At the time of writing I'm in a lockdown that's lasted for ... the best part of a year at this point. The Philippines, where I'm currently based, has had one of the longest COVID lockdowns in the world and I think it's fair to say that I've found it a bit of a struggle.
Haven't we all?
That said I've managed to hold it together pretty well. I've been productive, improved my diet and managed to stay in relatively good shape while making good strides on my business.
In the past, I think I would have been completely derailed by such an unfortunate situation. Depression, or at the very least complete apathy, would have arisen and stayed with me for an extended period of time. Probably weeks or months.
But this time it's been different. I've held a more resilient line and persisted through it.
Working a Positive Program
There's a guy on YouTube, CGKid, that has the most fascinating accounts of his experience with just about every drug on the planet. He talks about his addiction to meth, heroin, benzos, weed...and so on.
Even though I've never taken a drug in my life (besides alcohol and caffeine), I find it captivating to hear him describe the mind bending experiences and consequences of these substances.
As an example, jump to 06:45 in the video below to hear a powerful, heart-wrenching and teary account of just how torturous certain narcotics, in this case meth, can be:-
So why have I brought this up?
I believe there's something to be learned from victims of substance abuse and how they keep themselves on the straight and narrow.
CGKid, after 7 years of coming off one of the most addictive substances on the planet talks about daily activities and positive habits that keep him on track and prevent him from relapsing back onto the substance.
Similarly, Alcholics Anonymous have a program in recovery that advocates daily reflection, group meetings and other daily actions to help people rid themselves of alcohol addiction.
The common theme is that working a positive program can really help people stay on the right path. And this exact same concept can be applied to depression and happiness.
In the same way that someone who was previously addicted to meth works a positive program to help them from relapsing, we can employ our own positive habits to help us from falling into negativity and depression.
Cornerstone Daily Habits for Maintaining a Positive Mental State
Here's a list of the daily habits that I've been doing during this lockdown to stop myself from mentally descending into the abyss.
1. 10 Mins of Daily Transcendental Meditation
I know it seems to be the "fashionable" thing to be doing these days, but I promise this isn't a fad.
It works by helping you to de-identify with your thoughts rather than be swept away and carried along by them. Sit down for 10 minutes daily and just witness what surfaces. You'll notice that a thought is really just an appearance in consciousness with no signficant underlying meaning. It's here one minute and gone the next, soon to be replaced by the next thought the monkey brain brings up.
Separating what you consider as being you from your thoughts is a useful perspective to have when your thoughts just aren't very useful; when you recognize you're descending into negative thought patterns, for example.
I highly recommend the Waking Up app for guided meditation if you're just getting started.
2. Move / Do Exercise Everyday
There's a book called Spark that goes into great detail about the incredible positive physiological effects that exercise can have on the brain.
Quite simply, if you're not doing exercise (preferably daily) then you're missing out on one of the most positive habits that you can do for your body and brain as a whole.
It doesn't really matter what your exercise habit is. You can decide what works for you. Personally I do weightlifting three times per week in my apartment and some kettlebell training. For you, it might be as simple as going out for a walk, or doing a few laps in the pool. Whatever it is, build it into a daily routine. It'll do wonders for your state of mind.
3. Write Down WHY Everyday
I've written about this before but my daily writing exercise is probably one of the most important habits I've ever added to my life. I do it first thing in the morning and it takes me about five minutes.
Why is it so helpful?
It reminds you what is important to you.
- Why are you doing what you're doing?
- What goals and visions are you trying to achieve?
- What are you grateful for?
- What values do you live your life by?
Just like the physical exercise program, just tailor this to what you need. The specific questions I answer in my daily writing might not hit the mark for you.
Just sitting down and writing the answers to these meaningful questions can help elevate you and give you a sense of purpose. It's a daily reminder of why you exist.
4. Read a Few Pages of a Positive Book
I'm an avid non-fiction reader so I like to get a daily dose of a topic that I'm interested in at the time. Right now, for example, I'm working my way through a fantastic book called Sapiens which is a brief history of humankind.
Consider reading a book on a topic that fascinates you. It doesn't need to be non-fiction, but it needs to be something that you want to read or learn more about.
A daily dose of reading can lift you out of the jail of your mind and help you break out of a negative pattern of rumination that you might find yourself in.
What's your Positive Program?
I've shared these specific habits because they've kept me sane and relatively positive during one of the most restrictive periods of my life.
Whether you choose to do these habits, or pick some of your own, is neither here nor there...Find what works for you.
The key message I'm trying to convey is that working a positive program is one of the most powerful tools we have to battle against negativity and a propensity to descend into depression. It works for victims of drug abuse and it can work for psychological health too.
Keep yourself active and engaged on a daily basis, build positive habits that ground you, and you'll have a much better chance of maintaining a healthy and positive outlook.