Sunday, 19 January 2014

Happy Project


So, January is known for being one of the most depressing months of the year, and personally I’ve always found it quite difficult. After all the excitement of Christmas, with all its pretty lights and socialising, January always seems so dark and bleak. That’s why I decided to write a post about things I’ve found that make me feel a bit happier – I also asked some friends to contribute too! So, take a look at my ideas and maybe you’ll find something that works for you too.

Listen to music

It’s amazing how much one song can change your mood – there are some that can have me in tears, while others make me feel I can take on the World. I like to make different play lists to suit how I’m feeling. I’ll have one full of upbeat songs, another with chilled out music and one full of those sorts of songs that bring a tear to your eye. Because, although it’s great to listening to something uplifting, I do think that occasionally you need to let yourself wallow a bit; shed the odd tear, and then carry on.

Eat the right foods

I’ve always had an interest in what different foods do to your body, and after doing a bit of research I’ve discovered that there are a lot of foods that have been shown to have a positive effect on mental wellbeing. For example, Brazil nuts contain something called selenium, with low levels of this being thought to increase the risk of depression and anxiety. Then you’ve got bananas, which contain a plethora of amazing amino acids and vitamins, including tryptophan, which the body uses to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood. Finally, one of my happiest discoveries was dark chocolate – proving you don’t just have to eat rabbit food to stay healthy. The darker the chocolate, the better, as it has been shown to cause the brain to release endorphins and boost serotonin levels. So, next time you’re telling yourself to avoid your favourite sweet treat, keep in mind that a small amount can actually be good for you!

Exercise

I’m sure you’ve all heard about the benefits of exercise – improving circulation and heart health, burning excess calories and keeping your weight in a healthy range. But I think one of the most important benefits of exercise relates to your mental health. Getting your heart racing regularly makes your body release those all important endorphins, which apparently trigger a positive feeling in the body similar to that of morphine (but obviously much healthier!) I think the key is to find exercise that you enjoy, rather than pushing yourself to do something you hate, as it will just outweigh the benefits and make it feel like a chore. You might find you love running, or swimming, or cycling, or it could be something less intense like yoga, dancing or walking.

Get outdoors

This can be combined with exercise if it fits in with your routine, but even just sitting out in the garden for ten minutes can help. I’ve noticed that personally, if I have a day when I don’t leave the house, my mood is considerably lower. There’s just something about feeling fresh air on your face that seems to help me reconnect with the World and reality. Obviously the British weather isn’t always particularly conducive to us getting outdoors, but even if it’s pouring with rain you can still have fun. Just pop your wellies and raincoat on, put your umbrella up and jump in some puddles!



Laugh and Smile

This may seem like quite an obvious thing to do to boost your mood, but is easier said than done if you’re not feeling great. But actually, even putting on a fake smile or trying to make yourself giggle can have the same effect as a real smile. It sends happy messages to your brain, tricking it into thinking you have something to smile about. Give it a try next time you’re feeling down – you might be surprised!

Volunteer

Giving up your time to help someone else not only benefits the person or organisation you’re helping, but will leave you feeling more positive too. I’ve volunteered in various roles over the years and it really is nice to know that you’re making a difference to someone else’s life.

Compliment others

I guess this is a bit similar to volunteering in a way – giving something without expecting anything in return. I think complimenting someone else makes you feel good about yourself because you know you’ve made someone else feel good too. And, if you’re lucky, you might get a compliment back!

Reconnect

With us all leading busy lives, it’s so easy to lose touch with friends and families, and before you know it, a year has gone by and you’ve spent the majority of your time working or crashed out on the sofa in front of the TV. Social contact is so integral to mental wellbeing, so take an opportunity to reconnect with those you love. Whether it’s sending a text, writing an e-mail or letter, picking up the phone or arranging a meet-up. It doesn’t take long, but even a simple text can help you feel closer to someone again.



Get closer

As humans, we have a basic need to feel loved and cared about, so it’s not surprising that something as simple as a hug can bring numerous benefits to health and wellbeing. Hugs have been shown to encourage healing, boost oxytocin levels and strengthen the immune system. So, find a willing partner and get hugging!

Watch the Box

Something that really helps me when I’m feeling down is to escape into television. Whether it’s your favourite film, drama or comedy, there’s nothing better than curling up on the sofa and forgetting your worries for a bit. Some of my personal recommendations would be Miranda, Mrs Browns Boys or a good Disney film.

