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7 ways to stay positive (even if you don't feel like it)


It's very much part of human nature to be planning for and looking forward to things in the future.

Psychologists believe we actually spend up to half of our time contemplating what hasn't happened yet. It's one of the things that makes practices like mindfulness and meditation so difficult for some people - because their minds are constantly wandering off into the future, even if that's just thinking about what you need from the shops or what you might eat later that night, let alone daydreaming about your perfect house or where you might go on holiday if you had a sudden windfall.

Since we spend so much time thinking about the future, most of us are never happier than when we feel the future is brighter in some way or we're going to be a 'new improved' version of ourselves ("I'm going to learn a language/ lose a stone/ run a marathon/ become an amazing cook", sound familiar?) Even more key to that happiness is feeling that those goals, however challenging, might actually be within grasp as long as we do X, Y or Z - those possibilities could become real.

By contrast, feeling pessimistic or that we have little control over our lives and how we live them can be the perfect recipe for unhappiness.

The coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty it has created means it has been hard for many of us to stay positive and look forward. You might even feel like the future is really bleak at the moment, with few fun events in the diary and very little social interaction to break up our days from the monotony of work and home, and the same physical spaces with the same few people. Rather than actively looking forward to stuff we feel like we've been reduced to passively waiting for things to get better or "back to normal", whether that's falling infection rates or for a vaccine to be rolled out and fewer restrictions on our day-to-day lives.

While there's not much we can do to change the realities of the cards we're holding at the moment (even if having a Veruca Salt-style, foot-stamping, moment of tantrum might seem really appealing some days...), there are things you can do to adjust your mindset and how you might deal with these cards.

Read on to find out how:

Practise gratitude
Gratitude journals or letters have become increasingly popular in recent times and can supposedly lead to increased happiness and improved mental health. If you don't want to keep a journal, scrawling on a post-it note or simply taking a couple of minutes each day to remind yourself of one thing you have to feel grateful for can help train your brain to become more positive.

We all know that moving is good for us. At the moment, your gym will be closed or you might have restricted access to your favourite sport, but getting moving has proven benefits for your mental health and positivity. Try a walk, an exercise video, some yoga, or even setting a reminder to get up from your desk and do some stretches will all help you feel more yeh than meh...

Take time to notice
Wake up and smell the coffee! Or notice the birds in your garden, the sights and sounds on your lunchtime walk etc etc. The practice of being mindful helps to centre you in the here and now and, however momentarily, takes your mind off fretting about the future. There are lots of free apps on mindfulness - or you can sign up to one of LionHeart's free webinars on the subject (click here to find out more)

Make time to worry
It might sound completely counter-productive, but it's actually a practice that our counsellors recommend to some of their clients. The idea is that, instead of allowing worry and anxiety to creep into every waking moment, you allocate yourself a 15 minute slot where you actually allow yourself to focus on your worries and fears and really wallow in them. Giving yourself permission to worry - and the ability to 'postpone' that worry until a certain time of the day - will help you feel more positive during the rest of the day.

It can be the best medicine of all, known to lower stress and anxiety and lift your mood. Watch a daft film, take a cue from the kids in your life and let yourself laugh at something silly - even if you don't feel like laughing,, fake it till you make it (even if you're just laughing at the ridiculousness of making yourself laugh) We guarantee it'll make you feel more positive.

A blast of your favourite music can put you in a more positive frame of mind. Even better if you can dance madly round the room at the same time (which is how one of our LionHeart support officers starts her day after realising it gave her more pleasure than forcing herself out for a walk) Singing optional!

Covid restrictions/ lockdown might have changed the way we are able to connect with other people right now, but don't forget we are largely social animals and need interaction to maintain positivity. You might want to poke your eyes out when someone suggests (another) Zoom call, but it's really important to maintain friendships and working relationships however you can at the moment. Meet a friend for a walk (if rules allow) or have a group chat going on with some of your mates while you watch the same TV show or film.

  • Need someone to talk to? Call the LionHeart helpline on 0800 009 2960 (+44 121 289 3300 from outside the UK) and speak to one of our experienced support officers or counsellors

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