The past few years have been a whirlwind—and it’s not over yet. Not only are we now officially in year three of the pandemic, but we are witnessing troubling global events unfold in front of our eyes. While everyone is unique in how they manage through these difficult times, there are ways we can try to cope with seemingly endless trauma.
Though that might seem like an insurmountable task, you’d be surprised at the power of our own inner voices to battle negativity. Positive psychology can do wonders in helping us conquer our goals, alleviate negative thoughts and see our surroundings as potential boons rather than mood deflators. This is especially important as work and life become increasingly intertwined causing mental health issues to pervade into every aspect of our days. As Mental Health Awareness Month concludes, I’ve included some of my best tips on how to approach changing our mindset at home and work.
Approach Goals in a Different Way
Research suggests that it takes around two months to form a habit. While this may seem like a long time to stay consistent, there are small tips and tricks that we can use to remain on track.
Building micro-habits as opposed to attempting a new behavior for a significant time investment can help you maintain your new habits. Research also shows that people often make their goals way too difficult—and this is a major factor contributing to why so many people give up so early. Give yourself grace when thinking about your goals (which, by the way, you can absolutely reclaim at any time if you’ve fallen off track in the past!) and be realistic with your plans.
It’s also important to identify the meaning behind your goals if we want them to stick. For example, one common workplace goal is to show measurable success in a launch or long-term project. Expanding that goal to include the “why”—”I want to showcase why I deserve a promotion”—has meaning behind it and will help create actionable steps (like how to best keep organized and stay on track with this bigger picture in mind). Connecting our goals to meaningful reasons for having them will allow us to find motivation for difficult tasks.
Finally, ensuring our goals are measurable and tracking progress are critical steps to keeping a positive outlook. This allows us to acknowledge our progress towards goals and proves to ourselves that they are achievable. For extra motivation to stay on track and think positively around our goals for the year, find an accountability buddy—whether in your family or friend group, workplace or even online—who will check in with you periodically.
Think Positive, Be Positive!
It might be a cliché, but consciously working to reframe your thoughts in a positive way can be great for our relationships, careers, and friendships. While it’s important to honor your feelings whether good or bad, we also need to remember that “this too will pass” and ruminating on negativity can only breed more negativity. Conversely, dwelling on things with a positive mindset can do wonders for your mood and shine a light on the good in our lives.
A couple of actionable ways to quickly shift gears to positive thinking are by volunteering and expressing daily gratitude. Studies show that volunteering can boost positive thinking and can serve as an outlet to help others, and daily gratitude will put into perspective the good in your life. Looking at the big picture, finding meaningful connections with others, writing down the good in your life and honoring your feelings as tools to process situations are all great ways to approach daily gratitude and improve your overall outlook. Not only will these approaches help you at home, but they’ll help you arrive to the office (or your remote desk) refreshed and ready to start the day.
Take a Moment to Center Yourself
Everyone experiences moments where it feels like they’re stuck on a project and pairing this with normal stressors (and occasional frustration) of the workplace can lead to an inability to focus on the task at hand. These stressors are only exacerbated by the many negative world events occurring around us and any potential mental health challenges we’re facing in our personal lives.
It can sometimes feel like we need to be productivity machines, but we need to cut ourselves some slack. It’s important that we are patient with ourselves in times of stress and practice being more mindful throughout the day. This can include blocking time for lunch breaks or taking five minutes to center yourself with a guided meditation to help reframe your mindset. It’s a common belief that we can’t take breaks during work but establishing self-care practices and taking a step back can work wonders for our ability to focus throughout the day. Remember that stress is a normal part of life, and it serves an important purpose. By reframing feelings of stress to recognize that your body and mind are preparing for a meaningful task ahead, and our body’s stress response can be an advantage, you can actually be more focused, engaged, and confident.
Being positive doesn’t mean living in denial—though we are all facing an incredibly difficult situation, we shift our outlook to things that keep us going every day. Being realistic, approaching situations positively from the outset, and offering ourselves some respite from the daily grind will help rework our thinking. Regardless of how you approach your goals, remember to treat yourself with kindness.
Lindsay Henderson, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist and director of psychological services for telehealth platform Amwell. Previously, Dr. Henderson was a staff psychologist at McLean Hospital in the Boston area and a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.