“It’s possible to train yourself to be more optimistic”
The bad news is that, no matter how relatively good or bad your situation is, there are always things to stress out about. On a micro level there are personal hardships like bad relationships and job insecurity; on a macro level it’s impossible not to have anxiety about things like climate change, political unrest, and rampant corruption and discrimination. The good news is that there are many tools we can apply to help lift our spirits in the face of adversity to more effectively take on life’s challenges.
Align your wanting system with your goals
For starters, happiness expert Laurie Santos, a professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale University, highlights that research has shown that 30 minutes of cardio is as good of a mood-booster as a prescription of the anti-depressant Zoloft. The problem is that people aren’t naturally wired to want to move – and certainly not to want to move as much as they want to sit on the couch scarfing down Oreos or Lays. The answer? Work on not only being more mindful about what you want and like, but on the response that will be elicited when you give into those desires. This will help your “wanting” system start to align better with your goals. beRevolutionarie founding trainer Kate Kerner agrees. “Maintaining a healthy lifestyle fuels my mind, body and soul – when I eat food that makes me feel good, I am happy.” Next time you’re thinking of skipping your cardio session think about how you will feel after if you opt to sit on the couch and mindlessly eat instead.
Perform random acts of kindness
The research shows that when you force people to do something nice, they report being happier than when you force them to do something that would benefit themselves. Why? Kindness helps with social connection, and meaningful social connections at that. It also helps people turn outwards and unlike that new gadget you spent a week’s salary on, acts of kindness don’t get old after a week or two. Muhammad Ali said it best: “service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” The best part? Research shows these acts of kindness don’t need to be big, grand gestures – they can be as simple as helping an elderly person carry their groceries up a flight of stairs
Carve out time to be more mindful
This doesn’t mean you need to do an hour-long morning meditation – or even 10-minutes. If all you can carve out is a minute, so be it. Use that minute to reflect on everything you’re grateful for and set intentions for the coming day can help things shift. This is also a great time to think about all the people you love and to send positive energy towards them. Again, social connection is key for a positive outlook.
Practice deep belly breathing
Meditation and mindfulness tie into deep belly breathing – something you can hone with many beRevolutionarie videos. Why is it so important? Deep belly breathing allows you to scientifically hack your nervous system. When you’re stressed or anxious your body gets into ‘flight or fight’ mode, which means it’s basically preparing itself to be chased by a tiger (or in non-ancestral terms, preparing itself for getting in trouble with the boss, getting COVID-19, etc.). “It’s flooding our body with stress hormones. It’s actually causing us to tighten our muscles so they’re prepared to run away,” explains Santos. “The ‘fight or flight’ system is meant to be activated in tiny, short bursts when there is a real emergency, but many of us are activating it chronically.” Regulating breath, in essence, tricks your body into thinking the threat is gone and that actives that parasympathetic system, which will help put you in ‘rest and digest’ mode.
Create a routine
“I love to keep a routine,” says Kerner. “My mornings always consist of a warm cup of coffee followed by a good sweat. Whether it’s a spin, boxing, or yoga class I find that movement is my ultimate source of therapy.” Adding in social interaction – even if via Zoom – will help tremendously especially these days when we’re home more and don’t have the opportunity for spontaneous interaction.