Mental Health -

Mental Health: Finding Inspiration

By Olivia Lynn Schnur | Fall 2023 Inspire(d)

Mental health counselor Olivia Lynn Schnur offers ideas for finding sparks of inspiration to shift mindsets.

Ordinary life may not feel inspiring all the time. In fact, many people think inspiration needs to jolt us out of nowhere, like a strike of lightning. But it’s often more of a spark. Sometimes we’re lucky, and that spark finds us. But usually, we’ve got to go looking for it.

When life feels boring or even downright excruciating, looking for sparks of inspiration can help shift our mindsets to a place where anything feels possible.

Finding Your Spark 

Think back to the last time you felt truly inspired. At first, it might seem random. But if you dig a little deeper there were likely some factors that created a spark. 

A spark is anything that sets you up to become inspired. It’s often paired with feelings of joy, gratitude, hope, or excitement. 

Sparks can be both internal and external. External sparks are simple: the sight of a sunrise, the sound of rustling leaves, or the feel of a warm embrace. An internal spark can include positive or encouraging thoughts and feelings. And inspiration usually flows in that sweet spot between calm and excitement. 

A spark is all it takes to light up your life. It can be as simple as a daily gratitude practice or noting your contentment, like when you savor a delicious meal, check in with a loved one, or enjoy a beautiful view.

Remember: Small things can lead to big inspiration.

Creating an Environment of Inspiration

Before everything, we must first be open to the idea of being inspired. What you believe is generally mirrored back to you. If you go around assuming you’ll be disappointed by the world, you will very likely be disappointed with the world. But if you consider that you might be inspired by the world, it’s very possible you will be inspired!  

One of the simplest ways to find inspiration is by engaging with the environment and community around you. For more extroverted types, that might mean joining a group based on shared interests or attending a community event. If that group or event doesn’t exist (and you’re feeling especially energetic), use your inspiration to create it! For more introverted types, inspiration might look like connecting with nature, watching the birds, or reading something inspiring (oh look, you’re doing that already).   

Illustrations by Cube29 / Shutterstock

We will have more success at finding sparks of inspiration when we reduce distractions. When we are distracted, we miss opportunities to experience beauty or goodness. Imagine you’re out walking but instead of noticing a smile from a kind stranger or the beauty of a sunset, you’re distracted by your phone. We can get so caught up in routine and habit that we miss the people and places that could inspire us.

Once you tune into this act of seeking sparks of inspiration, make it a practice to be mindful of those opportunities. It’s never too late to look up and notice what is happening around you. The more attuned we are to our environment, the more likely we are to become inspired.

You are Inspired

Think about everything you have overcome and achieved in the past to get to this very moment, right now. It’s easy to assume some things happened by chance. Maybe you were given an opportunity that changed the course of your life or met your life partner in line for coffee. But consider for a moment that it wasn’t chance that led you to change, it was inspiration. 

In a 2003 American Psychological Association publication, psychologists Todd M. Thrash and Andrew J. Elliott proposed that inspiration requires three parts: evocation, motivation, and transcendence.

It is not enough to evoke the feeling of inspiration; we also need to be motivated to act on that inspiration, otherwise we just let the moment pass us by. This might be the only situation in which acting on impulse can be beneficial. That is because inspiration is often caused by something beautiful or good. And when that force combines with your natural talents or purpose, the possibility for greater goodness is exponential. 

Inspiration allows you to transcend beyond what you previously thought were your limits. You are very clearly in the driver’s seat. The most inspirational moments of your life did not happen due to chance. It was a combination of your unique insights, abilities, and decisions that got you where you are today. 

Now, think about that present version of yourself. What or who currently inspires you? How can you use that inspiration to transcend further at the next opportunity that comes your way? Allow that vision of your future self to inspire you.

Act Inspired 

Here is a fun idea: Act as if you’re already inspired. Behave as if inspiration is moving through you. What would you do? Where would you go? Who would you become? 

And when inspiration strikes (or should we say, sparks) – act on it! It doesn’t need to be a life-changing act. Sketch out a scene you can’t get out of your head. Write down a line of poetry that comes to you – then write down a few more lines. Sing or hum a tune bouncing around your head. Get up and dance when the beat is calling you to move. Go for a walk on a starry night. Call a friend. Whatever it is, let that feeling of inspiration move you to act. One step at a time, goodness will flow from your action.

Staying Inspired 

It’s unlikely that every day will feel inspiring. There may also be times when we simply do not like the person we see in the mirror. That is when it is most crucial that we take time to honor our progress, however small. A therapist can also help if a mental health condition is preventing you from feeling inspired, so that the next time you look in the mirror, you might see the spark of your potential. 

Olivia Lynn Schnur

Olivia Lynn Schnur is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified Yoga Teacher, and Reiki Master. She writes about healing, health, and happiness in hopes of educating, inspiring, and uplifting readers. To learn more about Olivia, or to book a yoga session, visit