Staying positive can be tough even in the best of times, and now that we're in the middle of a pandemic, keeping a cheery or even just calm attitude can seem nearly impossible. Even if you are a pretty positive person overall, you will find it’s hard to keep your good mood for the past six months.
Dr. O'Neill, who's an assistant professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, explained that one reason it’s been hard for people to maintain a sense of peace during this pandemic is because it's forced many of us to actually act out behaviors that are typical of depression.
"A lot of the rules are mimicking depression symptoms,” Dr. O’Neill says. Imagine, people are being instructed to isolate themselves from loved ones and spend most of their time inside, with very little contact with the outside world. Stay at home isn't causing depression, but many of the social distancing regulations we're obeying to keep others safe may look a lot like depression symptoms. Also important, those currently dealing with depression, or others who have previously dealt with it, may feel extra challenged right now.
Dr. O’Neill gave some tips on how to lift our moods even just a little bit right now. Here are a few simple ways to do each day to keep your spirits stable during a time when things are decidedly unstable.
- Ask What Made You Happy Before This Started
It’s getting really challenging to remember a time before this pandemic started, but it can be helpful to think back to your normal routine, pre-pandemic, and question what it was that brought you joy. That will look different for everyone, of course.
Once you identify what made you happy before all of this, make a plan to do more of it. "It sounds simple,[but it's a type of treatment," says Dr. O'Neill. You can have extra 15 minutes to your outdoor run, or can FaceTime your besties a few more times a week. Think of what you like and want to do, and then do more of it.
- Remind Yourself of All You Have to be Thankful for
Bad news is everywhere right now, and if you spend any time at all on the Internet, you’re likely going to confront a lot of horrifying reports. But you can intentionally try to balance the scale of positive and negative news in your life.
For this, Dr. O’Neill recommends an app called Three Good Things. The app, she says, will remind you to log three things you’re grateful for every day. Anda you can journaling, but on your phone instead.
- Treat Yourself in the Morning
Being stuck in quarantine can cause you to develop a maddening sense of repetition. Getting up and doing the exact same thing day after day can be both exhausting and irritating, especially in the morning, when your'e waking up to this bizarre reality yet again.
A good way to counter this might be to treat yourself to something indulgent when you’re going about your morning routine. Dr. O’Neill recommends trying something you normally wouldn’t treat yourself to, like a spa-like shower instead of your normal 15-minute rinse off, so you start your day off with a positive outlook. You can also opt for a more mindful wake-up by starting your day with a morning meditation.
- Use Any Pent-up Energy to Your Creative Advantage
Doing something creative really can help you through this troubling time because it distracts you, especially if you pick a creative exercise that forces you to learn a new skill. “Creativity helps you focus on something that takes all your attention,” says Dr. O’Neill. If you’ve been meaning to teach yourself to knit, get to work on that coloring book, or dig into more creative writing, now’s the time to jump into it.
That said, don’t make whatever creative activity you try into a competitive exercise. Dr. O’Neill emphasizes that, while trying new things can be a refreshing distraction, it’s important not to get caught in the trap of comparing how you’re spending your quarantine down time with the way other people are spending theirs. Your number one priority right now should be keeping yourself healthy and well.