How to stay inspired during difficult times

There’s no denying that the past year has been tough. We’ve faced social isolation, economic uncertainty, job layoffs, and a total shut-down of normal life – and of course, all this has been underpinned by the anxiety of a global pandemic. While the vaccine has given us hope, there’s still no definitive end in sight, and it’s understandable if you feel tired and defeated. But the start of a New Year is always a good time to stir up resolve, and try to create a positive environment. 

We may not be able to control everything that happens to us, but we can control how we respond – and there are lots of ways we can help ourselves feel more motivated. 

To help us get through the home stretch, here are 8 ways to stay inspired during difficult times.

1. Make your health a priority

Most of us have heard the saying ‘health is wealth’ – and when it comes to giving your mental health a boost and trying to stay positive, physical health can’t be overlooked. It doesn’t matter how positively you think or how many inspirational books you read – if you’re feeling sick or under the weather, it will be harder to maintain motivation.

So try to take steps to boost your immune system (this is especially important during the winter months), eat a balanced diet, and try to get between six and nine hour’s sleep a night. Feeling healthy and rested in your body is one of the most important steps to improving your mood and mental health – so take care of yourself and make your physical health a priority.

2. Focus on what you can control

During difficult times, it’s normal to let worries run away with you. But one of the most valuable lessons that we’ll probably learn  in life is that we should avoid worrying  about the things we  can’t control. While it’s completely understandable to worry about circumstances beyond your control, ultimately this has no resolve; it just makes us feel stressed and powerless. So each time you begin worrying, ask yourself if it’s about something you can control – and if it’s not, try to let the worry go.

Once you accept something is beyond your control, you can start to move past it; and when you do this, it can feel as though a weight has lifted. When you feel unburdened, you’ll probably feel more capable, and then you can take the steps to control the things that are actually within your power. So if something is out of your control, try not to allow yourself to get caught up with it – and bear in mind that focusing on your own actions and reactions can help you feel confident and empowered.

3. Make a plan for success

We all have hopes, dreams and visions we’d like to achieve – but when life feels stagnant, it’s easy to put things on the backburner. Whether you’re working or not, days can pass by in a blur, and without structure or plans, it’s all too easy to feel like you’ve achieved nothing of note. It can be enormously helpful to put some time aside to think about what you’d like to achieve this year – and then make an action plan. Your goals can be big or small: maybe you want to lose a few pounds, or maybe you want to find a new job. Whatever you’re hoping to achieve, plotting out a plan forces you to think things through, which can lead to exciting new ideas or unexpected resolutions.

You’ll probably find that once you’ve written down a plan, you’re instantly more motivated to get started and work towards your goals. A small thing that can make a difference to how productive you feel is writing out a to-do list before you go to bed. Then, when you wake up, you’ll immediately have a sense of purpose. You might also want to think about pinning up your goals on your fridge or a whiteboard, so you’re constantly reminded of what you’re hoping to achieve. If you’re a visual person, you may want to create an inspiring vision board. If you’d like to know more about vision boards and how they can help motivate you, have a read of our article.

4. Celebrate your accomplishments

During difficult times, it’s really important to acknowledge and celebrate your successes – no matter how small they are. Giving yourself a pat on the back when you’ve made any type of progress can be really motivating, so don’t be afraid to reward yourself whenever you reach a goal. If you’re working towards a bigger goal, it can be helpful to break it down into smaller milestones – then, whenever you hit one of those milestones, celebrate that achievement. Your celebration doesn’t have to be anything big – it can be a slice of cake, a glass of wine, a bubble bath – but the point is that you’re acknowledging your wins and recognising your progress. Remember that small progress is still progress – and often it’s a series of small accomplishments that pave the way for the big ones.

Also, when you’re feeling tired, low or demotivated, it’s helpful to remind yourself of your achievements. When life is difficult, sometimes it’s hard to see clearly, and we often see ourselves through a negative lens. But, try to focus on the things you’ve achieved, and think back to special events. Take a moment to remember all the things you’ve been through in life – those situations and events you haven’t just survived, but have made you stronger.

