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Stuck in a rut?
Just as we thought we were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with this pandemic, another wave is upon us, which has caused many of us to feel helpless.
But even though this is a truly devastating time in history, you still have some control over your life.
In this article, we will look at 35 things you can do right now that will have a significant positive impact on your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Let’s get started.
Writing a list of things you’re grateful for has been proven to be helpful in feeling a greater sense of happiness about life. This life-changing activity simply involves writing down things about your life that come to mind that you appreciate and you feel thankful for. You can always come back to this list if you’re looking for some inspiration or if you need a pick-me-up.
So grab some paper and start to identify and write down some positive things going on in your life–doing so will significantly improve your emotional well-being.
You can create goals for any area of your life that you see fit. Once you do, you will feel a greater sense of purpose, as you will have identified something that you’re working toward to improve your life in some way.
Setting SMART goals will help guide your focus toward new helpful behaviors, and get into new habits that will allow you to sustain your positive momentum in life. Once you set your goals, you’ll be able to manage and improve the components of your life that are the most important to you.
Resource: Here are 35 examples of SMART goals for all areas of your life.
Relax for a minute. A lot of us are so crunched for time that we never take a minute to stop. But you can’t perform at your best if you don’t take the time to disconnect for a few minutes and recenter yourself.
Working continuously without taking short breaks will ultimately lead to burnout. Giving yourself breaks will help you stay satisfied with your job, reduce exhaustion, and help you stay tuned-in all day so your work doesn’t start to suffer.
Resource: Try some of these fun activities that you can do with friends online while you take some time for yourself during the day.
What you do in the morning really sets the tone for your day. If you start your day rushing around, you will probably continue to feel that sense of urgency all day without ever feeling truly caught up.
Feeling better about life in general starts at the smaller level of feeling better about each individual day–and you choose how to start each of those days. Having a morning routine that incorporates positive habits will overflow into other areas of your life, making it comprehensively beneficial.
Resource: Here are seven steps to starting a good morning routine.
Learning something new is an empowering undertaking that you can do right now to feel better about life. Learning helps increase self-confidence and your ability to be autonomous. When you learn new things, you gain the power to make achievements on your own, which will make you feel capable of anything.
Plus, deciding to learn something new is exciting because there are endless skills and talents you can choose to discover. And when it’s something you’re interested in, you’ll enjoy the process of learning, not just the end result.
Resource: Here are 101 skills you can learn today.
Remember: You choose your mindset. You can choose to be negative about life or choose to look for the silver lining in everything. By thinking positive thoughts, you can attract the things that you want into your life. And, being optimistic is an important component to managing and reducing stress, which is a big factor in your satisfaction with life.
When you practice self-love, you put your emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing ahead of anyone else’s. While this may sound selfish, you can’t take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself.
Practicing self-love will motivate you to make healthy and beneficial choices that nurture you and serve you well.
Resource: Here is how you can show yourself some love.
You will certainly begin to appreciate your life more if you spend some time serving others. Especially if you’re able to help people who are less fortunate than you are, you will recognize how valuable your time is and it may help to put some things into perspective. Plus, volunteering can help you meet new people, and making new connections is a great way to brighten up your life a bit.
Resource: Check out VolunteerMatch to help you find opportunities to volunteer your time in your city.
Our everyday crises can feel all-encompassing, especially if they overlap into some new territory that we haven’t yet explored. But instead of feeling overburdened by obstacles, remember that whatever you’re facing will pass…just as all of the hurdles of the past are now history.
Don’t dwell on thoughts driven by fear or anxiety. Rather, focus on what you know is true and find comfort in the fact that whatever stress you’re facing will–at some point–be a thing of the past. In the meantime, you need to trust the process.
Resource: Here are seven steps to help you overcome obstacles.
Why specifically a coworker and not just a personal friend? Your professional life can become much easier and more fun if you have positive relationships with those around you.
Humans are naturally social, so if you’re working 40 hours a week, it’s important to engage in social interaction during that time so you can fulfill your natural craving for connection. The positive relationships that you can develop by grabbing a drink or a coffee with a coworker off the clock will make you happier at work, which will in turn make you more productive as well.
Resource: Here are some interesting questions that can help spark a conversation with a coworker.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the fact that working out can help improve your life because it increases endorphins and releases dopamine, adrenaline, and other feel-good chemicals. It also helps reduce anxiety and fight symptoms of depression, which will help you feel confident, capable, and ready to take on the day, no matter what obstacles you’re facing. And, when you’re physically fit, you just feel better overall, which can be a relief in itself.
In order to feel better about your life, you have to live it for yourself, not for someone else. The truth is, sacrificing yourself in order to please others will eventually cause you to stop authentically caring for people and hinder your ability to form close relationships. While caring for others is a noble thing to do, it can turn toxic and unhealthy.
