Without a doubt, 2020 has been a year filled with stress, loss, confusion, and fear.  At best, many have experienced an interruption in normal routines, schedules, plans, and celebrations.  In a year of upheaval, relentless challenges, and uncertainty, remaining optimistic may seem like an impossible task.  But optimism is a choice!

In Lamentations 3:22-23 we are reminded of God’s ceaseless faithfulness:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

This reminder coupled with the following seven strategies will help shift you to a “glass half full” mentality:

1. Stay in the present, remaining mindful.

Mindfulness is a technique to awaken to life’s experiences, instead of letting life slip away without living it.  Try hitting the ‘pause button’ and rest in the moment, knowing the love of the Lord is steadfast!  Personally, I have discovered some new hobbies such a painting-by-number and rediscovered some long-forgotten ones such as needle work.  Both of these hobbies allow me time to just be in the moment, without worrying about tomorrow.

2. Both positive and negative emotions are contagious! 

We have all been around individuals that are upbeat and positive.  You may find yourself wanting to spend more time with them. That’s normal because you likely feel better…a bit ‘lighter’ when you are with them.  The opposite can be said for time spent with those that are consistently negative or cynical.  While it is completely normal to have both positive and negative emotions, being mindful of the company you keep will have a huge impact on your ability to remain optimistic.

3. Acknowledge negative events and determine what you can and cannot control…then move on.

Too often we find ourselves worrying about what may or may not happen in the future or ruminating about the past.  By learning to master what you can control and letting go of all the stuff you can’t, you begin to break the cycle of worry that can rob you of joy.  During the pandemic, acknowledge the negative impact on your life but then focus on what you can control.  You have control over more than you may realize!  Here are a few examples of what you can control:

  • Your decisions to limit the spread of the virus such as wearing a mask, diligence with physical distancing, avoiding large crowds, especially indoors, and other hygiene practices.
  • Self-care routines to bolster your physical, mental, and spiritual health such as making healthy food choices, getting the optimal amount of sleep, engaging in regular physical activity, working to foster an optimistic attitude, and setting aside dedicated time for purposeful prayer and quiet time with the Lord.

4. Perform random acts of kindness.

You’ve probably heard of or perhaps you’ve been a recipient of a RAK…when the car in front of yours at a drive thru coffee shop randomly pays for your order.  Did you know that kindness has been reported to increase the production of ‘feel good’ hormones, foster happiness, energy, and pleasure, and may even prolong your lifespan? Check out Random Acts of Kindness.org for details. Here are some ideas for RAK:

  • Send a handwritten note to a friend or family member instead of a text
  • Deliver groceries to someone that is homebound
  • Purchase, or if you are really talented, make a fun face mask and give it to someone
  • Let someone cut in line in front of you
  • Let someone into your lane of traffic

5. Keep a gratitude journal.

I often find myself saying, “Things could be worse.”  This helps me focus on what I’m grateful for even if it is only that it’s not worse.  Taking just a few minutes at the end of the day to jot down something you are thankful for…something that made you smile or something funny that made you laugh today can reduce stress, help you feel more relaxed, and provide a reminder of simple but important blessings in your life.

6. Avoid All-or-None Thinking.

Using words like “always,” “every,” and “never” are common examples of overgeneralizing a situation, event, or action.  This type of broad language can bring about negative and pessimistic thinking.  Try reframing all-or-none thinking by using more realistic language.  Here’s an example: “Everything is terrible now.  There’s no hope” to “Many things are different now but I’m taking it in stride.”  This simple adjustment in language acknowledges both the disruption and your ability to adjust during the pandemic.  See the difference?

7. Remain informed but do so wisely. 

Get your news from credible news outlets, making it a priority to seek truth over sensationalism.  Think critically in order to weigh the evidence from credible authority figures and pay particular attention to how you perceive and respond to news and social media posts.  Living through an emotionally-charged and highly-politicized pandemic, try posting some uplifting, nice comments on social media.  We can all use a dose of optimism and reasons to celebrate life!

UMHB is the university of choice for Christian higher education in the Southwest. If you are looking for a place to receive an education for life and an experience of a lifetime, UMHB would be a great fit for you! Check out our website for more information, or stop by any time for a campus visit to learn more!