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.
- Get some inspiration from others. I’ve mentioned before that I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated solely to beautifully positive thoughts– it’s great to lean on when the positivity isn’t flowing internally.
- 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!
How do you beat the winter blues?
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.
What do you do when it’s tough to be kind?
As I mentioned in my resolutions post, one of my goals for the year is to have more patience. But how on earth do you measure that, and what concrete steps can you take to get there? Patience is such a broad idea, and I’m a concrete-steps kind of girl. So I did some thinking, and my first step is going to be asking myself this one question before responding negatively:
If somehow said that to me, how would I feel?
That’s it. If someone used the same phrasing and tone as I was about to, how would I respond?
The tough part here is being 100% honest with yourself. No cop-outs like, “oh I have a thick skin so nothing bothers me.” No mental contortions to convince yourself it’s not that bad. Just look at what you’re saying at face value, and think for a second or two.
The great part about this is that it changes for every person you talk to. Something I might say to my mom would be too harsh for a coworker, or something that I would comment on to my best friend might not fly with the manfriend.
I’ve been trying this, and so far it’s been great but tough. I’m almost always in a sunny mood, so in my rare cloudy moments I’ve been able to tell myself that “I’m just telling the honest truth,” or that “someone needs to say something.” But telling the truth is never an excuse for rudeness, and there’s almost always a way to communicate without attacking the other person.
What do you all think? Have you tried asking yourself this? What are some other ways you try to be more patient?