By Amanda Crawford
It seems hard to believe, but the one-year anniversary of when many Americans first learned of COVID-19 is fast approaching. After such a grueling year, many are experiencing an acute case of burnout. The term burnout comes from American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, who used it to describe a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by long-term stress. If this sounds familiar, you aren’t alone. A report by Harvard Business Review found that 85% of participants experienced some form of burnout. It would be unrealistic to ignore the challenges of the year, but that does not mean you should accept burnout as unavoidable. Rather, the widespread status of burnout should motivate you to make choices that will improve your day.
The most important time to feel better is when you feel your worst. Try to take a few minutes to add positivity to your life, and then slowly increase that time. COVID-19 awareness is important, but the pandemic does not need to be your every waking thought or conversation. In fact, being positive can prepare you to handle problems more effectively. The Mayo Clinic theorizes that “having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body.”
To help you develop a positive mindset, we’ve compiled a list of eleven simple ways to add positivity to your life.
1. Limit Your Intake
The 24-hour news cycle, social media platforms, and instant internet access through your cell phone allow you to be constantly informed. And while staying informed is important, it is not without consequence. The term “doomscrolling” refers to the act of consuming a large quantity of negative online news at once. This constant intake of negative information can lead to increased stress and mental health decline. Rather than falling into the scroll, or watching hours of news, choose a single source of information and a limited amount of time to spend on it. When that time is up, turn to positive media, like your favorite movie or a new fiction book.
2. Look to the Past
The term “unprecedented” was often used to describe the past 12 months. And while this year has posed many unique challenges, you have overcome challenges before. It is normal for a crisis to feel impossible to overcome. And yet you have likely faced crises, such as natural disasters, national tragedies like 9/11, financial recessions, or even personal familial losses. At the moment, those events likely felt insurmountable, but you persisted through. Let your resilience inspire you to keep going.
3. Watch a Funny Video
It may seem silly- and that’s exactly why you should take the time to laugh! Laughter has been confirmed by multiple studies to improve your mood, increase endorphins, and lower your blood pressure. Not to mention, these videos can let you take a moment to forget about current events. Start to bookmark your favorites so you can easily watch them again when you need to. And if you want suggestions, some of our favorites are animal-based, like this video of an adorable baby goat.
4. Look After Your Friends and Neighbors
When all news coverage is focused on problems, it can make you feel hopeless. But small acts of kindness can have a major impact on those around you. Whether you deliver groceries to an older neighbor, donate to a fundraiser, or just check-in on your co-workers, you are making other people happy and easing their burdens. This can also help you build a sense of community, and reminds you that others will assist in your times of trouble.
5. Support Your Favorite Local Businesses
Small businesses have faced large challenges this past year. Many have struggled to stay above water throughout economic downturns, mandated closures, and other restrictions. Your support can make a big difference. There are many ways to support local businesses without breaking the bank. Pick one day a week to have a take-out night. Not only do you get to enjoy delicious food, but your money also helps support your local community. Plus-no dishes! Picking up houseplants from a local nursery adds life to your home for less than twenty dollars. Or pick-up your favorite beverage from a local brewery or winery, and enjoy a relaxing night, all while helping your hometown.
6. Send Gifts In The Mail
“Quarantine Birthdays” may have become the standard, but that doesn’t stop us from missing big get-togethers with friends and cake. Something as simple as a card can be a reminder of your love for a friend or family member. We may not be able to celebrate the same way, but we can still brighten each other’s day.
7. Take Advantage Of Found Time
There’s a reason so many people got into baking bread and tie-dying at the beginning of quarantine. Many social events or avenues are no longer available, leaving a lot of us sitting at home on the couch. Picking up a new hobby or returning to an old one isn’t just a way to fill time. Hobbies have been found to reduce mental stress and improve self-worth. Not to mention, hobbies can help us improve skills or create fun and interesting things.
Some Hobby Recommendations
- If you love working with your hands- pick up an embroidery kit!
- If you got sick of making sourdough-learn how to make soft pretzels!
- If you miss going to bars- practice making mocktails at home!
- If you love pets- call your local shelter to see if they need volunteer dog walkers!
- Practice Random Acts of Kindness
People often underestimate the value of random acts of kindness. While grand acts are lovely and inspiring, you don’t need to go big to make a difference. Think about times you were cheered by something small- a compliment on your sweater, or someone bringing in baked goods for the office. As you go about your day, think about practicing acts of kindness- “paying it forward” in the drive-through, or liking a friend’s post on social media. These small acts can make a big difference.9. Take a Daily Inventory
Before you end your day and head off to bed, take a moment to reflect on the day. Close your day by thinking about something positive you have accomplished, learned, or are grateful for. It’s easy to focus on the negative- something awkward you said, a mistake you made, or an inconvenience you dealt with. But focusing on the positive will make it easier to face the next day, and will keep you centered on the good things in life.
10. Physical Exercise
It’s easy to neglect physical exercise, especially when life gets hectic and the weather becomes unpleasant. But setting aside time for exercise is well worth it. Exercise has great benefits for both your body and your mind. You don’t need to go to a gym or run a marathon to reap the benefits of exercise. Even a short, fifteen-minute workout can get your blood pumping and release endorphins. Not to mention, the Internet is full of easy, at-home workout videos that don’t require equipment.
The past year has been filled with negative messaging, whether on TV, social media, or even day-to-day conversation. In times like these, making a deliberate effort to introduce positivity to your life is essential. This effort doesn’t have to be overwhelming or impossible; but taking even five minutes to unplug, stretch, and smile can brighten your day. We hope this list offered some helpful tips to improve your outlook.