Resource: Practice these habits to stop being a people pleaser.
Which leads me to…
Be genuine to who you are by not trying to fit into a mold of society or live up to others’ expectations. You know yourself better than anyone else, and by showing others what a unique individual you are, you will gain respect for your confidence to live your life on your own terms.
I know whenever I call my best friend I will end up laughing, no matter how many things are going wrong in my life. Think of the person who easily makes you laugh or the television show that you can always count on to make you chuckle–no matter how many times you’ve seen the episode–and make the connection.
The relationship between nature and happiness has been researched extensively, and study after study have come up with the same conclusion: spending time in natural spaces can not only make you happier, it can also help you live longer. Exposure to nature contributes to your physical wellbeing by helping reduce your blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and stress hormone production. Whether you’re getting exercise or trying to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the office, being in nature can do wonders for your well-being.
Resource: Here are 17 outdoor hobbies that will allow you to spend more time in nature.
Among the most common regrets at the end of life is, “I wish I hadn’t spent so much time working.”
If your whole life revolves around your job, where are you making room for yourself? I think the adage of “work to live, don’t live to work” is an important one and one that we often forget. Remind yourself of your priorities and values and remember that it’s important to spend time with those who you work so hard to support.
Resource: Check out these hobbies that you can do as a family.
Listening to happy music can instantly put you in a good mood by releasing dopamine in your brain. Plus, studies have found that people who intentionally listened to positive, upbeat music for two consecutive weeks experienced improved moods and reported higher levels of happiness at the end of the trial period.
Listening to some upbeat music is a great way to start off your day on a positive foot and feel inspired to do good work.
Resource: Here are 52 motivational songs to start your day with.
We’ve talked about how the people you surround yourself with the most have a huge impact on your life. Being around people who are toxic introduces chaos and negativity into your existence.
So instead, make sure that you’re spending your time with people who motivate and inspire you and make you feel good about yourself. You won’t be able to help but feel good about life if you’re surrounded by people with an optimistic outlook who are creating a life full of happy memories.
Resource: Here are 15 warning signs you’re dealing with a toxic person.
I know it’s very easy for other people to instantly determine what type of day I’m having by simply looking at me. If I’m stressed out, I’m probably either working with my head in one of my hands or sitting at the edge of my seat with both of my shoulders raised.
Your body language sends a message to your brain to impact how you’re feeling. So if you can physically relax, it will help you get into the mindset of being mentally relaxed as well. Start by noticing your posture. If you sit up straight with your shoulders back when you feel stress coming on, it can boost self-esteem and have a positive impact on feelings of depression.
Resource: Here are some tips on improving your posture.
Releasing positivity into the world by doing a random act of kindness will help you feel better in return. When you do something nice for someone, it activates the part of your brain that’s referred to as the “reward center” because this is where pain-relieving chemicals (i.e. dopamine and oxytocin) are created before being dispersed throughout your body.
And not only will you feel better, the recipient of the act will also benefit, which can increase their likelihood of being kind to others as well. When kindness is spread and there are more positive interactions among people, we can live with less stress and more life satisfaction.
Resource: Here are 115 ideas of random acts of kindness that you can do.
Put a positive attitude about yourself and your life into the world by saying things out loud that will help reduce stress and make you feel good about yourself. Affirmations are positive statements that can help you overcome negative or self-sabotaging thoughts. When you repeat your affirmations often, you will begin to believe them, which can mark the start of making some positive changes in your life.
Resource: Here are 1,132 positive affirmations for you to recite.
Find a good friend or loved one and ask for a hug. The act of giving hugs has been shown to be very beneficial to one’s health by reducing stress, improving feelings of trust, and increasing the levels of oxytocin in the body. Hugging can also strengthen your immune system, making you less prone to becoming sick.
Resource: This Hygge lifestyle may be one key to happiness.
When you do something that you’re naturally talented at doing–whether that’s dancing, cooking, or anything else you enjoy–you will enjoy yourself and feel a sense of competence and achievement. Also, when you embrace the things you’re good at doing, you end up engaging with your passions, which ultimately makes it easier to build your life around the things you love and do well.
Resource: Here are five steps to finding your strengths in life.
Sure, the easy choice is to avoid challenges and difficult situations in the short term. It helps you feel safe in the moment and it spares you from extending any excess mental or physical energy.
But in the long term, avoiding challenges can backfire because doing so only reinforces any underlying fears and prevents you from ever moving past your doubts. Avoiding challenges teaches you that the only way to cope with hardships is to avoid them– and that’s simply not true.
