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The big P-word…

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Keeping positive is something that has proved difficult for many people during lockdown, but psychology student Michaela is here to share her research into how to stay positive in your day to day life!

“Michaela has certainly demonstrated enthusiasm and passion for psychology during her time at Long Road. She has an extensive knowledge beyond the A level specification and would often share that wisdom with the rest of the class. Her kind nature and willingness to help others will make her an excellent psychology student when she goes onto study at Lincoln University.”
Katie Hodson, Psychology Teacher.

Today I shall be telling you all about the big P-word…Positivity. With techniques and advice on ways to improve your positivity during difficult times such as this lockdown, but also during your academic studies and your day to day life.

Positivity is more complex than you would think and happiness isn’t a simple word that you make it out to be. Happiness can be broken up into 2 different categories: Hedonic and Eudaimonic. Now Hedonic is referred to the happiness you receive from pleasure in the moment. For example, buying something online or in a shop makes you feel happy in the moment, however sadly the effects don’t last very long, and you would find yourself having to buy something again in order to feel that kind of happiness again.

The happiness I find myself improving every day and getting the most joy out of is Eudaimonic well-being which is a very broad term used by most positive psychologists when referring to happiness that’s gained from: meaning, purpose, gratitude etc. How is this relevant? I hear your internal monologue asking, well as clinical Psychologist DR Paul Wong once said “A life without purpose is like a ship without a rudder, you need it for stability and steering”. Ask yourself questions such as “what do I want to be remembered for?”, “am I living a life that makes me happy?”, “in the future, if I look back on my life will I be happy?”. If the answers to the last two are no, then maybe look at small changes in your life to add meaning and purpose to it.

A way you could improve your positivity within your job is to view it as a “calling” as daft as that may sound. Try it with the job you currently do, whether that be working in hospitality, retail as a carer etc. View your job as the people you meet and the skills you learn are a “calling” and that your job will help you better your future self rather than money is just money.

Purpose and meaning will also help with your academic years. By giving whatever course you are/will be doing purpose or meaning will give you the motivation you will need to carry on when “the going gets tough”. For your academic studies I also found that routine helped a lot, following the same routine on the weekends as you may during the week. Now I know waking up at 7am on a Saturday morning doesn’t sound very fun, but once you’ve made it a habit (which can only take 3 weeks) you could find yourself feeling more positive and inclined to do so.

So back to earlier where I mentioned gratitude. Why is that relevant? I hear your inner monologue asking. Well personally I have found that it plays a big role in my day to day life, and I want to share my secrets to my positive mindset with you. When I’m trying to think positive when I have been feeling low I decide to try and use CBT on myself to change the way I view a difficult time In my life, which is where gratitude comes to surface. I look at the situation I am in, be it: stress, anger or sadness and I make a list of the things I am grateful for. Try it out yourself! If you can’t think of any then I shall give you some ideas of what I am grateful for. 1) being alive 2) having food on my table 3) not living in a war zone 4) having the right to speak out loud and 5) being able to share my ideas with you.

When you first start making your life more positive it can be really difficult, because our brains are wired to detect when something is wrong and to put emphasis on this to protect you (it relates to the cave man times/ evolution where we had to be alert and to put emphasis on the bad otherwise a woolly mammoth probably would’ve eaten us). So don’t be hard on yourself if it doesn’t happen overnight, just be more aware of the good when difficult times come around, as “where there is good there is bad and where there is bad there is good”.

You could also try meditation, which isn’t as daunting as it may sound. Meditation helps improve your positivity through mindfulness, being aware of your thoughts but not trying to control them. As the Tibetan Monk Thubten says “meditation is like when you’re stood at the bus stop, except you are watching the buses go by but you’re not getting on them. Those buses are your thought”. Being a Psychology student myself and have been dedicating my life to it as well as the rest of my life will be dedicated to it, I found that the mind is so incredibly powerful, more powerful than you, trying to control it and captivate it just simply doesn’t work, but changing the way you think does work (it does take a long time however so don’t be hard on yourself). Mastering meditation is also very difficult and will not happen overnight, so again don’t be hard on yourself. Remember Thubten the monk I was telling you about? It took him 4 years with no help to try and master meditation and make it a routine. Don’t worry it won’t take you that long! As I am going to give you a little head start. Find somewhere quiet or with background noise where you will not be disturbed, you can either lay down, sit up etc, whatever feels the most comfortable to you. Then take deep breaths in (slowly) filling your tummy as well as your lungs then focus on that breathing of yours, drawing all your attention to it, you could also focus on background noises. By being steady with your breathe it relaxes you, and when a thoughts pops into your mind, acknowledge it but don’t explore that thought, if you feel your mind is drifting bring your attention back to your breathing. Like I said guys to have that level of focus just doesn’t happen over night and there’s millions of ways to meditate that can be found through our good old friend google.

Now I couldn’t write this article during a time like this without mentioning the dreaded word lockdown. It’s a difficult time for all of us right now whether you’re working or not, not knowing if we should stay inside, go out or cycle there, missing our families, friends etc however that doesn’t mean we can’t be positive. Think about it ladies and gents, when will be ever have this amazing opportunity to have this amount of time off again? With work, your studies etc and for those still working and studying when will you ever have the chance to do it at home? With very minimal contact! The answer is probably never again, so lets use our time wisely. When struggling with difficult times, be it grief, your own mental health or whatever else is on your plate, we tend to ignore it due to our busy work lives, or we simply feel as if we just don’t have enough time to look after our minds. Well this lockdown is giving us the time we need to work on our mental health, or maybe you’re in debt to yourself. For so long you have sad sleepless nights, rough nights etc and you have accumulated a sleep debt to yourself, now is the time of all times to be able to pay off that debt. Maybe try eating healthy, doing some exercise, practice mindfulness meditation as well as all of the other ways to improve that positive mindset of yours that you will create, because we all know we now have some time to do this and get the ball rolling.

So as you now see, difficult times arise in your day to day living and especially during this lockdown but there are many ways to keep a positive mindset and to improve it. I hope this helped many of you with ideas of what to do. Bye for now! Stay safe, stay positive, go for your walks or don’t or cycle to it!


Books I used and that will be helpful to you

Positive Psychology by Bridget Grenville-Cleave

A Monk’s Guide To Happiness by Gelong Thubten