5. Fill your mind with positive information

Watching the news may seem like the sensible thing to do during times like these – but constantly absorbing gloomy reports can soon make us feel low and fed-up. Don’t be afraid of taking a real break from the news and media, and don’t worry about being out of the loop: if something is truly important, you will find out about it. Instead of filling your mind with negative news reports that make you anxious, try to fill it with uplifting and inspiring information to keep you feeling motivated.

The good news is that there are so many different ways you can absorb positivity. Reading a self-improvement book can renew your sense of purpose and return a feeling of empowerment or clarity. You could listen to upbeat music that makes you smile, watch some comedy, or read your favourite book or magazine. Or perhaps you’d prefer to download an uplifting podcast and listen to it while you’re driving, cooking, walking, or even cleaning the house. For more ideas on inspiring podcasts, you might want to check out Calm Moment’s article on podcasts that can lift your spirits.

6. Speak positively

In the same vein, speaking negatively, criticising yourself and complaining too much only creates a cloud of negativity around you that saps inspiration and joy. Try to do your best to have a positive attitude and speak positively. Remember that words have force, and speaking positively and kindly can lift spirits and make the day seem brighter. This doesn’t just apply to your conversations with other people; it also applies to your internal dialogue – so always try to be kind to yourself.

While it’s unrealistic to never complain, try to do your best not to. Refusing to allow yourself to complain prevents a negative attitude from forming, and essentially forces you to remain positive. Whenever you feel the urge to complain, try to think about something in your life that you’re grateful for – no matter how small that might be. You might want to think about saying positive affirmations out loud, or perhaps keeping a gratitude diary. Have a read of our article on practising gratitude to find out more about how to stay positive.

7. Surround yourself with positive people

One thing that can have a big impact on positivity and inspiration is surrounding yourself with the right type of people. Take a moment to think about the people you interact with most. When spending time around negative people, who are often complaining, it’s easy to get weighed down, and this can make it difficult to feel inspired. Think about all the people in your life who inspire and encourage you – chances are, they will be the people that always have a way of looking at the bright side. Once you’ve identified these people in your life, it can then be helpful to make a conscious effort to interact with them more.

Of course, in the midst of a lockdown it isn’t possible to physically surround yourself with positive people – but that doesn’t mean you can’t do this virtually. Take note of those friends and family members who make you smile and schedule a phone call or Zoom call with them. If you don’t have many people in your life who inspire you, don’t worry. These days there are so many different ways you can meet new people and cultivate meaningful connections, whether that’s by joining Facebook groups or community hubs. Check out our article on ways to meet new people in the current climate to find out more.

8. Read before bed

One of the best ways to unwind at night is to read a few pages of something positive, uplifting and motivational before you go to bed. This can help take your mind off any difficulties or stresses that you faced in the day and promotes a better night sleep – but it also fills your mind with inspiration. Reading is one of the best ways to find inspiration, and some of the most driven people in the world say it’s reading that helps provide them with purpose, meaning and drive.

It doesn’t matter what type of book you read as long as you can find inspiration within it; it can be a classic novel, a self-improvement book, a biography of a historical figure. As long as you’re reading about other people finding inspiration and drive, you’re more likely to find it within yourself too. When you’ve finished reading, take a few moments to think about what you’ve learned, and how you can apply it to your own life. For more literary inspiration, have a look at our articles on the best self-improvement books and the 27 must-read books.

Final thoughts…

Things might be tough right now, but it’s difficult times like this that provide us with an opportunity to grow. Learning to adopt a positive attitude can change your life and alter the way you see the world – and filling your mind with inspiring content and positive thoughts often leads to positive change. To achieve your goals, you need to believe in yourself and have faith – and choosing to surround yourself with the people and things that inspire you most helps you remove negativity and doubt.

When you’re feeling low, remember that nothing is permanent. This too shall pass – and learning how to live more positively now will help you stay optimistic and bring you hope for the future. For more information on staying positive and finding meaning in your life, you might want to read our article, 5 ways to find meaning and purpose in your life.

Have you struggled to stay inspired over the past year – or have you found ways to keep yourself feeling motivated? We’d love to hear about your experiences. Leave us a comment below or join the conversation over on the Rest Less community.

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