As part of Mental Health Awareness Week some of our brave AO’ers are sharing their journeys and thoughts on the topic.
Today Sophie shares how she embraces the power of positive thinking.
Gentle reminder: you can be positive, happy and grateful, and still have not so good, awful or off days. Yes to thinking good thoughts, but also yes to acknowledging and feeling your feelings. You don’t have to pretend, and you don’t have to be perfect.
I can’t even tell you the amount of times I’ve had to sit myself down and remind myself of the above on days where I’m really kicking myself for being in a bad mood. Positive thinking is a huge thing for me; I live and breathe the importance of it. I am sure by now my friends and family are all sick of me saying ‘choose to be optimistic, it feels better’, but it really is the only way to keep yourself sane in times like these.
I love this quote as it really resonates with me. Just because I’m a positive person doesn’t mean I don’t have bad days and negative thoughts. It means that even when I am feeling a little low, I can acknowledge that the day wasn’t the best of days and I let myself feel sad for a while (normally with a Netflix binge and a tub of Ben & Jerry’s). Then I let those feelings go and move forward. I always adapt the mind-set that ‘it’s OK that you don’t feel great, tomorrow will be better’; so that the negativity doesn’t feel so overwhelming, to the point where it feels like there’s multitudes of bad thoughts pressing against my skull like overgrown flowers in a glass. It is as simple as this; your mind only waters the seeds that you plant, so filter the thoughts that you feed it.
This week it’s ‘Mental Health Awareness’ week, and I was asked to write this blog post to discuss some of the things I’ve been doing to keep myself feeling positive and thankful throughout lockdown. Isolation can be tough on your mental health, so it’s really important to make sure you’re looking after yourself, physically and mentally, so you’re being active in making sure this time of self-reflection is beneficial to you, rather than having a negative impact.
Stay in contact
With friends, family, the postman… anyone you would normally have regular contact with. It’s important to maintain a level of normality in such strange circumstances, as it really helps ease the feeling of loneliness during isolation. I’m usually a very social person, so being apart from my friends, family and colleagues has definitely been the hardest part of lockdown for me. However, there’s so many free video call applications you can use like FaceTime, Zoom & Skype which can really help you feel connected with those closest to you. I recommend getting a group of your closest friends/family together, arranging a date/time and putting together a quiz for everyone to take part in. Get the drinks flowing!
* Remember to check in on your inner circle who may be particularly vulnerable at this time. Remind them that they are not alone and that you care about them. Helping others is a known mood-booster.
Make time for the things that make your soul happy
You might find yourself with lots of extra time now you’re confined to the four brick walls you call home. Make sure you’re using some of it for a little bit of self-care. What do you love doing? What relaxes your mind? For me, it’s a hot bath, or sitting outside when the weathers nice, or spending hours searching through Spotify to find my next favourite album. These things make my soul happy, so I make time for them as much as I can. For you, it might be starting a new book, or listening to a podcast. Whatever it is that brings you joy, make more time for it!
Count your blessings
Find a silver lining in the forced removal from busy life. You can use this time to slow down and build mental strength. Instead of looking at this as a trap, use this time to focus on yourself, your aspirations and what will make you a better person post lockdown.
A huge part of being positive is being thankful for the things in your life, big or small, which are a blessing to you. We are incredibly fortunate in the position we are in, and very lucky to work for a company which was able to mobilise the entire business in a very minimal amount of time so that we could all safely continue our jobs whilst working at home. Having work to keep us occupied and our minds active is probably the greatest blessing I can take from this situation, as most of my family can’t say the same.
Not only that, but I’m healthy. My family are healthy. My friends are healthy. Don’t forget to be grateful for that! It’s so easy to forget how much of a blessing that is these days.
I recommend taking out a notepad and writing down 5-10 things that you are thankful for today. It’s a really good way to put the positive vibes out into the universe, and it’s also a good way to shift your mind-set into that of a positive thinker.
Look, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s OK if that bums you out a little. It does to me too. If you’re having days where you just binge watch Netflix and eat peanut butter out of the jar, that’s OK, nobody’s gonna judge you! We’re all handling this crisis differently, and some days it’s OK to just acknowledge that you feel a bit down about everything going on and just to try and survive till the end of the day. Go back to what I said at the beginning of this blog post. Yes to acknowledging and feeling your feelings. You don’t have to pretend.
That being said, we’ve been given a once in a lifetime opportunity here to develop ourselves in ways that usually we wouldn’t have the time or the energy for. You don’t need to completely turn your life around in order to feel productive, but try and do something once a day that makes you feel like you’re moving forward in a time where the world has stood completely still. For me, it was clearing out my wardrobes and drawers. Removing all the clutter from my life really helped me clear my mind, which in turn made me feel very blessed about the extra time I’d been given to boost my mental strength. Try find something to do that you may have been putting to the side for a while and get it done in your extra time! I promise you, you will be better off for it.
There are so many other ways you can practice mindfulness and positive thinking, and I could honestly go on about it for pages and pages. The main message I want you to take from this post is that the most important way to stay positive is to look after yourself. Not just physically, but mentally too. Take the time that you’d normally dedicate to social activities with your friends and dedicate it back to yourself. You do your best when you feel your best, so take care of yourself and watch everything else in your life blossom.
Your elevation may require your isolation.
Thanks for reading!