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!
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!
I'm so much better than I used to be at staying in the moment and keeping my overthinking in check, but every now and then something happens that makes me look back and dwell a bit on times gone by. I don't long for the past, I love my present and wouldn't want to change any of it, but it places me in what I can only describe as a melancholy mood.
Yesterday my eldest daughter left primary school and this has been the trigger for such a melancholy episode. It marks the end of an era and is a clear sign of passing time and I have found myself looking at old photos, remembering times when the girls were tiny and in a way, I felt some grief for the loss of all these moments that are gone, spent, never to be had again.
It can be easy for a melancholy mood to linger, to turn into sadness tinged with panic at time passing and a sense of overwhelm at so much change happening. So, it is vital to come back 'into the moment' – to return to the present and concentrate on all the great things happening now. Being in the present, being mindful, is the perfect antidote to overthinking. It calls your wandering mind back into line and stops small negative feelings snowballing into large, long-lasting negative feelings.
So, our challenge for August is to be more mindful, to be more in the moment. And I have a fun and practical way to help you start – I want you to join in a game of Mindfulness Bingo. A lot of mindfulness techniques revolve around what experts call 'grounding' – that is using something you can see, hear, touch, smell or taste to bring your senses back to what is happening in the present. It is a very simple technique which has immediate and effective results.
So, our game of Mindfulness Bingo gives you a few prompts to help you start to use 'grounding' in your every day life. The first bingo card (which you can find at the end of this post) concentrates on things you can see and hear and gives you prompts for things to look out for during your day. And like a traditional game of bingo the idea is to get a full line crossed off, followed by a full house. During the month, I will also share extra daily prompts and a new bingo card to keep you going over in the Beyond The Crumpled Paper Facebook Group (come and join us here). You can also join us there and post your bingo successes!
It's time to take charge of our overthinking, so let's play Mindfulness Bingo...