It’s the beginning of February, which means many are falling prey to the drear and the cold. In a tense geopolitical climate along with pressures of your job, relationships, and family, it can become easy to fall into a negative and worried headspace. Since most of us have probably abandoned our New Year’s resolutions, perhaps it’s time to start a new approach this month to avoid toxicity and do what we can to banish negativity in our lives. Sending out good vibes is the best way to create a positive environment for yourself, those you love and the world in general.
Cultivate a meditation practice
Setting aside just five minutes of your day to sit and breathe can have a huge impact on your mental state. Meditation is an ancient practice with well-documented benefits from reducing stress to improved cardiovascular and immune health. Besides these benefits, this simple action can increase self-awareness and allow you to see where you’re holding onto unnecessary negative energy. It can also open your eyes to an unacknowledged pain that may need to be worked through. Finding these emotional hangups and just being with your feelings is one of the most effective ways to heal past trauma, allowing you to make room for happier, healthier thoughts and live a more fulfilling and grounded life. Many have a hard time establishing a meditation practice because they feel like they aren’t doing it right, or claim that meditation is too boring. Allowing the thoughts and the boredom to come is all part of the practice and doesn’t make you “bad at meditation.” The most important thing is to just stick with it, like anything, practice makes it easier over time.
Start a gratitude journal
A journaling practice is another effective tool for getting more in touch with your emotional state of mind, but a lot of people have trouble putting pen to paper and getting started. A great way to get into a writing habit is by making lists. Starting with the topic of “Things I’m Grateful For” and writing down three things every day is a quick way to infuse your day with optimism. The human brain is naturally more inclined to worry and think negative thoughts, and the more often we think these thoughts the more we reinforce our neural pathways, making us even more likely to jump to negative conclusions. In order to combat this tendency, it’s really important to acknowledge the good in our lives, from the big things like health and loving relationships to the silly things like a good coffee or your favorite TV show releasing a new episode.
Yes, it’s cold outside. No, you don’t have to force yourself to go outside if it’s raining and gross. However, the therapeutic effects of nature and the beauty of the natural world can do wonders for your well-being. Combined with the physical benefits of a simple walking practice, just getting out of your apartment and finding a nearby park is a great, free way to improve your mood. For bonus points, take a walk without listening to any music–observing the world and listening to your breath is a form of walking meditation. If you must listen to something, listen to music not news, this is your chance to unplug from your screen and the flood of information you are bombarded with every day.
Almost everyone has that nagging inner critic in their head. It constantly makes you feel inadequate and bad about yourself, whispering negative thoughts about yourself and hitting your most vulnerable points. It is vital you do everything you can to ignore that voice. You are not wrong for having it, but listening to it will not serve you in any way. Giving credence to that inner critic just adds stress, anxiety and depression. Instead, focus on what you admire in yourself. Combatting the inner critic by celebrating your accomplishments is an important way so show self-love. These positive thoughts will help quiet the inner critic over time and help you lead a happier, more fulfilling life rather than being plagued by your fears and doubts.
It’s really easy to make a huge difference through volunteering, and the altruistic rush you’ll get from doing good in the world makes it a really worthwhile thing to do. Choose something that you’re already passionate about and that you genuinely enjoy doing, whether that is teaching art to seniors or cleaning up a hiking trail that you frequent. Focusing your energy on others is a good way to put your own troubles in perspective, and gets you out of your head, which is another way to combat negative thoughts. Plus, doing good creates more good and will increase the likelihood of goodness radiating back to you in your own life. Interested in volunteering? Check out www.newyorkcares.org for more information, or simply do an internet search on your own. You’ll be amazed what kind of volunteering opportunities are available.