It’s April and here in Pittsburgh we are still seeing snow. It happens like this sometimes, but it’s never an easy pill to swallow. Our bodies ache for warmth, and our minds and heart ache for light. It’s draining and weighs on our emotions. We often find ourselves caught in a perpetual trap of negativity and melancholy. I get it, I feel it. But this doesn’t have to be this way, not at all! And I am here to tell you how to get yourselves out of this trap.
So much of our lives come down to perspective. Ironically, we forget this subtle yet crucial little detail! We rule our lives through our mindset. Have you ever noticed when you wake up feeling awful and down and then the day just continues to get worse and worse? Or the flip side, when you wake up feeling like sunshine is just radiating out of you? You feel amazing, and all around you people are happy and things fall magically in to place. This is not coincidence. This is the power of our mind. We just often fail to recognize and validate our own power.
Try this little exercise. Regardless of where you are mentally and emotionally right now, sit up tall, shoulders back, head high. Take a deep breath and close your eyes. Envision something that makes you feel happy. A compliment you received, a kind deed from a stranger or a friend, or something you are experiencing in your life that makes you feel good. Smile. Truly smile and feel the goodness. Now open your eyes, and notice how much lighter you feel. See? A little shift in your view and you have a shift in your moment. The key is to learn how to carry this throughout your day.
This is called mindfulness. It means awareness of your mindset, your thinking. And it is something many of us have lost as a result of continual negative messages, both external and internal. We give up our own inner voice and allow the world around us to dictate our thoughts and hence, our day. Thankfully, our own voice is much stronger than this, and it only needs a reminder to speak up, and speak loud!
So how do we do this? It’s easy, but it will take some focus and some practice. Just like anything else, practice makes not perfect, but progress. You will find it easier to do the more you do it. I will give you a few steps to re-learn mindfulness and incorporate it in to your day. I’ll also follow up with some additional practical tips to incorporate in to your physical day to boost your mind on these gray days.
Step 1. Practice awareness! What are the thoughts in your head? How is the running commentary? No judgement here, just simple awareness.
Step 2. Evaluate! what changes need to be made. Separate the positive from the negative. Keep the positive and give yourself a high five for those! Group the negative statements together, and consider what edits you can make.
Step 3. Redirect! Now that you see those negative statements, fix them. Start small if you need to, but start somewhere. For example, if you hear “I’m never going to get this done today because my brain is not functioning,” try changing it to “This task is going to need a little more time and focus today. I will get it done and give it more patience.” Eventually, you will be able to brush it off with a confident “I got this!”
Step 4. Repeat! Now that you have started, keep it coming. It only gets easier over time.
So what else can you do to support healthy mood on these long days?
- Vitamin D. Did you know that low levels of vitamin D can contribute to low mood? Before you look to supplementation, check your diet. Best sources of vitamin D are high quality (organic, grass fed) dairy, wild caught oily fish (salmon and sardines!) and of course plenty of leafy greens.
- Water. Stay hydrated! Water is vital to our wellbeing, but in this case it will help to flush out toxins. I am referring to physical toxins here, such as those that accumulate in our system due to exposure through food and environment. But I am also referring to emotional toxins, because we do in fact hold negative thoughts and feelings within our body, too. Drink plenty of high quality water and allow your body to flush the negative out, leaving more room for the good.
- Exercise. Exercise and physical movement gets out circulation going, our heart pumping, and our brain activated. It boosts our serotonin levels, making us feel good, and it helps our bodies detoxify and purge the things we don’t want or need. Little bits of activity throughout the day are just as helpful as long bouts, so no excuses here- move your body!
- Hugs. Serotonin. Dopamine. The feel good chemicals in our brain. We need more, and a simple way to do this is to hug. Family, friends, our pets… it all counts. If you can’t hug or don’t want to hug, try a smile. This is just as powerful, and can be shared with anyone, even ourselves.
So now that you know you have all you need to brighten your days, don’t let anything hold you back. Start with yourself, and you will be amazed at how much happiness you will regain in your life. That long winter will become a beautiful spring in no time at all.