Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
This spring was a heart-wrenching one for me, as it was for many across the world. Though I live in Grand Rapids, Michigan, India, a place where so many of my family members and friends still live, remains close to my heart. At the height of the pandemic, I would wake up dreading to look at WhatsApp, afraid that I would find out the crisis had impacted a loved one.
With everything going on in the world, suffice it to say I wasn’t bringing my usual energy and attitude to work — which, of course, was totally reasonable. As a leader, I certainly don’t believe it’s realistic for everyone to be all smiles and sunshine every single day.
Over time, through some trial and error (and a little reading), I have discovered small ways to recharge my positivity battery and restore a sense of optimism. Though this surely isn’t rocket science, I’d like to share what I’ve learned so that it might help you.
Put on your own oxygen mask first
We’ve all heard the explanation during airplane safety warnings: Put on your oxygen mask before you help put on someone else’s.
The message here is that one needs to take care of oneself before tending to others. So I made sure to prioritize things like plant-based nutrition, daily exercise, and afternoon meditation. Getting the right amount of sleep, meditating for 10 minutes a day, getting in a walk or strength training circuit … even in small doses, these acts of self-care made a world of difference to my mood and mental health. Taking care of yourself doesn’t necessarily solve the world’s problems, but it puts you in the best fighting shape to move forward.
Deepen relationships, in all forms
We’re social creatures and thrive on connection. That’s been a challenge during the crisis, but with restrictions easing and some help from technology, we can find ways to reach out to others. Surround yourself with family, friends, colleagues, whoever fills your reservoir. Even if you’re commiserating over challenges, it’s uplifting to know you have loved ones who always have your back.
My wife and family were incredible rocks during the tough times, of course, and my colleagues were a source of camaraderie, too. I also found our global business community to be a powerful tool for connection. On Instagram, I regularly engaged with over 500 entrepreneurs who provided inspiration with their positivity. Their posts were an ongoing reminder that there are wins and successes out there to celebrate every day.
Make a big impact with small actions
Once you’ve charged up your batteries, giving back to others can be a next, critical step. Remember, you don’t have to change the world. Any small way of turning intention into action will do. Giving back doesn’t just lift up our colleagues at work or those in our communities: it improves our own physical and mental wellbeing, as we look beyond our personal challenges and appreciate the bigger, interconnected world we live in.
This message was hammered home for me by a Bollywood celebrity who was speaking at a fundraiser for Akshaya Patra (an NGO providing school meals that my wife and I support). I asked him what everyday people can do to make a difference, and he said, “Just start by doing one thing.” One phone call, one dollar, one hour. That’s all it takes.
A turning point for me was participating this summer in a round table Zoom call (facilitated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable) with over 100 CEOs from global companies such as Accenture, IBM, Apple and JPMorgan, all gathering to figure out what we could do to help with the pandemic situation in India. Our company played its small part, and it felt so good to even just turn on the camera and see others from across the world, ready to do something. The opportunity for business to be a force for good can be galvanizing.
The ROI of giving back
To be clear, this isn’t just about creating warm fuzzy feelings for you and your team. There are endless benefits of positivity on mental health, physical health and even ROI for a company.
Meanwhile, in the workplace, positivity is an indispensable ally: it fosters creativity and improves resiliency. Positive work environments create more engaged, productive employees, and positivity-focused leaders have been shown to inspire workers far more effectively than someone who leads with negativity.
The bottom line? Positive thinking and optimism create a virtuous cycle of wellbeing for everyone.