You can improve your mood and outlook by taking care of yourself. Meet your basic needs, stay connected, and think positively to best handle life’s stressors.
Recent events have been difficult for many people. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time in history humans have had to deal with stress, pandemics, and uncertainty in daily life. Over the centuries, our ancestors have frequently dealt with catastrophes, pandemics, and overall unpredictability.
The way we deal with unexpected stressors, large and small, makes all the difference. Here are some ways that can help improve your mood and outlook.
Treat Underlying Physical and Mental Health Issues
Sometimes, we may be more biologically prone to experiencing depression or other mental health issues, regardless of what’s going on around us. A qualified therapist or medical doctor can help you assess these needs, and find treatment. Likewise, biological conditions can affect mood, and interfere with your ability to cope. A doctor can rule out a medical cause if you’re experiencing lower mood than usual, mood fluctuations, or feelings of hopelessness.
Take Care of Basic Needs
Sometimes, when people are out of their normal routine, making more decisions than usual, or dealing with a change in responsibilities, they can forget the basics. Remember to regularly eat healthy meals, stay physically active, and get enough sleep.
Find Ways to Socialize
Humans are social beings. Too much isolation can make us vulnerable to depression and less able to handle stress. If you’re feeling cut off, remember many other people are in the same boat. Reach out to old friends, check on relatives, and find creative ways to stay connected. This might be through technology such as Facetime or Zoom, or through social video games.
Make Time for Recreation
When we’re dealing with serious situations day in and day out, it can be easy to forget about having fun. Make time to do something new, read a book, play games, or renew old hobbies. Or, take an online class and learn something entirely new. These activities are essential to long term wellbeing.
Research shows that those who stay more in touch with their thoughts, feelings, and experiences are able to handle stressful situations better in the long run. They’re less likely to face complications such as depression or post traumatic stress. You can begin to practice mindfulness through activities like yoga, meditation, or a mindfulness app.
Learn to Think Differently
Our patterns of thinking have a significant impact on our mood and outlook. When we are prone to think more negatively, this can lead to discouragement, poor stress management, and even depression. When we think more positively, we handle stress better, and tend to enjoy life more, even in difficult times.
Sometimes people naturally have either a more positive or negative outlook. However, even those who were born thinking more negatively can change these patterns. This is the goal of many cognitive therapies. These same tools can be useful even if you don’t struggle with mental health issues.
Ways you can improve your thinking patterns include:
- Notice and label emotions. Feelings are a natural part of being human. Allow yourself to have natural emotions, and validate whatever your experience is.
- Separate thoughts from feelings. While feelings come naturally, we have more control than we might realize over our thoughts. Once you identify the way you’re thinking, you can change it.
- Think in greys, rather than in black and white (absolutes). For example, a co-worker you find frustrating might also have traits you appreciate and value.
- Be your own cheerleader, rather than your own bully. Many people are harder on themselves than they would ever be on anyone else. The irony is, that this leads to discouragement. Rather than pushing you to be your best, your inner-bully is likely to leave you feeling down. Practice talking to yourself more kindly, as you would with anyone else.
- Look for the positives in a difficult scenario. Many situations may have a silver lining, or lead to a positive outcome eventually. Find ways to reframe disappointments and to learn from things that go wrong.
- Practice gratitude, and noticing the good. Those who regularly look for things to appreciate and be thankful for are shown to be happier and more content.
Find Your Meaning and Purpose
Even if there are currently limits to the way you can live your life because of the current situation, there are still many ways that you can make a difference to your own wellbeing, and to the wellbeing of others. Find what’s important to you, and what might be valuable to others. This might be through learning something new, raising money for a cause you believe in, or starting a new project from home. These things give us purpose, hope, and a positive outlook even in the most difficult circumstances, helping improve mood and outlook overall.