By Molina Healthcare
Let’s face it: 2020 won’t go down in history as a lighthearted, carefree year. But on the plus side, living through uncertainty pushes us to find ways to stay positive—and there is no shortage of those. Even better, a lot of them are free.
Anytime you’d like to lift your spirits, one or more of the methods below is bound to do the trick.
1. Laugh with friends
You’ve probably heard “laughter is the best medicine” so many times it’s not funny. But a recent study found that enjoying humor together with friends increases the release of endorphins in the brain.1 The news here is that laughing with others boosts the brain’s happiness response more than chuckling alone. What about if you’re sheltering in place? Share a favorite comedy with a video watch party. And if your friends scoff at joining in, emphasize that their involvement helps the greater good.
2. Get some sun
If you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, try ditching your bedroom altogether, go outside and soak in some natural light. Scientists know that sunlight raises a person’s serotonin levels, which leads to a more joyful feeling. Certainly, though, exposure to light is a tried-and-true treatment for depression.2 Plus, isn’t it refreshing to just switch up your environment? Yep—especially when you protect yourself from that environment with sunscreen.
3. Help somebody, anybody
Ever get stuck obsessing about a problem? Break the pattern by turning your attention to someone who could use a helping hand. Volunteer for a nonprofit. Grocery shop for an elderly neighbor. Ask your friend how they’re doing and support them by listening. You might even compliment a stranger—as long as your praise is respectful and authentic! Not only does letting your kindness shine tend to halt unproductive thinking, behaving in an admirable way can improve your self-esteem.
4. Celebrate little achievements
Our lives are more meaningful when we work towards a goal. But slogging away for days, weeks or months to meet an objective—even reading about it is exhausting. Luckily, one of the most motivating things you can do is make a big deal about small milestones and other little wins.3 Once a day or even more, remind yourself what you’re doing right. Did you eat a healthy breakfast? Great! Have you showered and put on clean clothes? Nice job! Is your checking account balanced for the month? Holy moly, that’s amazing! Seriously, the more you focus on what you do right, the more hours of your life include enjoying all the good you do, just by being in the world. Hey, thank you!
Sources: 1. Social Laughter Triggers Endogenous Opioid Release in Humans. Sandra Manninen, et. al. Journal of Neuroscience 21 June 2017, 37 (25) 6125-6131; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0688-16.2017 2. Sunshine, Serotonin, and Skin: A Partial Explanation for Seasonal Patterns in Psychopathology? Randy A. Sansone, MD, corresponding author, and Lori A. Sansone, MD Innov Clin Neurosci. 2013 Jul-Aug; 10(7-8): 20–24. Published online Jul-Aug 2013.PMCID: PMC3779905 PMID: 24062970 3. The power of small wins. Amabile, T. M., & Kramer, S. J. (2011). Harvard Business Review, 89(5), 70-80.