Earlier this week, we experienced what has traditionally been dubbed “the unhappiest day of the year.” For those in the Northern Hemisphere, January is often the most depressing month: the days are cold, the nights long, bills from the holidays have arrived, and we’ve already broken many of our New Year’s resolutions. So what can we do – this week – to cheer up, take on a different approach and make the choice to move forward?
Here are some strategies that work for me when I’m dealing with hassles. Give them a try and let us know how you fare.
Get outside. Whether it’s an actual exercise routine for you, taking the dog out for a walk or having fun playing in the snow, try to get in some natural sunlight whenever you can to increase your feelings of well-being. And choose additional exercise indoors that you’re likely to maintain. You’ll feel better emotionally as well a physically when you’ve completed a workout.
Pinpoint your stress relievers. While you won’t be able to eliminate the tensions in your life, you can buffer and reduce them with the support of those you trust. Once you identify some of your personal triggers, you can begin to mitigate them through relaxation strategies. Try several different soothing techniques to find those that work best for you – deep breathing, laughing with friends, listening to music, meditation or spiritual grounding.
Focus on gratitude. Studies have shown that when we turn our attention to what we’re grateful for rather than what we’re unhappy about, we improve our mood, optimism and even sleep patterns. And when we actually express our thanks to those whom we appreciate, the positives increase – both for us and for the person we acknowledge – decreasing those January blues all around.
Reconsider your goals and expectations. Perhaps you’ve been unrealistic in deciding on your target objectives. When we set our standards too high to achieve, it sets the stage for disappointment and discouragement. You may find it more useful, instead, to push yourself toward accomplishments just beyond your comfort zone, but not so far as to be completely out of reach.
Look for opportunities. If your challenges seem overwhelming, consider what you do have control over and direct your energies there. You’re likely to notice that when you take the initiative to make the changes that you can in your situation, your feelings of frustration and helplessness recede. You’ll be surprised by how much better you feel when you get involved in shifting your sights to what you can do, not what you can’t.
As you incorporate these changes into your life this January, you’ll be building on your strengths, developing resiliency and setting the stage for the rest of the year. Draw on your network of close relationships throughout this process – as you help each other stay warm!