We must continue to force ourselves to look at the bright side especially during these hard times of COVID-19. It is often easier to hyperfocus on the negative aspects since we are continuously flooded with “Debbie Downer” news stories. Before we know it, our anxiety and fear are heightened and then we have a hard time coming out of it on the other side. 

Tell yourself “ENOUGH!” Let’s practice letting in the light! A simple reminder of the good things we currently have going on in our lives is essential for positive mental health. This month, the students at my school are focusing on the character trait of “caring.” This trait encompasses many areas including gratitude for yourself and for others. Across the nation, we are also showing our appreciation for teachers since Teacher Appreciation Week falls during this month. And a bonus? The art of practicing internal peace and satisfaction releases endorphins that make us feel good about ourselves.

Phase One: Self-Reflection

Remember: you can’t help others unless you help yourself first. The act of practicing mindfulness can ease feelings of fear and loneliness, lower anxiety and impulsivity, and recharge your brain leading to better mental and physical health. When you are at ease with yourself and your thoughts, others will follow in the same demeanor. 

Here are some tips:

  • Carve out a chunk of time in your daily schedule.

  • Locate a physical area in your home that best allows you solitude.

  • Focus on your breathing.

  • Allow only 2 to 3 minutes to reflect on any negative thoughts.

  • Move into positive thoughts. Stay in the here-and-now. 

  • Express gratitude to yourself (positive affirmation statements).

  • Set a goal for how you will spread positive thoughts to others.

Phase Two: Pay-It-Forward

Once you have centered yourself, you can then move into the next phase of spreading the wealth. Positivity breeds positivity!

Think about what impact you can make on others and what areas you want to focus on dependent upon need. People often appreciate the smaller more thoughtful gestures, so don’t think you have to go big or go home! Just a simple smile while crossing paths with another person at the park can go a long way and change someone’s entire day. This week I am having my students write three kind notes to neighbors to leave in their mailboxes. It’s challenging not to feel recognized and appreciated when someone goes out of their way to do something nice for you.

If you don’t want to leave the house, there are many great ideas regarding virtual acts of kindness. You can even adopt a grandparent online and schedule daily or weekly chats with that individual. My heart is smiling right now just thinking about it! You can FaceTime with family members you haven’t been able to travel to see in a long time even before COVID-19. You can reconnect with friends and reminisce on past funny stories. There is no limit to the amount of creativity you can find to brighten someone else’s day. 

The more you open up your heart to yourself and others, the more light you let in and out to shine! Step back and show gratitude for all the awesome things going on in your life and all across the world! Your mental health depends on it!