I’m a list person and always have been: from the days when I would check off every article of clothing I had to don for a horse show, to the neatly filled out homework planner in college, to my detailed moving checklist a few months ago.
When I found myself facing the winter blues (this deserves its own post) yet again, I decided to tackle it in my favorite way: make a list. For your viewing pleasure, here are 6 ways I came up with to stay cheerful when the sun is hiding.
Stay active. Don’t skip out on barn days or gym days just because it’s cold or you’re tired. It’s going to be cold and you’re going to be tired for months and you can’t stop doing the things you enjoy just because of that. Don’t stop moving and fidgeting and going on walks.
Stay hydrated. I can’t stress this enough; when I don’t get enough water I start to slow down, my skin gets uncomfortable, and I feel like a blob. This was my single most influential lifestyle change that helps me feel better mentally, not just physically.
Get a creative outlet. It doesn’t have to be a watercolor masterpiece and it doesn’t have to be advanced digital design, but creative streaks still need attention. Getting to write for this blog and my new nightly journal are ways I’m fostering that. (Side note- my new sister gave me this journal for Christmas and it’s the perfect balance of guided creativity! I never miss a night)
Make friends, and then make plans with those friends. I am embarrassingly terrible at making friends as an adult, Dear Reader. It’s hard! There’s no automatic shared bond of the same stressful school, people have crazy work schedules, and established groups of friends sometimes aren’t looking for another member. Spending time at the barn and with similarly-aged coworkers has me slowly emerging from my shell.
Fake it ’til you make it. Smile, laugh, and joke until your face hurts. This almost never fails to give me a boost, even on down-days. On the rare occasion that this doesn’t make me feel entirely better, there is at least the satisfaction of knowing that other people get cheerful attention instead of sullenness.
Give yourself a break. Pushing myself to be active and happy and cheerful when I’m fighting against brain chemistry isn’t always going to work. No matter what, there will be so-so days. And that’s fine. Like Annye from An Amish Warmblood said, those “zero days” are needed. On those days it is OK to curl up under a blanket and ignore all the to-do lists. It is OK to read for 6 hours straight instead of grocery shopping and folding laundry. Binge watching Criminal Minds won’t ruin your month. Giving in for that one day makes it easier to push the rest of the time- I call them “mood cheat days.”
That last point is probably what’s allowed me to relax into happiness more easily this winter than I ever have. I’m going to push myself to get out there and keep my mood up, but I’m not going to fight myself to do that.
Just a little bit longer until the sun and warmth comes back, and I can’t wait!
As you may or may not know, I’m a rabid denizen of Pinterest (check out my boards here!) and one of my favorite things to do is pin encouraging quotes. I look at them for pick-me-ups on down days, and I look for new ones when I’m feeling good. Like this one!
But one theme I’ve noticed in a lot of popular quotes is the idea that kindness or respect has to be earned by the other person; that after a certain point you can stop being nice. After all, if they’re “fake” or mean to you, shouldn’t you return the favor?
This bugs me. Like, a ton.
Since when does someone have to earn kindness? Why do they need to prove themselves to you in order to experience your good attitude?
I’m not saying that everyone should smile all the time and be super sweet to everyone no matter what and never respond to insults or slurs. But I think everyone would be happier if we simply gave the other person the benefit of the doubt.
Maybe that friend started ignoring your calls because her brother is sick and she’s focused on helping him get better. Or maybe her mobile plan is running out of minutes. Or she’s super swamped at work. Or any one of a thousand reasons that are not “she hates you and is disrespecting you.”
On the flip side, maybe she’s ignoring your calls because she doesn’t want to hang out with you. And that sucks! But just because they’re dropping you as a buddy doesn’t mean you have to get nasty. There’s no need for that.
Just like your mood should not dictate your manners, the actions of others shouldn’t dictate your own actions. As a wise man has told me (*ahem* Dad), you cannot control what happens, you can only control your reaction. Wouldn’t it be better if that reaction was one of love and understanding?
In short, being kind is not something that anyone else can choose for you. It is something that you choose, regardless of their actions.
Manfriend and I were attendants in a wedding this past weekend, and it was absolutely amazing. We got to stand up with two of our best friends (the ones who introduced us!) and celebrate with them on one of the biggest days of their lives, and then we got to party hard with all our buddies. It couldn’t have been better.
It was the first Catholic wedding I’ve ever attended so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I knew what readings the bride had chosen from, but I was curious to see what the priest would choose to talk about. One thing that he said during the homily really stuck with me and I wanted to share it here.
Focusing on the self does not make a person happy. It is when he denies himself and sacrifices in order to make others happy that happiness arrives.
I loved hearing that! He went on to elaborate that when we keep track of who owes favors, it only leads to bitterness and unhappiness. It’s when we try to forget ourselves and focus on what’s best for others that we really find joy. He asked the guests who had experienced that- denied themselves something for the sake of someone else and found that all along it was the best thing they could’ve done. I know that I was certainly nodding as he said that.
It takes so much reminding of this- my first instinct is to always look out for #1. But then I remind myself of the times that I chose to put someone else first, and how that’s led to wonderful experiences and amazing memories and true friendships. And those are what leads to happiness.
What do you think of this message? Did you hear anything this weekend that inspired you like this?