Facing challenges will stimulate learning and growth in a way that taking the easy way out never will. Working your way through tough times will help you build resilience and show you that you can learn from your struggles. This will ultimately help you create a solid foundation to achieve success later on in life.
You have to take care of yourself first, no matter what you have going on in your life. Practicing self-care can help you build resilience so when you face stressful situations in the future, they won’t have such a strong impact on your life. For the immediate future, engaging in self-care has been proven to fight anxiety and depression, reduce frustrations, improve concentration, mitigate anger, and increase energy.
Resource: Here are 275 self-care ideas to help you deal with life.
When you have compassion for other people, it will help you feel better about yourself. Pick anyone, whether it’s a friend, family member, or co-worker, and send them well-wishes to be happy and live in peace. Doing this can actually help you feel better about your own life.
Having compassion allows us to connect with other people, repair relationships, and live with a strong sense of emotional intelligence. Having compassion for others is more than just being empathetic to their struggles–it fosters a desire to help all people be free from suffering.
Is there a small task that has been lurking on your to-do list for a while now? Something that you keep pushing off to the next day or the next week? For me, this is usually something like responding to a non-urgent email, replacing a light bulb, or making an annual appointment. The satisfaction you will get from completing these small, nagging tasks can help give you that boost of momentum you need to get these pesky things out of your life…for now.
Feeling well physically is a big part of feeling good about your life overall. And a big part of this is properly fueling your body with the nutrition that it needs. Making healthy choices about what you eat by eating whole foods like nuts, fruits, whole grains, and vegetables, can help you feel positive about doing something good for yourself, which will in turn boost your self-esteem.
And of course, a good diet will allow your brain and body to work efficiently, too. In fact, a 2016 study found that eating a high-sugar diet can trigger symptoms of depression, mood disturbance, and fatigue.
Resource: Here are 56 healthy snack ideas.
Every part of your body–your joints, organs, and muscles–all work in tandem and concurrently with each other to allow you to function as well as possible. While unnoticeable to you, your body works tirelessly every day, so it’s important to take care of it.
Taking a break to stretch your muscles–from your neck and shoulders all the way down to your toes–can help reduce stress in the moment and send some much-needed blood throughout your body. It can also give you a boost of energy and help you stay alert throughout the day.
Turn off your auto-pilot for a minute and give yourself a chance to do nothing wrong. When you engage with your creativity–whether that’s by writing a short poem or drawing a little picture–you exercise your problem-solving skills in a new way that allows you to approach situations from new angles.
Being creative allows you to see things in a new light and handle uncertainty with more confidence as you adapt your thinking to make some room for unknown factors. Creativity will also boost your confidence because it will help you perceive failure as a survivable–and even beneficial–undertaking that can ultimately improve your work, allowing you to try new things despite the risk of failing.
Resource: Here are 21 creative hobbies to try.
Social media has been found to significantly increase stress for several reasons. First, it is often used as a platform to vent, so as you’re scrolling through your feed, you’re likely to come across other people’s pleas to join them in their frustrations.
People also typically compare their lives to those of their friends through the lens of social media, which only portrays a literal snapshot second of their bigger picture, which can be very misleading. This distorted view of reality can be a cause of depression.
We have all experienced something in life that has been hard–if not seemingly impossible–to let go of. However, continuously reliving the pain of past circumstances will prevent you from ever moving on to be able to experience real happiness. If you can choose to let go of past grievances, you will start to feel free from the burden, allowing you to live a peaceful life while you begin to heal.
This simple task can have a huge impact on your mental health and productivity. It will immediately reduce stress, decrease feelings of being overwhelmed, allowing you to regain a sense of control. Creating an organized space will give you the time, energy and clarity that you need to improve your motivation, happiness, and general feelings of well-being.
When it has been a few nights since I have had a restful sleep, I start to feel awful– both mentally and physically. If you’re not feeling great about life, do a self-check to determine how much sleep you’ve been getting and if you’re giving your body enough rest to deal with your everyday schedule.
Resource: Check out these tips on how to get a better night’s sleep.
Practicing mindfulness is a convenient way to increase your happiness no matter where you are. Our busy lives are packed full of worries about the future or regrets about the past, which means we're often not paying attention to the world around us. There's actually a lot of good stuff going on that we miss–including making our own thoughtful choices.
When you’re mindful, you’re fully aware of your surroundings as well as what’s going on inside–your thoughts and feelings–and choosing what you attend to. Mindfulness allows you to live healthier, be less impacted by stress, relax, be more creative, sleep better, and feel happier with your life.
Practice some of these activities today to help you feel better about your life. Pick a few until you find what really resonates with you, and then continue to practice that on a regular basis. Soon you will be able to see that you still have some control over your life and you can certainly control how you feel about your existence.
Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.