Restoring our hope begins by managing our stress reaction. When we feel fearful, angry, or anxious, we're in the survival mode of fight, flight, or freeze that Hopeful Mindsets experts (iFred, 2021) call the "Downstairs Brain." We feel threatened and defensive, cut off from our higher cognitive functions in the Upstairs Brain, and cannot think clearly. When our stress becomes chronic, which is understandable with all the challenges of the pandemic, we can get stuck in our Downstairs Brain, unable to come up with solutions to our problems.
We can restore our higher brain function and return to a more balanced state by recognizing when we feel stressed, then using stress skills like taking a 90-second pause, breathing slowly and deeply, exercising, connecting with nature, talking to a friend, or listening to calming music.
But that's not enough. Building hope, like building our muscles, requires consistent exercise and training. By cultivating more positive feelings with Happiness Habits (iFred, 2021), we can spend more time in our Upstairs Brain to build a more hopeful mindset. Some Happiness Habits include:
- Having a positive morning routine
- Eating healthy food
- Getting regular exercise
- Playing a musical instrument
- Learning new things
- Spending time in nature
- Connecting with our faith
- Practicing kindness
- Expressing gratitude, and
- Spending time with friends.
What Happiness Habits do you include in your life? Do you have a positive routine to begin your day? A regular exercise program? A creative hobby you enjoy? Do you meditate? Spend time in nature—taking walks, hiking or gardening? Do you have energizing fun in your days? Spend time with friends? Practice gratitude and acts of kindness?
What is one Happiness Habit you'd like to do more of?
Take a moment now to close your eyes and visualize yourself doing this.
- What does it look like?
- How does it feel?
- Breathe in that feeling of energizing joy right now.
Then open your eyes and make a plan to add this new Happiness Habit to your life.
I wish you joy on the path.
Happiness Habits (2021) from Hopeful Mindsets International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression (iFred) https://hopefulmindsets.com/about-hopeful-mindsets/ and Hopeful Cities https://hopefulcities.org/know-the-five-keys/
Hopeful Mindsets (2021) from International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression (iFred) https://hopefulmindsets.com/about-hopeful-mindsets/