Today is Blue Monday – apparently the most depressing day of the year!
This is based on a formula, devised by life coach Dr Cliff Arnall more than a decade ago, which focusses on factors including the weather, debt, the end of Christmas and low motivation after failed New Years Resolutions. But, we don't have to follow the hype! Let's take the 'Blue' out of 'Blue Monday' and bring some joy back.
Here are 5 simple ways to cheer up your day:
1) Wear something colourful. I am a big believer in what we wear having a big impact on our mood, so wear something you feel great in and which has a cheerful splash of colour.
2) Go for a walk. A blast of fresh air in the great outdoors is good for the soul at any time. Even in the rain! (Ok, so as I'm writing this it's absolutely pouring down, so if you want to substitute this one for 'dive into the pub to get warm and dry', then I'm ok with that).
3) Plan something to look forward to. Whether it's booking a holiday or just arranging to meet a friend for coffee at the weekend, having something to look forward to can be a great mood lifter. It doesn't have to be anything major – even planning to call at that nice bakery on the way home from work to get something nice to enjoy with a brew when you get home can perk you up (well it would me!)
4) Put on some cheerful tunes. It's no secret that music can affect mood. I think we all like to mope along to sad songs sometimes when we are feeling down, so equally we can select some 'happy' tunes to lift our spirits. So, turn up the volume and sing along to some songs that make you smile.
5) Have a minute! We're busy people. There always seems lots to do. And if you're an overthinker like me then you are probably living at least a few days in advance in your head, cataloguing and mentally scheduling everything you need to do. This can put us under so much pressure and leave us living life at a million miles an hour. So, make yourself take a moment. Sit and have a brew. Sit on a bench along the river for a while. Lie on the bed with your eyes closed for a short time. Bring yourself into the moment – not to the 3 loads of washing that need doing tonight, or the meeting you're prepping for a week on Tuesday or the broken cupboard door that you've been meaning to fix for 6 months and that you beat yourself up about every day.
Just enjoy a few minutes peace and quiet, without the panic and the stress. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that everything can wait for a few minutes (and that door can probably wait for another 6 months!)
So, there you have it – a few quick and easy ways to cheer up Blue Monday a bit, and every day besides!
The run up to Christmas can be an absolutely bonkers time of year – so I'm not sure what possessed us in November to decide that we would redecorate the hall, stairs and landing before the big day! Now this would be a big job at any time, but the fact this space in our home had been neglected for a very long time made it a massive undertaking. We had built an extension, had the garden landscaped, had the house re-roofed and had a new kitchen and bathroom fitted during the last decade or so, but never once had we given any love and attention to the poor hall, stairs and landing.
So, it was still old anaglypta wallpaper that went back way over 20 years (and which we had painted over 15 years ago!) and chipped gloss on all the skirting boards and door frames which revealed layers of old paintwork in attractive shades of peach and lavender. We had to strip, scrub, fill and sand like nobody's business and once we started it felt like it would take forever!
But one thing that really stood out to me as I cleaned and redecorated every nook and cranny was just how grotty it had become – and how we had become a bit blind to just how bad it was. Now I knew it was bad – I had been fed up with it for a long time – but only when looking at it with fresh eyes and with a view to improving it did I see fully just how unloved it had become.
We'd had a cupboard made around a new electric fuse box a few years ago, but because the rest of the hall looked a bit of a mess we had never bothered painting it. There had been things spilt and smudged on the walls in places as the girls grew up that had never been cleaned properly because, well it didn't really matter. And the chips in the paintwork and rips in the wallpaper all kind of blended in with the whole neglected feel of the place.
And I found this to be a really big lesson.
We had accepted the decline of this part of our home – and had stopped noticing how bad it was (indeed, we were making it worse by not looking after it because it no longer seemed worth investing any effort in). And it made me question whether we could also be guilty of accepting this kind of slow decline in other areas of our lives.
So we can all learn a lesson from my hall, stairs and landing.
As we enter the new year, indeed the new decade, we should all take the blinkers off and have a good, honest look at ourselves and our lives. Is there anything that has slowly declined over time that we might not have even noticed? Maybe there is an element of our life that we stop giving love and attention too because it no longer seems worth the effort? Have we let relationships grow stale? Let bad habits creep in unchallenged? Or maybe we have just settled for what we've got, even if we're not happy with it, because to change it seems like it will take too much time and hard work?
Do it. Have a good, hard look at your life. Be honest if there is something you're not happy with and then take action – because that is where the magic happens.
After talking about it for years my hall, stairs and landing is now done – because we finally took the action it needed to do it (we can talk about things and think about things as much as we like – but if we don't take action, nothing changes!) It was hard work (and I think I invented some new swear words when I was wallpapering!) but I am so happy and proud that we have done it. It was a few weeks of blood, sweat and tears – but the positive effects will last for years.
