3 Daily Inputs We Can Control in Order to Stay Positive

Staying positive during COVID-19 physical distancing.

Posted Apr 01, 2020

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (and that might actually be one of the safest places to be right now), you’re highly aware of the stress and general anxiety surrounding our daily lives due to the COVID-19 situation. In order to practice physical distancing and help control the spread of the virus, many of us have entered into work-from-home arrangements and homeschooling our children—a drastic shift from our typical way of life. And that’s not to mention the extreme stress our medical professionals and first responders are under as they work long hours under extreme conditions to help our country.

So how do we stay positive in the midst of a drastic shift in our way of life? DJ Johnston, former college basketball coach and current small business executive, shared with me three inputs into his daily routine—that he has direct control over—that help him improve his mood and keep a positive mindset in the face of challenges. I love the simplicity of these and have practiced them in my own life over the past ten days, so I wanted to share them with you.

Read Physical Books 

DJ is an advocate for reading physical books as a change of pace from reading on a device. I read a lot for work and leisure. However, after speaking with DJ, I noticed just how much of my reading is done using a device. As a college professor, many of my textbooks and supplementary readings are online, and most of the news and leisure reading I do are from the comfort of an iPhone or a tablet. So what’s the big deal about reading from a physical book? DJ notes, “I feel something that actually has a different shape as I take it in. It’s like you’re in immediate control, even when it’s something as small as a couple of pages.” Spurred on by his advice to read physical books, I recently returned to fiction reading—something I had forsaken for a very long time. In the past few days, I’ve read a classic (The Great Gatsby), and I began The Rome of Fall, a “quirky rock ‘n' roll novel” just released. As a big plus to maintaining a positive attitude, recent research suggests that fiction reading can help develop empathy.

Listen to Instrumental Music

Like many of you, I listen to a broad range of music. That said, 99.999% of the music I listen to has lyrics, and I tend to lock into those lyrics while listening. And many of these lyrics get stuck in my head. When talking to DJ about positivity, he noted that he has become a fan of listening to instrumental music as a way to boost his positive outlook. His reasoning: the lyrics of music tend to be tied to a variety of emotions that may or may not improve our mood. Listening to instrumental music allows him to own the words that come to mind during a given song. In fact, he has found power in listening to Spa Radio on Pandora (a station described as one for relaxation and meditation), noting, “Sometimes the best way to actually perk up is to slow down.” I liken his idea to the recharging aspect of resilience where we go hard, stop to recharge, and then go hard again.

Turn off the Advertising

This one makes a lot of sense when it comes to maintaining a positive outlook. Marketers are very good at telling us what we do and do not want. I do want a new car (likely one that is out of my price range). I do not want to smell like my regular soap (so now I’m discontent and need to go pick up some Old Spice body wash!). DJ explains that these advertisements have the tendency to “make [him] feel like [he] is not enough” which he has noticed leads to a drop in his mood. One simple solution is to fast forward during TV commercials. However, don’t forget about the other forms of advertising we are susceptible to. Social media “influencers” are titled that because that’s the ultimate goal—to influence us to want something. With DJ’s advice in mind, I have become very aware of who I am following on social media and the messaging that they are sending. By unfollowing a few accounts several days ago, I have noticed an improvement in my mood while surfing social media.

Let’s face it: there are few things in life that we have absolute control over. And the things out of our direct control—like the current COVID-19 pandemic—have the potential to really lower our mood. By being intentional about these three inputs that we can control, we can become incrementally more positive in the face of challenges.

The thoughts shared in this post originated from DJ’s blog and are used by permission.