Do you believe in manifestation? The idea of creating a physical reality through thought, feelings, and beliefs? I have spent lots of time pondering this concept.
Quarantine was a really intimidating reality at first. For me, it meant being alone and still needing to function normally.
My biggest worry was that being left to my own devices would be a downward spiral: all the time I’d spent working on being OK with being "alone" was just going to dissipate into a profound loneliness.
I love being alone, don't get me wrong, but I feel like Harlow's monkey dependency experiment rings especially reliable in this time: I would starve for someone to hold me right now.
Positivity is a habit, and if you struggle with incessant negativity, learning to think positively can be a matter of breaking the habit of mentally resorting to the “worst-case scenario.” Being mindful of the pitfalls in reality isn’t unhealthy, but learning to tend toward optimism is simply a matter of reprogramming yourself.
Reframing the meaning of your situation is the juice to facilitating positive thoughts and living lighter. Quarantine may feel like a cage where you ruminate on what life could have been. Instead, redefine: Quarantine is an excuse to participate in a transcendent growing period. I have had a few of these before (getting over my ex was something out of a coming-of-age movie).
Riding the daily wave of life while overcoming stressors feels like the saying “up a creek without a paddle.” Mental health issues, or just general moodiness, can bring on unsettling awareness of disorder in your life.
In moments when stress takes control and you’re struggling to find grounding, tell yourself to let go of your expectations and let in the possibilities.
“Facilitating a better environment for positivity starts internally,” Kaleb Germinaro, a UW Ph.D. student in the learning sciences and human development program, said. “Your mind is a powerful tool; how you react to your situation can be a game-changer.”
Unfortunately this is easier said than done, as positivity is not something that comes naturally in times of uncertainty.
Positivity is an active choice, but don’t be intimidated by this. Eating vegetables, going for a run, starting your essay, and sometimes even breathing all depend on active choices.
According to an article in The New York Times on the power of positivity, “There is now biological evidence to suggest that optimism can have a direct impact on health, which should encourage both the medical profession and individuals to do more to foster optimism as a potential health benefit.”
Start recognizing patterns of thinking as subjective: there is not necessarily one “correct” way to think about a situation.
Missing events you imagined since you were little, like commencement, is a tragedy. Acknowledge that pain, and remind yourself: this is not easy. Regardless, you worked your ass off and got your degree despite the hellscape that is the UW’s GPA grading scale and there will be so many opportunities to celebrate soon.
This does not mean your feelings of despair around losing your job are invalid. Your anxieties and negative feelings should be addressed, but give them permission to err on the side of hope.
Be affirming with yourself. Optimism is not faking happiness, it's finding a silver lining so that when the stressors subside and COVID-19 news headlines begin to dissipate, there is a soft place in your heart for the leftover pain to reside.
Practice breaking the cycle of negativity you find yourself in. Take a step back from whatever you’re dealing with and slow down your thinking. If your to-do list is suffocating you, make it smaller.
“Experiencing constant stress all the time is not OK, so try and find the little wins and let yourself know, this time is not about productivity,” Germinaro said. “It’s hard at first, but it’s really beneficial long-term.”
Setting small goals can generate the same feelings of accomplishment as big goals, whether those be making your bed, downloading a meditation app, folding your laundry, or just getting out of bed before 10 a.m.
The coronavirus is the bane of human existence right now. Living with this reality is already a threat to our health, even before factoring in the risk of high levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body.
“Be patient with yourself,” Germinaro said. “Self-love can mean not going to a meeting and just lying in bed. That’s a win.”
Interested in finding out more about how to practice optimism and wellness? Visit the Health & Well-Being Resource Library. Here there are videos and podcasts about current wellness issues, including articles and information about a wide variety of medical and mental health topics.
Reach writer Beth Cassidy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @serotoninprince
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