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Dr. Sarah Vohra

Can you train yourself to think positive?

Dr. Sarah Vohra

No matter who we are or where we come from, all of us experience loss at some point in our lives: of a job, loved ones, perhaps even our own sense of self. In periods of time with huge change and uncertainty, it can be hard to remain positive.

You may think you’re just not a positive person, or that there’s not much to be positive about. But positivity is a trait you can practice, and it can stem from purpose, movement and connection.

My P.R.E.P.A.R.E.D method will help you create purpose in your days, keep up your motivation and stay positive in the year ahead.

Plan your day with a pen and paper. Think about what you are going to do today and jot it down so you can visualise it. Writing things down can aid recall, prompt you as you go about your day and keep you accountable and on track. And there’s nothing like the satisfaction of ticking off a task completed.

Routine – try to maintain one, as much as possible. Create clear distinctions between your work and downtime (this is especially important if you’re working from home) and don’t blur the boundaries between day and night. Aim to get up and go to bed the same time each day, even on a weekend. Maintaining some semblance of a routine provides a sense of structure and purpose – it can motivate you and hold you accountable. But more than that, sticking to a routine can keep your body clock in check, helping you sleep better and maintain optimal physical and mental health.

Exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. Movement is so important for optimising your mental wellbeing. It can lift your mood, boost your confidence and even improve concentration and how you sleep.

Prioritise 3 tasks for the day ahead. Don’t be overly ambitious with the tasks you set yourself, only to experience failure and disappointment when you don’t achieve what was an unrealistic to-do list in the first place. Think about what you absolutely have to get done today – completing these tasks by the end of the day will give you a sense of achievement, and that positivity will motivate you to set yourself new challenges the following day.

Avoid and switch off social media and news alerts. When you’re getting pulled into constant news alerts and social media notifications that you know make you feel low, worried or fuel unhelpful comparisons, they’re likely to derail you from feeling positive. So turn off your notifications, or use this as an excuse to spring clean the accounts you follow – only follow accounts that motivate, inspire or educate you.

Reach out to friends, family and work colleagues, particularly if you live alone. Pencil in time to reconnect whether it’s virtual coffee breaks and lunches, or meeting up in real life. Social connections are hugely important particularly in times of stress, as other people can help you make sense of that stress and even reduce the impact it can have on you.

Eat well and stay hydrated. Make sure you are eating a balanced and colourful diet (the more colour in your food, the wider the spread of nutrients) and regularly sipping from your water bottle. Moderate your alcohol intake, as consuming too much can lead to low mood and anxiety. Keep an eye on your caffeine intake too, particularly as you edge into the afternoon or evening where it may get in the way of a good night’s sleep.

Determine what’s important to you personally, socially and in your working life. Write these down somewhere so you can regularly come back to them. Moving forward, every request that is made of your time, rather than feeling pressured to say yes immediately, think about your ‘importance list’ and ask whether saying yes will bring you closer to achieving any of these things. This will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and at risk of burnout, and prevent any resentment towards yourself and whoever you feel has ‘forced’ you to say yes in the first place.

You’ve got a big year ahead, so I hope these tips help you to be P.R.E.P.A.R.E.D and stay positive to achieve your goals!

Dr. Sarah Vohra
Consultant psychiatrist

Dr. Sarah Vohra is a Consultant Psychiatrist based in Nottingham, UK. A graduate of the University of Leeds Medical School and author of two best-selling books, she has specialised in mental health for over 10 years and is passionate about sharing her expertise in an accessible way. Sarah shares practical tips and tools to help you achieve success and lead a happier life.

Dr. Sarah Vohra
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