As the reality of social distancing and home isolation starts to set in, it’s easy to allow negativity to creep into your mindset. This means that now more than ever, it’s really important to channel your energy into positive thinking.
There’s plenty of evidence for the benefits of positivity on both mental - and, perhaps more surprisingly - physical, health.
Positivity has been shown to increase energy levels, improve psychological health, lower rates of depression, speed up recovery from injury or illness, improve coping skills and stress management, as well as to improve quality of life overall. (Healthline).
Although the specific mechanisms explaining the benefits of positive thinking on health haven’t yet been fully deciphered, there are a number of plausible theories. According to Hopkins Medicine, “researchers suspect that people who are more positive may be better protected against the inflammatory damage of stress. Another possibility is that hope and positivity help people make better health and life decisions, and focus more on long-term goals. Studies also find that negative emotions can weaken immune response.”
We do know that when you have positive thoughts and feel optimistic, your brain produces more serotonin - the so-called ‘happy hormone’, which is thought to regulate mood, happiness and anxiety. Meteor also cites a finding that ‘Positive emotions...change our perception and [help us] focus on more of the “we” instead of the “me”, which is an important way of keeping perspective during these uncertain times. By focusing on the collective, we can lessen feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Not only can positive thinking help relieve acute stress in troubled times, but one study in 2010 showed that optimists have a better quality of life overall. “Research suggests people with positive self-talk may have mental skills that allow them to solve problems, think differently, and be more efficient at coping with hardships or challenges. This can reduce the harmful effects of stress and anxiety.”
So how can we increase our positive thinking when things seem so difficult? Here are some ideas:
Even in the hardest of times, there is always something to be grateful for. Whether it’s for the roof over your head, the love of your family, a comfortable bed to sleep in or something as seemingly small as the pleasure in having a cup of tea. Once you start cultivating a grateful mindset, it becomes easier to identify just how many things there are to be thankful for.
A gratitude journal is a great way of bringing these thoughts to the fore. One very simple exercise is to simply jot down every evening, three things you were grateful for during the day. These can be as big (‘my health’, ‘having a loving partner and children’) or small (‘a delicious lunch’, ‘no rain’) as you like, but try to make them different every day. You’ll be amazed how quickly your list of things that make you feel positive and optimistic grows.
Our brains respond to and believe repeated messages (which is why negative self-talk can be so dangerous). This is also why mantra meditation is so powerful and why positive affirmations can be so effective. If you need some inspiration, these free LUV Notes are not only great for giving yourself a boost, but are a great way to send some positivity and good vibes to friends who are feeling a little low. Stay
Social isolation is a hugely important part of keeping yourself and others safe, but there’s no doubt that it is hard for many people and by definition can lead to feelings of disconnection and loneliness. Social media and WhatsApp groups are great for amusement and humor, but are also good for sharing meaningful time with people. Schedule a zoom happy hour catch up or a google hangout brunch with friends.
If you’re isolating with family members, try to recognise the gift that is being at home with them and make sure you get actual quality time together. Try organizing a family movie night, cooking together, or even group exercise.
If you’re isolating alone, then get creative with friends - cook and eat dinner at the same time while on a video call, or join the same online exercise class together.
Riding out the Storm
Maintaining a positive attitude won’t necessarily alter the reality of the situation we are in at the moment, but it can certainly affect how you cope with it. We all have the power to choose how we respond to hardship, and the ability to choose to be positive and optimistic. In the words of Maya Angelou, “You can’t always control the things that happen to you. But you can choose not to be reduced by them.”