm yourself mentally for the coming months.
Whatever way you like to exercise, whether Yoga, weight-lifting, running, dancing and so forth, do it. Not only does regular exercise keep us healthy but it triggers the release of endorphins into the bloodstream. If you are cooped up inside due to isolation regulations, this may relieve aches and pains, boost your mood and generally look after both your physical and mental health levels. If you can exercise outside, perhaps via a steady run, this is also beneficial, for the change of scenery and the production of melatonin in the daylight, which will help you sleep better at night – again a good mood booster.
According to the BBC ‘Research by [Dr. Brendon Stubbs, of King’s College London] has also shown that exercise also increases electrical activity in the emotional processing areas of the brain, particularly the hippocampus and the pre-frontal cortex. “It’s vital to keep active to improve your mental health and stimulate your brain including those areas”, he says. “If you don’t exercise, the activity drops.” That’s one of the reasons why a lack of exercise increases your risk of anxiety and depression. Exercise can also boost the production of a protein, BDNF, or Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor, which is crucial for brain health.’
Feel What You Need To
2020 has been difficult on us all and some more than others. It is natural to feel stressed, anxious, low and so forth with all that has been going on. Often we try to force ourselves to feel happy, or chase happiness rather than sitting with our less attractive emotional states, letting ourselves grieve, stress or be anxious (to a healthy extent).
Speaking to Vogue, Ruth Whippman, author of The Pursuit of Happiness, stated: “I believe that trying to force ourselves to feel any particular way can lead to shame when we are not feeling the ‘right’ thing or even a sense that we are almost gaslighting ourselves. Rather than putting pressure on ourselves to ‘think positive’ or feel any particular way, we are better off being honest and open about how we actually feel. I also believe that one of the kindest, most helpful things we can do for other people is to allow them to be emotionally honest with us, to make space for them to share their ugly, scary feelings without judgement, and be there for them when they do. Denying emotions doesn’t make them go away — they just show up in other, more indirect ways.”
Wellbeing practices such as meditation can allow you to find calm, clarity and peace in times of turmoil and rather than training yourself to ignore the ‘negative’ emotions, instead it trains your mind to be content in those states, which in turn diminishes their power. Be kind to yourself, allow yourself to not be 100% all the time and take time to address that.
Set a Target or Create a Routine
The pandemic has taken away many of our routines and goals for the year, but that does not mean that we cannot reframe our targets and adjust our schedules. Finding solace and structure in routine helps many people take better control of their lives and care of themselves. This can be small things such as getting up at the same time every day to incorporating a new project into your weekly schedule. Routines can help to increase positivity levels.
If you add in some goals into the mix, you may find that the positivity gleaned from working on your targets, achieving small and big goals will better see you through the new year. If you have more time on your hands due to lockdowns or working from home – this is a great time to work on some long-overdue tasks or think of something new you would like to try.
One thing that 2020 has definitely taught us is how to connect even during a time of crisis. Millions of people across the world have found solace in digital technology that has allowed them to keep in contact with friends and loved ones, some have even reconnected with people. As the pandemic continues many of us will still be facing more time on our own and some will be completely on their own. Loneliness can be difficult to deal with at the best of times, and more so with the stresses of a pandemic. Ensure you continue reaching out to people, perhaps talking to a trusted loved one about your stresses. If you do not have anyone you can talk to there are plenty of forums online which will help connect you to other individuals. If you know of anyone on their own, try to reach out – it may help both you and them. If you are really struggling, as many are, please contact a mental health organization or therapist who will be able to give you specialized help.