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8 Tips for Starting the New Year With a Positive Mindset

This year has been a long one, and with a new year on the horizon, we're all due for a reset and refresh. Here's how to start out 2021 with a positive mindset.

After reaching the end of 2020—a year truly filled with innumerable hardships for most—creating positive New Year’s resolutions feels necessary. The upcoming year should be a celebration of your life and everything you want to achieve, but how can you switch your mindset after a year of challenges and loss? It’s time to step away from traditional resolutions that we often give up on after only a few weeks and really focus on yourself. Here are eight tips to start the new year with a positive mindset, even as the pandemic continues.

1. Process your grief

Even if you were one of the lucky ones who didn’t lose anyone to COVID-19, you may still be grieving. You don’t need to experience a death to feel loss. Maybe you got laid off from a part-time job, had to miss an important event, needed to cancel a trip, or distanced yourself from relationships that changed during quarantine. This year caused myriad types of grief, so try to identify and begin processing it all as the year comes to an end and a new one begins. Let yourself feel the emotions tied to isolation, canceled plans, and even small pleasures like going out to eat. Once you accept and release those emotions, you’ll have room in your heart to maintain a positive mindset. 

Related: The Importance of Mental Health in a COVID-19 World

2. Give back to your community

Staying at home and only doing what you need to get by may have put your mental health in a stagnant state of depression—especially now during the winter when seasonal depression already affects many people. Try generating joy by giving back to your community. Making life better for other people puts positive energy into the universe and encourages it to grow within yourself. You can research local opportunities to support people virtually to maintain social distance. If you live in a small town, find volunteer positions online to help others around the world. You’ll feel happier knowing you assisted someone in need, and you can keep up your volunteer schedule well after the pandemic ends.

3. Practice gratitude more

Positive New Year’s resolutions become more manageable when you practice gratitude daily. Start small, like ruminating on how thankful you are for a roof over your head and food on your plate. Gratitude physically kick-starts the dopamine production in your body, which can lift your mood and decrease depression, making overcoming mental health struggles and fostering a positive mindset a little easier.

4. Limit your social media use

When you check your social media feeds, does your heart race in anticipation for the next terrible breaking news story? Though this habit didn’t exclusively start in 2020, it morphed into doomscrolling during the pandemic as everyone got in the habit of checking for daily updates and alerts on how dire circumstances were becoming—especially with the pandemic happening during an election year. It’s impossible to feel positive if you become lost in negative social media posts, and it’s impossible to avoid them if you’re on there. Limit how often you open your go-to news and social apps so you can devote that time to better habits instead.

5. Find a new hobby

Succeeding at a new hobby is always something to celebrate. You’ll feel happier in the process and successes of learning something as you expand your skill set. Being positive for the new year is all about finding fulfilling and rewarding ways to spend your time. And with plenty of time left in winter break, there are a lot of mindful things you can do with your time. Try a few hobbies you can fit into your schedule so you never face empty hours of worrying about what the future might bring. 

Related: Video: 5 Things to Do While Social Distancing

6. Avoid negative people

Your mental health will suffer if you surround yourself with negativity. Think about who you spend time with and what those relationships are like. After a little research, compare them to toxic relationships with classic traits like manipulation or being overly energy consuming. Cutting toxic people out of your life allows you to heal and start becoming happier overall. The distance from you also may help them recognize their unique challenges so they begin their journey toward healthy growth. You can always reconnect when you’re both in a better place after you get the space to heal and grow.

7. Try to be more present

Being present is one of the best ways to have a positive mindset. When you’re worried about the future or things outside of your control, bring yourself back to the immediate moment. What are you thankful for? What can you look forward to? What’s something you can succeed at in this very moment? Remind yourself about the good things you’re experiencing right now and that there will always be a tomorrow to get things done if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

8. Read helpful books

You can always go to the experts for advice by picking up a book. Plenty of self-help books are out there for readers who are struggling through a variety of situations. Check a list of recommended books to see if any interest you and could help with your new goals. Narrow down your options by considering how you’d like to be more positive: Do you struggle the most while you’re working? Or perhaps dealing with family members? Thought leaders shape their books around the topics and areas people most often want to work on. Focusing on your specific issues will lead you to helpful books that suggest how to find solutions while staying upbeat.

Related: 5 Great Book Recommendations for Social Distancing 

There are so many ways to have a positive mindset, but none of them will work if you don’t take care of yourself. Listen to what your mind is telling you about your mental health to get the help you need. After you identify your most significant hurdles, you can use these tips to become a more positive person, even during challenging times. Here’s to a better and brighter New Year in 2021! 

Let’s heal together during this hard time. For more advice and information about the coronavirus pandemic, check out our COVID-19 student resources page.

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About Alyssa Abel

Alyssa Abel

Alyssa Abel is an education writer who helps students and teachers pursue their passions. Read more of her work on Syllabusy


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