Get your beauty sleep

I don’t know about you, but if I don’t get enough sleep I’ll be grouchy, lethargic and a lot more negative. I have no patience and get into that lovely cycle of catastophising, where every little problem becomes a massive drama. Sleep is so important for keeping you in a positive mood, so come up with a relaxing bedtime routine, perhaps including a bubbly bath and a warm milky drink, to send you off to the land of nod.

Be creative

I guess this might be more of a distraction technique for some, but I think it can also help boost your mood, as it’s always nice to see the end product of something you’ve been making. This is such a wide-ranging suggestion – you can do anything from baking to painting and from knitting to colouring in. Whatever it is that you enjoy. While you’re doing it, it gives you something else to focus on, and you get something positive out of an originally difficult situation.

A yummy chocolate orange cake we made


Look for inspiration

There is so much out there, that I’m not quite sure where to start. Inspiration is actually quite a personal thing, so explore what inspires you. It might be a particular quote, photograph, book or YouTube video. It doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as it has meaning to you. I thought I’d share one of my favourite quotes to get you started.

This quote from Harry Potter

Indulge in some pampering

I know a lot of us aren’t very good at pampering ourselves – there’s always something more important that needs doing – cleaning the house, doing the weekly food shop, ferrying children to and from various activities. But it’s so important to be kind to yourself, and even something little like painting your nails can make you feel so much better about yourself. So, book an appointment with yourself, write it in your diary and stick to it like you would any other diary appointment. Run yourself a bubbly bath, put a facemask on and, for half an hour, just relax.

Try a new look

When I’ve been ill, something I’ve really missed is going to the hair salon. I guess it ties in with pampering yourself, but I love nothing more than sitting back on the hairdressers chair and having my head massaged, before getting my hair chopped and coloured. I leave the salon feeling a lot more positive, as my hair bounces from its salon blow dry!

Visit the spa

If I won the lottery, one thing I think I would do is book myself regular trips to the spa. Being relaxed works wonders for my mood and after a day of being massaged, cleansed and preened I often feel like I’m floating out of the door. Unfortunately, regular spa days probably aren’t that feasible for most of us, but take a look in your local area, as there are often some great deals to be had on treatments like massages and facials. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have a willing partner, I’m sure a DIY massage will go down just as well!

Look through old photos

Since my Gran was diagnosed with Dementia, I’ve come to realise just how powerful a photo can be. I’ve always known that I’ve enjoyed looking through old photos – my Mum has loads of albums from when I was a baby, right through until my youngest sister was born, and we have great fun flicking back through all the hilarious embarrassing snaps my parents took of us! Over the last few years I’ve made my Gran some photo memory books, and it’s just amazing what a change you can see in her when we go through them with her. She very rarely smiles these days, but looking back through her old wedding photos brings a smile every time.

My Grandparents on their Wedding Day


Sing like no one’s listening

Have you ever seen one of those films where a teenage girl, hairbrush in hand, dances round her bedroom, belting out a power ballad? I’m sure you must have, but have you ever tried it? Singing at the top of your lungs, like no one can hear you, is pretty liberating and a great way to make you feel happier. Go on, give it a try!

Read a book

Another method of escaping reality is to get lost in a good book. I’ve always been a bookworm and just love being transported to a different World from the one I’m currently in. I’ve got a list as long as my arm of books I’d like to read, so there’s never a shortage of choices when I need them. And if I’m struggling to concentrate on reading an actual book, there are always audio books to listen to, which can be just as good.

Write a letter

I think it’s a shame that we seem to have lost the art of writing letters to each other. When I joined AYME when I was diagnosed with M.E. I was assigned a pen pal, and this was the start of my snail mail obsession! I love getting new stationery and writing paper, then filling it with my thoughts and plans. And I always keep an eye out for Mr Postie, to see if there’s any mail for me. Seeing a handwritten letter on the doormat never fails to put a smile on my face.



Have some furry therapy

It’s a well-known fact that animals are good for your health. That’s why you see all these different schemes that take animals into hospitals and nursing homes, to provide some furry therapy to patients and residents. We’ve had pets in our house since I was about 8, starting with hamsters and guinea pigs, and moving on to cats and dogs. Cuddling up to a pet can reduce anxiety, lift your mood and even lower your blood pressure. If you don’t have a pet of your own, ask a friend if you can borrow one for an hour or two – I’m sure they’ll be willing to share!



A little bit of what you fancy

I’m a strong believer in the saying ‘A little bit of what you fancy does you the world of good!’ Denying yourself pleasures like chocolate, wine or even a duvet day is just going to make you feel miserable in the long run. As they say, you only live once, so I try to live by the ‘everything in moderation’ mantra.

