Christmas is over and the long dark winter months are here. This time can be tough for many people even in normal times but we are starting this year with uncertainty and worry following the events of 2020. There are some things though that we can do to give ourselves a lift and help us to stay positive:
Getting outdoors for exercise can be difficult in winter but pretty much all experts agree that it’s a great way to boost your mood. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins into the bloodstream that relieve pain and produce a feeling of well-being. This is one of the reasons why a lack of exercise increases your risk of anxiety and depression. Even short periods of exercise – just ten minutes – can help. Anything that leaves you slightly out of breath such as a brisk walk, gardening or a cycle ride will do but even better combine with some yoga to help your physical as well as your mental health.
Get out of your head
People often dwell on problems, going over and over the same negative thoughts. If you’ve been constantly worrying about a problem or you’ve been going over questions with no answers then it’s time to stop. It’s not easy, of course, to stop dwelling on things but often only one of every ten worries turns out to be a problem. Try instead to shift your focus to the facts and ask yourself what steps you can take. If there is nothing that you can do then let it go. By letting go, often you will find it resolves itself.
Set a new target
Setting a new goal or target, can really help pull you through. It could be a big project like learning a language or something as small as trying out a new recipe. If big ideas are too much, start small. You will find you have something else to focus on and a sense of control. For many people that’s hugely helpful for their mental state. Learning to do new things can be rewarding and is how we acquire self-worth.
Talk it over
We’re not really designed to be on our own. We feel better with social contact. Isolated people are more likely to go over problems again and again but that doesn’t help as you are focussing on the negative. Talking things through with someone can help you reframe your problems and help you move through them. Covid-19 has made it a lot harder to be with others in person and winter can make it harder still so maximise the little social contact that is available, reach out and make that phone call to a friend or arrange to talk online.
Do it badly
Optimists live longer as well as have better relationships and better immune systems. The good news is you can cultivate optimism by doing it badly! In other words, don’t wait to do things perfectly at the right time on the right day. That’s even more important in winter when gloomy weather might make you think twice about doing something. Our inner voice of criticism continually stops us from doing worthwhile things. Jump straight into action. Do things and accept that they might initially be done badly. When you do that, most of the time you will find the results are actually not too bad and they’re almost always better than doing nothing.
Other tips include writing down three things each day that you’re grateful about to force yourself to focus on what’s gone well and why. It’ll fire up the left hand side of your brain that is associated with positivity. Emotions are contagious so if you can, gently steer away from negative, miserable people who are constantly complaining because you’ll find yourself becoming one of those people too.