Three weeks into the UK lock-down and by now many may be feeling the strain. Keeping our minds healthy at this time is really important.
So, for today's post I'm sharing something that has helped (and is helping) me cope with isolation. Positive thinking has benefitted my mental health, how I feel about myself, my outlook and therefore also my life & opportunities.
If you are feeling negative or struggling to cope with the new routine, be reassured that this is quite normal. You are not alone.
Read on for my take on positive thinking and a few other strategies to cope that might help.
What is Positive Thinking?
Contrary to some beliefs positive thinking doesn’t mean burying your head in the sand or living in a dream world. We remain aware of reality and the potential negatives but choose instead to focus on the positive. By focussing on the positive, a situation can be less overwhelming. Simply put, finding the positive can help us cope better during a difficult situation.
A lot of people would be surprised at how much our thoughts impact our daily lives and decision-making. Our daily thoughts number in the thousands and are, in the main, repetitive. Many are formed by our experiences and by what others say, (or what we tell ourselves).
Both positive and negative thoughts feed into our subconscious, affecting how we see ourselves and even dictating how we deal with others.
Negative thoughts can have their place. They allow us to remember and/or imagine a poor outcome and therefore be cautious in a dangerous situation. For example, having learnt as a child not to put our hands into fire, our thoughts will automatically reinforce “that hurts” for our safety. Simply put, some negative thoughts can keep us safe.
Harmful negative thoughts
Unless very lucky most of us will have experienced harmful negative thoughts at some point. An inner voice that tells us ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘they won’t like me’ or ‘I can’t change anything’.
These are harmful negative thoughts. They do not keep us safe. Instead they trap us in a ‘reality’ of our own making.
When our inner voice gets stuck in harmful negative loops, this negativity feeds into our subconscious, which in turn reinforces the thought. The reinforced thought makes us feel worse about ourselves and therefore validates that thought as 'true'. Such negative thought loops become a vicious circle of negativity.
Often such loops can seem logically justified but remember, they are coloured by the negativity of the regularly reinforced statement.
Instead of keeping us safe, harmful negative thoughts damage our self-esteem and confidence.
Positive or negative?
Have a look at the post image. Some see the young hedgehog with water bowl as laughing, others as angry or ‘shouting’ - what do you see?
How do I use positive thinking to change my situation?
- Be mindful of your thoughts. It really is mind over matter…
Learn to identify the harmful negative thought loops stopping you moving forward. Good examples are the ‘shoulds’ & ‘shouldn’ts’. I.E. I should walk to work” or “I shouldn’t bother applying for that job, I’m not good enough”
- Change the thought.
The next time you catch yourself thinking “I should” or “I shouldn’t,” work on changing that statement to a more positive phrase. For example, the next time you’re tempted to say “I should exercise” (which implies that you don’t exercise or don’t really want to) change it. Choose something positive about exercise that is true for you. How about “I like the way I feel after I exercise”?
- Keep reinforcing the positive thought.
Positive thoughts travel into our subconscious as well as negative ones. Consciously revised thoughts may not ring true initially, but eventually they will feel true as you reinforce a positive loop and it feeds into your subconscious.
- Stick with it.
As with most new skills, it will be difficult at first but it does get easier as you get more practiced. The more you keep at it, the more benefit you will see. As you change your thoughts from negative to positive, you will find your general outlook becomes more positive, which in turn improves your self-esteem & confidence.
Positive thinkers’ enthusiasm often encourages others to chip in & help, whilst negativity drives others away - keeping us isolated and alone.
Still think it’s a bit ‘new age’?
Mindfulness of our thoughts influences our lives, interactions and opportunities.
Some years ago a study into luck found that whether an individual had good or bad luck was primarily due to the individual’s outlook.
Positive thinking people are much more likely to see opportunities as they come up, while if negative thinkers do see an opportunity, they are more likely to block themselves from exploring it by reinforcing a negative loop - "I can't do that" or "That might have worked for them but I'd be wasting my time".
Apply this to your own life.
You’re walking in a rut deeper than you are tall. Do you look up and see a way out or do you continue to trudge on, looking at your feet, thinking ‘nothing can change’?
It is possible to change our thoughts and therefore our outlook – I am happier and more content. I see the negatives but they no longer overwhelm me. By focussing on the positive, I have made lasting changes in my life.
Search online for more in-depth information on positive thinking.
Other strategies for coping during the lock-down
- Enjoy the little things.
We’ll all have more time on our hands. Use some of that time to appreciate simple pleasures. Whether the birds are singing or the flowers in your window box are beginning to bloom, take time to enjoy the little things that make us smile.
It isn’t unusual for your sleep patterns to be disrupted if you are out of your usual routine. This can leave us feeling exhausted and with low mood. Try to stick to your usual time of getting up, (unless this is very early). Endorphins make us feel good & are released during exercise, so you could use the morning to do your daily exercise..
- Reach out.
If you have the time, volunteer to be part of the support network in your area.
Not all help required will be outside the home. For example, befriending by telephone will be invaluable to those isolated alone in their homes. Your call could be a lifeline to someone else. Talking to others can also help put our own problems in perspective.
[if volunteering isn't for you, you can still reach out by talking to family or friends. Don't struggle alone]
- Remember to have fun!
Find something that everyone in the house can join in; whether board games, I-Spy or Wii, make time for shared fun... Whether games as a family or chatting with a close friend - laughter really is good for you!
Please note. This post is not meant to trivialise anyone’s situation during the Covid-19 outbreak.
If you or someone you know is battling depression or struggling to cope during the crisis, do seek help. The Mind website has great information & support.