Science-based Tips for Keeping Spirits up During Difficult Times

Feeling worry, sadness, fear or other negative emotions is a perfectly normal response during challenging times. This is our body’s way of signalling potential threats to our safety. The problem usually isn’t about the feelings we experience during stressful moments but in how we respond to them.

Knowing what you can do to help deal with these emotions and feel better about life is important. Here are a few tips from the science of Positive Psychology for keeping your spirits up during difficult times.

Look for what’s good

Although we need to be realistic about life's ups and downs, it helps to focus on the good aspects of any situation - the glass half-full rather than the glass half-empty. Having a more optimistic outlook results in more positive emotions and helps us cope better with hardship.

Luckily, optimism is something that we can develop with practice! Here are some tips:

  • Practice looking at the bright side of every situation. While it is natural for our attention to focus on the negative, try not to get stuck there. Look for the silver lining or hidden meaning in disappointing or difficult times.

  • Spend some time imagining and writing down what your ideal life would look like in a few years – if you were to realize your life’s dreams. This exercise helps identify your aspirations and practice thinking optimistically about them. It has been proven to make people happier and also increase chances of achieving those dreams.

  • Identify long-range goals that excite you and then break them into smaller sub-goals. Experiencing small wins along the way will fuel positive feelings and an optimistic outlook.

Find ways to cope

Coping is what we do to ease the stress or suffering caused by a negative situation or event. Practicing effective coping strategies increases our resilience and mental health because they help us feel more capable and in control, manage our emotions better, and keep us more solution-focussed.

The good news? Coping strategies are learnable skills we can develop to help us work through difficult times. Try a few of these tips to see what works best for you.

  • Identify the specific challenges or problems you can find a solution for and make a plan, take action, or get help to deal with them.

  • Take a break or distract yourself with a healthy behaviour that makes you feel good – a walk, a favourite show, a bath, a good book.

  • Talk to a friend for comfort, support and a different perspective.

  • Write about what you’re feeling and thinking. Writing can be cathartic, help us deal with our emotions, challenge our thinking, help us find meaning, and come to terms with the situation.

  • Allow yourself time each day to focus on your current difficulties – feel your feelings and think your thoughts. Knowing you have time for this later will make it easier to let go of at other times.

 

Connect with others

Humans have evolved to be social creatures. We are wired to connect with others and our relationships and sense of belonging is a top factor impacting our health and happiness. Our social connections also provide us with support in times of challenge, stress and need. By nurturing our relationships, we can develop an increased sense of connectedness and cooperation with others which gives us a sense that “we’re in this together”.

What can we do to maintain healthy connection with others?

  • Make time to connect with others:

    • Keep in touch with friends - send a spontaneous text, share a happy memory/photo.

    • Schedule time to connect regularly - having regular standing dates help a lot.

    • Make a point of having frequent points of connection over the course of the day/week with those closest to us or having a hard time.

  • Have meaningful conversations. Honesty and openness creates connection and deepens bonds so talk about things that matter and focus on really listening.

  • Express praise, thanks and make kind/loving gestures often, aiming for five positive statements or gestures for every one negative.

 

Lend a helping hand

Practicing acts of kindness has a number of benefits. Being kind to others makes us feel good about ourselves, strengthens our social connections, and creates ripples of other kind acts around us. Doing good deeds for others creates a “helpers high” and has been shown to benefit the giver even more than the receiver!

Here are a few suggestions for adding more acts of kindness to your life, whether to loved ones or strangers, either spontaneously or planned:

  • Lend a helping hand to friends, family, co-workers, neighbours and those in need in your community

  • Volunteer your time to a community effort or charity that could benefit from your help.

  • Perform random acts of kindness. Surprise someone with a kind gesture or

  • Be generous with your thanks, praise and well wishes.

  • Be careful not to give too much, over-burden yourself and burn out.

 

Take care of yourself

 

Taking care of our body and mind has immediate positive effects on mood, helps maintain bodily functions, and offers stress-relief as well as having many long-term benefits on our mental and physical health.

Here are a few ways to build more self-care into your routine:

 

  • Practice healthy sleep habits and allow the time you need for sleep to feel rested. Quality sleep is critical to our physical and mental health so make sleep a priority. Set a bed-time alarm to remind you to starting winding down and get into bed.

  • Make time to regularly move your body doing something you enjoy. Doing it outside and/or with others will provide an even greater boost. Go for a walk or bike ride. Do some yard work. Try an online yoga or workout video. Some is better than none. More is better than some.

  • Do what you can to make healthy food choices and eating habits as much as possible.

  • Pause throughout the day to focus inward. Take a few slow, deep breaths and check in on how your body feels and your state of mind.

  • Take mini-breaks doing something that makes you smile or laugh. Look at funny or heart-warming photos or video, talk to someone special, do a favourite activity.

 

 

Subscribe or follow to be in the know when new Resources are added (see below)

Want 36 New Ways to Thrive (Free)?

It's a go-to list of science-based happiness practices that anyone can use to make today incredible. Life's too short to be unhappy.

​Get science-based tips for THRIVING delivered right to your inbox!

Subscribe to the Thrive mailing list

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

©2021 by THRIVE - Live well. Be happy.
Ontario, Canada