It is easy to feel overwhelmed with the events of the day, and this decade is an objectively difficult period. When you turn on the news, it feels like a steady stream of bad events, and when you look around, the future can feel bleak. But there is a broader picture to keep in mind and plenty of tools to help you find light in the dark. Below we offer you some practical tips for staying positive when things feel bleak.
“If you are depressed, you are living in the past.
If you are anxious, you are living in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”
Having a strong meditation practice is essential during difficult times, and the good news is, that it doesn’t have to be a long or complicated practice. As little as three minutes a day can help quiet your anxious thoughts and pull your thinking from an uncertain future into a manageable present moment.
Meditation means different things to different people, so find the style that works for you and incorporate it into every day. The best way to stay consistent is to attach your meditation practice to a habit you already have, like brushing your teeth. Do a short meditation practice before or after your established habit and watch your consistency grow.
Moderate your consumption to avoid being overwhelmed by news sources
It’s important to stay up-to-date on current events but having the news blaring in the background or checking for war or pandemic updates every hour isn’t useful. The news you read affects your thoughts, so moderate it. Unless you have a specific need, checking the news twice a day for ten or fifteen minutes should be sufficient to keep you informed. As you probably already know by now, fake news is real and insidious. Be mindful of your news sources and be thoughtful in your analysis. Misinformation feeds misinformation, so keep yourself out of that loop.
Eat nourishing, nutrient-dense foods
Science shows that 90% of our serotonin receptors are in our gut, and there is a huge correlation between what we eat and how we feel emotionally. Processed foods can trigger anxiety and depression, and conversely, nutrient-dense, whole foods promote a sense of wellness and wellbeing.
Improve your mood by taking time to prepare your meals and focusing on nourishing, nutritious whole foods. For breakfast, swap packaged cereal with additives for natural, unsweetened yogurt topped with raw nuts and fresh berries. Trade your frozen dinner in for a quick homemade vegetable stew. What you eat has a direct correlation with your emotional state, so choose consciously.
Take action when feeling overwhelmed
When things are dark, and you feel a sense of despair, one effective antidote is to take action. There is always something you can do to be useful. It can be something simple like running errands for a neighbor who is housebound. Or it can be financial, like donating to a charity that provides support to refugees. Or it can be far-reaching, like writing a letter to a government official asking for policy changes. You will find what resonates with you, but rather than feeling helpless, step into your power by taking some positive action.
Move your body
Physical exercise is essential during dark times. Rather than becoming paralyzed by negative thoughts, take a walk in nature, book an exercise class in a studio with a friend, or do an at-home workout. Exercise releases “feel good” chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that boost your mood. Exercise can also be a way to connect with other people, and it helps lower feelings of isolation and loneliness. Now more than ever, taking care of your physical body is important, so engage in regular exercise.
Your breath is the steering wheel for your thoughts, so if you find yourself heading into a downward spiral of negative thinking, steer your way out of it by doing conscious breathing and active breathwork. Try this box breath technique or this breath purification flow featuring four breathing exercises in one practice. You can literally breathe your way to a better mood.
Beyond the physical benefits of toning your body, practicing yoga regularly reduces stress and anxiety, improves sleep, and promotes a sense of wellbeing. Scientific studies show that yoga helps to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone that increases when you feel tense, anxious, or threatened. If you find it hard to relax, try this class to relieve stress. The combination of breathing exercises and gentle movements will help bring you back to a state of centeredness and relaxation.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, it is actually helpful to mindfully acknowledge the negative
Staying positive when things are dark is useful, but toxic positivity can be a problem too. It is important to acknowledge the reality of a situation and to hold space for the negative. Staying unrealistically cheerful or denying the reality of a painful situation can be just as damaging as too much negativity. The goal is to stay firmly rooted in reality and to feel your full emotions without letting them overwhelm you. Stay balanced by consciously acknowledging the negative.
These tools will help you navigate turbulent times, and the common thread in all these tips is they lead you back to the present moment. The present moment is the ultimate weapon against feelings of despair and being overwhelmed, and it is also the place from which you can access your inner wisdom to make good decisions and take the right actions. When you find your mood is dark, take one or all of the steps above to become deeply connected to the here and now. When you find the light in the dark, you help shine the way for others-everyone wins.