Any given day has about a hundred different stressors. Maybe you step in a puddle on your way out the door, or maybe you are facing something you really don’t want to do at work. It’s easy, especially in times of great stress or emotional distress to be bogged down by negative thoughts, and sometimes you end up in a rut it seems impossible to escape. In times like these, I turn my attention to tiny self care projects, little things that don’t take much time or effort but can be those small things I can do on a daily basis to not only lift my mood on a bad day, but do so consistently, and turn my mindset to a more positive one.
Go for a walk
Exercise releases endorphins, which can help with depression and negative thoughts, this is true. But sometimes, I don’t have time, or I’m not in a situation where I’m able to exercise consistently. What I can do, and what I like to do, is go for a nice long walk, usually between half and hour and an hour, to clear my mind. When I’m anxious, going for a walk is the perfect way to calm my mind down, because it gives me time to myself to sort out my thoughts and enjoy nature. I think much better when I’m outside. There’s something calming about the fresh air and the smell of plants that can open my thoughts and get me out of a spiral of anxiety. Plus, it is still releasing those endorphins I’m missing from an inability to go for a run or do yoga.
Employing mindfulness techniques when on a walk like this one can be a long term solution to managing negativity. When we teach ourselves to think about what’s immediately around us, the flowers, the trees, the sounds, the air, we’re breaking the cycle of negative thoughts. And when we then learn to appreciate the natural world around us, we begin to associate those things with positive energy. Going for a walk, experiencing nature and sorting out our thoughts with a therapeutic stroll through the world’s wonders gives us a more positive headspace. The office might feel stuffy and oppressive, but if we take time on our breaks to just walk outside, the mere experience of being in open air can trigger those positive associations. Going for a walk is easy, it’s calming, and it’s a great way to experience what’s around you.
Engage in a passion
In finding a passion, we are finding what makes us human. Understanding what gets us excited and what makes us want to get up everyday can inform why we exist on this earth and what we can contribute. Our passions are what make us human, they’re what make us want to get out of bed in the morning. Unfortunately, very few of us are actually able to make our passions an everyday activity. As much as I would love to play my flute all the time, I do have work to do. But if we allow ourselves to engage in our passions for a short time every day, we can become excited about the world again.
Take ten minutes out of your day to doodle something on a paper, or play music for a while, or add to your novel’s word count. How long you spend doing it can depend on the amount of time in the day, and some days there will be less time than others. But find a way to be able to do something you’re passionate about. You are human, and you deserve to feel like one. A happy one. So engage in something that makes you happy, for a little bit every day. It’s something we then get to look forward to, and something we can be grateful for. Gratefulness is a fantastic way to start thinking positively, and being grateful for the time you have in the day to do something you love is an excellent way to start.
Start something you can finish right now
One of the best ways to combat negative thinking is to accomplish something. A sense of accomplishment is a sense of confidence and pride in yourself and your abilities. It’s a great feeling. Starting something you can finish right now is a method of near instant gratification that will give you a sense of pride and accomplishment. One afternoon, I built myself a new desk. Another day I might do a 100 piece puzzle. These are small, simple things with a set end point that I can finish in a couple of hours, and when they’re done, there’s relief, there’s confidence. You have done something, you have finished something yourself. Perhaps the task you have completed wasn’t a very big one, but the fact is it’s done. Starting something you can finish quickly is a tiny thing you can do to give your pride and confidence a boost and give yourself a feeling of accomplishment to pull you through to the next day.
Journal your thoughts
Keeping a journal might seem like a rather childish thing to do, but sometimes, we need to get it all out there. Journaling is something that takes almost no time—you can write as much or as little as you want—that gets everything out of your head and into the physical world. Sometimes our thoughts swirl around our heads with no means of escape. Rather than wallowing in the sadness, however, getting these thoughts onto paper is a practical solution that can make a big difference. It is out, now. The thoughts are no longer trapped inside your head. This is an especially useful tactic for people who are uncomfortable expressing their thoughts to others, or don’t have an appropriate way to communicate their thoughts and feelings to other people. Dumping every negative thought in your head onto a piece of paper gets it out in the open. It’s a real, practical, immediate solution that makes you feel like you’re actually doing something constructive to combat the negativity. And the greatest thing about it is that if you do need to eventually go back and address these thoughts again, you don’t have to search through your memory for them. You do not have to hold on to the negative thoughts if you are able to journal them instead. They’ll be there for you to go back to, so for now, you can move on.
One of the greatest pieces of journaling advice I can offer, though, is not to focus exclusively on negativity. Doing so will not change the way you think but actually lock you into a cycle of writing down and dwelling on negative thoughts. The best way to combat this but still utilise the help journaling can offer is to write down one to three good things every single day. This is especially useful for people going through periods of anxiety or depression who feel like they can’t find anything positive in the day. There’s always something to be grateful for, even if it’s something good you ate today or a funny line you heard on TV. Writing down and keeping track of a couple of good things every day changes the focus of your thoughts from the negative aspects of the day, which you would have just purged from your mind anyway, and onto the positive things instead. IT switches the mechanisms in your brain and finds things to be grateful for. In doing this, we can see there are no days that are exclusively bad, and there is always light to be found even in the darkest of times.
Treat yourself—sometimes you need a break
Probably the easiest, but perhaps least accessible way depending on your work schedule, to focus on positive thinking is to treat yourself. This could be self care regimens, like a calming bath or a long hot shower, my personal favourite way of calming down. If you have a partner, and I know this sounds vulgar, but sex can be a great way to give yourself pleasure after a long day. But there’s an even simpler way to approach it, something we’ve all been doing since we were children-entertainment. Popping on our favourite movie or picking up a comedic book, especially one we’ve loved since we were kids, is a very simple way to put a smile on anyone’s face. You can even combine them—pour a glass of wine, get into a scalding tub and bring in your iPad, Kindle, or favourite book. Treating yourself to something entertaining or fun at the end of a long day is a way to unwind, that, like finding a passion, gives you something to look forward to and something to be grateful for. Engaging in something we love is an age old tradition of giving into positive thinking. We know what makes us happy, and if we allow ourselves to indulge in it occasionally, we can find our ways out of negative ruts and into a more positive headspace.
These are just a few little things you can do every day to think more positively. Everyone’s methods for approaching this are different, but it’s important to do a few things: allow yourself to do something you love, and find things to be grateful for. Mindfulness techniques can help, but sometimes we just need to give ourselves a break at the end of the day. However you decide to do it, try some of these little things, and enjoy the world from a more positive angle.