Make plans

I’m one of these people that can get quite stuck in the past, worrying about things I have or haven’t done and struggling to move forwards. That’s why I find it helpful to make plans to look forward to. Not silly, unobtainable plans, but realistic goals that I have a belief I’ll be able to achieve. These can be bigger plans, like booking a holiday or a day out with a friend. But they can also be smaller, day-to-day things, like planning to tidy your cupboard or watch a DVD. I like to make sure I have little things to look forward to every day, which can really help if I’m struggling with motivation.

Be grateful

It can be easy to go through life keeping yourself busy, flitting from task to task and complaining about things that are going wrong. But sometimes we lose sight of the good things in our lives – we can take them for granted and just expect them to be there. That’s why actually sitting down and jotting down what you’re grateful for can be really beneficial. On those days where everything seems to have gone wrong, it can be really uplifting to actually look for the grey cloud’s silver lining, because there always is one, no matter how dark the situation.

Make a Happy Jar

Something that I’ve decided to do this year, after seeing photos on places like Instagram and Pinterest, is to keep a ‘Happy Jar.’ Basically, you decorate an old jar and fill it with happy moments throughout the year. Then, at the end of the year you empty it out and read through all the happy moments from the past year. I’m looking forward to doing this, as these are the kind of memories that tend to get lost amongst bigger events.



Mindfulness

This is a term that I’ve come across during treatment, and to be honest at first I was a bit sceptical. The idea of mindfulness is to focus on being completely in the moment, using your five senses to make yourself aware of what’s going on around you. And I find that it does actually help, in those moments when everything is becoming overwhelming and gloomy. It helps to relax your body and mind, and get away from the negative thoughts whizzing through your brain.

Play a game

As children, we probably played games every day. But as we get older, we start to shy away from games a bit, which is a real shame, as they can be such a good distraction and such a laugh when played with others. Be it board games or computer games, there’s something for everyone. Some of my favourite memories include time spent playing games with my family.

Get snapping

I’ve already talked about looking through old photos as a way to boost your mood, but it can be just as fun taking new pictures. Whether it’s taking photos of a special event, or simply heading into nature and capturing the beauty around us, snapping moments to remember forever can be great fun.

One of my favourite things to take photos of is flowers


Have a hot drink

Sometimes, when you’re feeling low, all you really want is to feel comforted and safe. If I’m struggling, I’ll often make myself a hot drink – tea, coffee, hot chocolate or hot squash, whatever takes your fancy, then curl up on the sofa with your hands round your favourite mug. Perfect.

Treat yourself

Treating yourself doesn’t have to mean splashing out on something massive (although, of course, this is definitely allowed from time to time!) But it could also be something as simple as your favourite magazine, a pretty new top or pair of shoes or a slick of your favourite lipstick. Just something a little bit special that will lift your mood and make you feel that you’re worth spending time on.

Make changes

This is possibly one of the most difficult suggestions, but also one of the most important. Identifying what makes you unhappy is one thing, but to move forwards you actually need to make some changes, otherwise it will just continue to bring you down. Now, I know this isn’t always easy, as some things can’t just be changed with a click of your fingers. But even the thought that you are working towards change can bring positive vibes and make you feel like you’re being proactive and working towards a better future.

100 Happy Days

Finally, in my quest for happiness, I came across the 100 Happy Days Project. This is a photo-taking task, where you take a photo for 100 days, with something that makes you happy each day. You decide how you will track your progress – through Facebook, Instagram, or privately through e-mail, and assign your project a hash tag. I love the idea of this, as it’s encouraging me to find happiness in every day. I'm using Instagram and Facebook to track my project, and my hash tag is #happyproject if you're interested in following my photos!

Do you struggle with the month of January? How do you like to boost your mood?
your photo name

4 comments:

  1. These are all amazing things for making the cold gloom of January a little less meh! <3

    Jennie xo | sailorjennie.com

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    1. Thank you - hope they help a bit!

      Jenny xx

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  2. This is such a cute post I love all the ideas. I was just thinking about booking booking some treats in for payday, im desperate for a massage and determined to actually book one this year lol, & I also mad a happy jar. I love writing so writing a letter is such a good idea to, thanks for a positive post!!!x

    http://lauralourambleswithyou.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. Oo I'd say definitely go for that massage - I'm planning to actually book one for myself too, rather than just thinking about it all the time! Glad you liked the post :)

      Jenny xx

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