And the same goes for us. Like my hall, stairs and landing – we can let things slide and become neglected or we can put in some hard work and effort and bring about positive change that can have an effect on us and our lives for many, many years.
PS: The doors to the brand new Happy Mind Army Members' Club are now open to help you make 2020 a year full of confidence and positive change > click here to sign up now!
I do love Christmas. I love spending time with family and friends, I love hearing Christmas songs and seeing all the lights and decorations and I love the magic that is around at this time of year.
But it can also be a stressful and overwhelming time of year too. Especially if you're a people-pleasing overthinker like me! It is easy to drown in a never-ending to-do list as you strive to deliver the perfect Christmas, as you constantly worry that the kids won't be happy, that people won't enjoy their dinner and that your bank balance will never recover.
Every year, the 'Christmas Thing' seems to get bigger – and last longer. Increasingly impressive TV adverts paint full-colour images of the perfect Christmas, there seems to be a growing list of things that we feel we should do, like Christmas Eve boxes and Christmas pyjamas and even advent calendars just keep getting bigger and more impressive (and expensive!). It is so easy to get swept up with the idea that it is all these things that are vital for a successful Christmas – that Christmas is about a flawless dinner, giving a mountain of gifts you can't really afford to buy and skipping your way through the festive season with a smile on your face whilst belting out your best Mariah Carey impression.
But when we stop, step off the commercial Christmas machine and remind ourselves what Christmas should mean for us then we realise that all these things are lovely – but they're not vital. If we allow ourselves to have the Christmas that we want, that is about the things that are really important to us, then it really doesn't matter if the gravy is lumpy, if the star falls off the Christmas Tree or indeed, if there are days when you want to punch Noddy Holder in the face because you're really not in the mood for Christmas cheer.
And this is why I am wishing you a very Merry Imperfect Christmas this year.
I want you to really think about what Christmas is about for you this year. Is it about having the best Christmas Tree in the village or is it about spending quality time with your family? Is it about hosting a perfect event or making precious memories? As soon as you pause and reflect on why you get swept up in all this madness, you will also hopefully realise that we can put so much pressure on ourselves to make the unimportant stuff perfect, that we miss out on the really valuable stuff.
So to help keep us all focussed on what is important this year, and help stop us getting swept up in the craziness, I am running the Happy Mind Army Imperfect Christmas – and I want you to join me, and spread the word so that more people can join us and lift some of the stress and anxiety out of the holiday season. And there will be 3 main ways you can join in:
1) The Happy Mind Army Advent Calendar
Every day from 1st December through to Christmas Day, I will be doing a post in the HMA Facebook Group to help keep you focussed on YOUR Christmas, not the Christmas you think you should be having! These posts will be a mix of stuff including inspiring quotes, ideas for homemade gifts, time-saving tips and plenty of reassurance that you don't have to fit in to anyone else's version of Christmas.
Life also still has the same challenges at this time of year – you could be grieving, having financial difficulties or struggling with illness – so feeling that you still have to live up to this idea of a perfect Christmas can be too much to bear. So HMA is here to remind you that you don't.
Steering your way through the festive season with clear focus on your goal, YOUR Christmas, can really help take some of the anxiety away from trying to be everything to everyone. You might love all the lights, tinsel and trimmings and have a Christmas jumper for every day of the week, or you might find it all a bit too much and want a quiet understated Christmas – either way, you can make sure you enjoy and find joy in your festivities, not feel you have to survive them! There is no such thing as a 'perfect Christmas' so you shouldn't put pressure on yourself to deliver one!
2) The Happy Mind Army Imperfect Christmas Photo-A-Day Challenge
Hosted mainly on Instagram, but running across Facebook and Twitter, there will also be a photo challenge running during this advent period. Life gets pretty hectic at this time of year, so the idea of this challenge is to get to you be more mindful, to stop every now and then and be in the moment, and enjoy some of the things that are easy to miss when you're hurtling around at a million miles an hour.
It's about slowing down the pace, having a moment and giving yourself the opportunity to be present and enjoy the festive season – not miss it all with your head buried in a to-do list!
Each day will have a prompt word which you can use as a springboard for ideas for an image that you post on social media that day. A list of all the words, and more details about what it involves, will be posted on instagram and in the HMA Facebook Group very soon.
3) My weekly Monday Mindset Manouvres Email
If you haven't already signed up for my weekly Monday email you can do so here. These emails take just a few minutes to read, but help set you up in the right frame of mind for the week ahead. During the festive season my emails will also tie-in to the #HMAImperfectChristmas to help make sure you remain calm and in control throughout the pre-Christmas madness.
So, make sure you sign-up for the emails, follow me on Instagram and join the HMA Facebook Group so you too can embrace an imperfect Christmas and paradoxically discover just how perfect it can be!