While tough times can make it difficult to flip a frown, doing things that make you happy is a good place to start. To help you find the bright side during a difficult time, try the tips below and see how much better you feel.
1. Celebrate little wins.
We’re all prone to waiting for “big” moments, like a birthday, to make us happy. But why not reflect on the wonderful little things that are already happening right now? Made yourself an awesome breakfast? Pat yourself on the back and enjoy every bite. Thought of three things to be positive about today? Write them down in your journal.
2. Keep goals, inspiring images, affirmations, and uplifting quotes where you can see them.
Making a vision board, or a visual representation of something you’d like to achieve, can help you keep goals in sight and serve as an upbeat reminder that you’re moving in the right direction.
3. Lean into positive pick-me-ups.
Watching a feel-good flick, reading an uplifting book, listening to an inspiring podcast, or streaming a calming yoga class can improve your mood when you’re feeling stuck. The same goes for tuning into a few funny YouTube videos, amping up music that motivates you, or spending time with a pet.
4. Practice gratitude.
Counting your blessings boosts wellbeing and optimism. Write down three things you’re grateful for each day in your journal, on a chalk board in your kitchen or in notes on your phone, or thank someone who’s made a difference to your life with a message, call, or letter. The latter approach might sound dated, but research suggests that writing letters of gratitude to friends, family, and others can actually improve your own life satisfaction and happiness.
5. Connect with others.
Whether it’s cosying up on the couch with your partner or scheduling a virtual happy hour with your friends, spending time with people who make you feel good is a surefire way to improve your outlook, even when connecting virtually.
6. Tear up old grudges.
Think about how you feel when you’re holding a grudge: tense muscles and increased heart rate may come to mind. Try ridding yourself of those negative thoughts by jotting down how you feel. Then, when you’ve got it all down on paper, throw the note away and let go of the negative thoughts for good.
7. Note three things you accomplished today.
Lack of control can breed negativity. To keep this feeling at bay, consider what you successfully achieved over the course of your day: for instance, maybe you’re cooped up at home, but you woke up early to take a sunrise walk before logging into remote work. Or maybe you prepared a healthy lunch, or ticked an item off your to-do list. Practice this exercise daily to retrain the brain to focus more on highs rather than lows.
8. Spend time in nature.
The great outdoors improves your mood and cognitive capacity. Engage with nature in an activity such as gardening, and the benefits are more pronounced.
Mindfulness meditation reduces anxiety and stress. Use a CD, class, or app (such as Headspace ) to guide you. Or, bring your attention to the present moment and focus on your breathing, which can help you sidestep negative thoughts about the past and future. Start small: during your next 20-second handwashing, try to focus on the way the soap and water feel between your fingers while taking deep belly breaths.
10. Use mantras
Loving-kindness meditation is an approach that involves repeating mantras to direct well wishes to yourself (“May I be filled with ease”) and others (“May they be filled with ease”). The goal: to increase self-love, compassion, and other feel-good emotions. Give it a go!
11. Counter negative self-talk.
The next time you catch yourself critiquing your body, abilities, or situation, counter the impulse with several positive responses. So instead of hating on your haircut, reframe the thought to compliment your favourite feature.
12. Practice positive interactions.
Festering on a bad mood only brings you down, and because negativity can be contagious, the same goes for people around you. Fake it until you make it – let’s see that smile! – and you might feel better faster.
13. Approach your situation from a different perspective.
When you’re feeling particularly down on yourself, consider another perspective. Disappointed about seeing the scale go up instead of down? A friend might remind you how far you’ve come, and that one bad week doesn’t undo all that progress.
14. Help someone less fortunate.
Volunteering to help people in need is a technique is known as “downward comparison” meaning it helps you feel more grateful for the things you have. Grabbing groceries for an elderly neighbour or posting a get-well card to a friend feeling under the weather can do the trick. Or consider donating to help others in need.
15. Write yourself a love letter.
The next time you feel down or particularly self-critical, grab a pen and jot down all the things you love about yourself, then keep it close to improve your moods in the future.
16. Visualise your best possible self.
What does life look like if everything goes as well as it could – in one, five, and 10 years’ time? What’s happening? Who’s there? How do you feel? Mental imagery can help you keep your sights on your values and inspire you to go for it.
17. Go easy on yourself.
While setting goals can help put you on a productive path, overarching expectations can lead to feelings of failure that foster negativity. To remain realistic, make sure your goals are actionable: once you decide what you’d like to accomplish, determine what you’ll do to get there plus when you’ll do it, where, and with whom (if anyone).
18. Strive to be more than just happy.
Happiness is nice. But so is satisfaction, relaxation, generosity, contentment, and so on. Recognising a broader spectrum of moods and feelings can make you feel more satisfied with your current state, even if it’s not all smiles.
19. Set your intention.
Don’t think, “It’s going to be one of those days,” just because you’ve had a rough morning. If you think it will be a bad day, it probably will be. Instead, think: “Today will be a good day”, and focus on enjoying it.
20. Do something kind.
In a recent study at Yale University School of Medicine, those who performed small acts of kindness reported fewer negative emotions and lower stress levels. Enter, positivity!
21. Acknowledge others’ acts of kindness.
Fact: most people mean well. Recognising the good in others can increase your own sense of wellbeing.