Being “stuck” at home during a global pandemic can bring on a lot of negative thoughts. It can make you feel like all of the progress you were making in life came to a standstill all at once. At first, I went through a denial stage that let me hold onto the thought that this was a short-term situation for a bit. I soon realized this wasn’t the case and was overwhelmed by an unforeseen lifestyle change due to social distancing. Shifting my mindset came from an accidental run-in with that warm, fuzzy, content feeling while doing something that seemed mundane to me and that set me off on a course for positive change.
As I started to become overwhelmed by a larger-than-normal workload at my day job and a concern for my family and friends’ well-being during a pandemic, I started to only focus on the negatives. This is the kind of mindset that I actively try to avoid, but here I was letting myself fall victim to my circumstance, rather than making the effort to pivot my mindset. In times of great change, it is so easy to forget the values and habits that you worked so hard to build. This leads you to feel even worse because your instinct is that everything is crashing down around you.
While in this very negative, victimized mindset, I started to notice the little things that made me see a quick mood change – things that had gone unnoticed or unappreciated before. I’ve talked before about how we have a very go, go, go lifestyle and I thought I was doing a good job of taking a step back and smelling the roses. Apparently, it took a global pandemic and forced isolation to teach me that there’s more to be grateful for than meets the eye.
With the overwhelming amount of work at my day job, I started to realize how much I enjoyed just being outside while I walked my dog. It isn’t like this activity was new to me, I mean I live in an apartment building, so I was walking my dog at least twice a day before social distancing even became a thing. All of a sudden though, an activity that I thought was mundane gave me happiness and a chance to be outside. I started to be grateful for these daily walks rather than feel like it was a chore as I had before. Once I had the warm, fuzzy, content feeling during these walks, I started to notice that it wasn’t just that little thing that gave me that feeling.
Making a great cup of coffee every morning, going for a run (when I was feeling up to it), spending more time cooking, learning to bake bread, and even creating my own ecosystem in an aquarium (hello, new hobby??) all started to give me that same content feeling as being outside with my dog. You know that feeling where you just stop, look around, and feel for a quick second that this is exactly where you’re meant to be? Noticing how I looked forward to these activities and how rewarding it was to recognize and make space for good, positive feelings is what propelled me out of that negative mindset.
This isn’t to say I don’t have negative feelings now and then – I mean there is still a global pandemic happening and I’m still human. It’s just that at first, I didn’t make any emotional space to feel anything but overwhelmed and bogged down by what was happening – a victim mindset. Once I got a glimpse of positivity on a sunny walk with my dog, I made the emotional space to feel more of that – a grateful mindset. Once I felt it when doing something else I previously thought to be mundane, I made sure to stop and smell the roses, making space for positivity. I ruminated in that feeling and gave myself something to look forward to the next day when I repeated a similar routine.
I had gotten into the habit of being distracted by the many things I was doing before social distancing that I forgot to look at the little things I normally do that can foster positivity. Feeling overwhelmed is human, and sometimes it’s hard to focus on the good when there’s so much bad. However, these little things made a big difference and completely switched up my mindset.
I encourage you to look out for that content feeling when doing things you normally don’t put much thought into. You’d be surprised what “sparks joy.”