Yes, like Arnie in Terminator 2, we’re back! As memes of ‘Goodbye 2020’ and ‘Bring on 2021’ were shared on social media, we gave ourselves permission to imagine a near future, with us actually hugging our friends again. And then lockdown happened...again! Instead of trying to save Sarah Connor, we’re trying to save the NHS and save lives.
But instead of succumbing to lockdown blues (and the immense pressure to do all this heroic, terminator-esque stuff), it’s important to stay positive. Not only does positivity help with our mental health, it also boosts our immunity.
That’s much easier said than done though, especially for those who are more half-glass-empty, than half full. However, there’s a good reason for this. In her TEDx talk, social psychologist Alison Ledgerwood, describes how our brains are hardwired to focus on the negative aspects of our lives.
Why? For survival!
For hundreds of millions of years, being tuned into any form of threat meant life or death. Whilst it’s still an effective tool today (particularly when crossing a busy road), this habit can sabotage our happiness and wellbeing. Therefore, focusing on the positive requires more effort - it’s hard work.
Hard? Yes. Impossible? No. Like anything, the more we do it, the better we become at it.
Also, the motivation and reward system in our brains mean that when we set ourselves a challenge and complete it, we build our self-worth and confidence.
Set yourself a goal
From something small, e.g. ‘I’m going to get out of bed tomorrow morning’, to something big, ‘I’m going to learn to yodel in 24 hours’ (there are stranger things).
Shift from feelings to facts
Our brains respond emotionally. By reminding ourselves of this and focusing instead on what the facts are, we can ask ourselves, ‘What could I do next to move forward?’
We mention this often because it works! It’s a really effective tool to train the mind to recognise the good stuff. It’s even more powerful if you write down what you’re grateful for. It doesn’t have to be a lot either. Just 3 things every evening before sleep or when you wake in the morning.
Create a routine
We’re creatures of habit and if it feels like things are out of our control, consider what is in your control. Plan in things that contribute to positivity: exercise, chocolate breaks when you’re working, writing your gratitude diary, power posing - I recommend the morning for this one.
Connect with others - in any way you can
If, like me, you love a hug, social distancing is really tough. But don’t underestimate the power of talking and, more importantly, listening. Genuine listening means giving someone your full attention. But remember, emotions are contagious, so try to avoid mood hoovers. Unless they’re related to you and you can’t… in this case, write in your gratitude diary straight after talking to them.
Help others - even if living alone, you don’t need to feel alone
Covid is global and impacting everyone to varying degrees. One of the quickest ways to change feelings of depression is to help someone else in any way you can. That might be something small like a phone call or an old fashioned letter, to baking some cakes or doing their shopping. This will give a really big boost to your happy chemicals.
Be kind to yourself - as well as to others.
We’re all muddling through and we all make mistakes, so forgive easily too.
Every day we are one day closer to the end. One thing we can rely on is change, therefore this situation will change too. Good luck everyone and keep that positivity flowing - you can even get yourself some motorcycle leathers and embrace your true Arnie side if you want - we’re not here to judge.