Staying Positive During Difficult Times

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 Staying Positive During Difficult Times


To say we’re living through challenging times sounds like both a cliché and an understatement. In recent months, news about the pandemic, economic woes, and bitter political debates have triggered tremendous anxiety and sadness for many Americans.

How can positive psychology help in trying times?

Contrary to what you might expect, trying to resist painful emotions actually increases psychological suffering.

“Positive psychology is not about denying difficult emotions. It’s about opening to what is happening here and now, and cultivating and savoring the good in your life,” says Ron Siegel, PsyD, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School.

If you develop the habit of counting your blessings, for example, you may be better able to appreciate the positive aspects of life that remain even after a painful event like a job loss or a death. And helping others, even when you are struggling, can increase your positive feelings and help you gain perspective.

Growing evidence suggests that positive psychology techniques can indeed be valuable in times of stress, grief, or other difficulties. They may also help you develop the resilience to handle difficulties more easily, and bounce back more rapidly after traumatic or unpleasant events. Here are three positive psychology practices you can try.

Be more mindful

Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgement. Learning to live more in the present is especially helpful when the future is uncertain. Formal mindfulness-based stress reduction programs have been shown to help reduce physical and psychological symptoms in people facing a variety of challenges, including cancer and chronic pain.

Share some kindness

Research suggests that people who volunteer their time tend to be happier than those who don’t. Those who give charitable donations may even get a small mood boost. Try this exercise: When you have a free afternoon, flip a coin. Heads, do something self-indulgent (for instance, give yourself a manicure). Tails, do something to help your community or another person (for example, call or write to an elderly person). Notice how you feel at the time and in the hours and days that follow.

Practice gratitude

Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what you receive, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, you acknowledge the goodness in your life. You can apply this to your past (by retrieving positive memories and being thankful for elements of your childhood or past blessings), the present (not taking things for granted as they come), and the future (being hopeful and optimistic that there will be good things arriving). Our brains are wired to take note of when things go wrong. But keeping a gratitude journal — writing down things you’re thankful for — makes you more aware of when things go right.

Adapted from Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter


Spotlight on RAFT Staff


Kristen Johnson, LCSW

Kristen has been a mental health therapist with the RAFT team for over 5 years. We asked a few questions to get to know her better!

What is your favorite thing about being a therapist on the raft team?  I like how we work as a team.  Every day is different and there is nothing more intriguing to me than figuring out a “mental health puzzle”.  I like training on mental health and dementia because I believe “knowledge is power”.  The more you know the more tools you have to help.   

What are you looking forward to in the new year?  Getting the vaccine and having life return to normal.  Can’t wait to actually hug another person. 

What do you do when you aren’t working? I read a lot-over 100 books last year.  I also like gardening and spending time with my family playing board games.



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Innovative Geriatric
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The RAFT program provides intensive mental health services to individuals in Long Term Care Facilities, as well as education, training and consultations for Long Term Care Communities, Community Providers and others in the community to develop the skills and knowledge base to successfully understand and work with individuals with Mental Health and Dementia Diagnoses.


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