The winter brings colder days, shorter days and especially in these 2021 days, we’re experiencing cabin fever and COVID fever, or is it just anxiety? Let’s not get started on homeschooling and the copious amounts of time we’ve spent with our families who, as it turns out, are pretty annoying in high doses! We’re all experiencing darker moods and a struggling state of mind this year, and we all want and need to do everything we can to feel the better these days. Numerous factors play into our mood: diet, activity level, quality of sleep, stress, hormones, the news, financial stability, social media… the list goes on and on.
There are scientifically backed ways that you can boost your mood and pull yourself through this last little bit of winter, we all know this. However; what us moms often struggle with is getting started and finding the time. During times like these, we have to use our imaginations more than ever to keep moving forward and keep our mind and our bodies healthy. Here I’ve laid out the 3 key ways to boost your mood and broken them down so that they’re less overwhelming and easily incorporated into our already busy days:
1) Feel Good Goal
2) Accomplishment Goal
3) Connection Goal
Doing something that feels good, accomplishing a task and making a connection: These 3 things will benefit your mood greatly. Make a commitment to yourself that you will accomplish each of these daily. Add them to your calendar or share them with a friend/family member to make yourself accountable. But remember, the idea is to make them micro-goals, or goals that we can accomplish by using our imaginations to repurpose the time we do have. Let’s break our categories down even further:
Feel Good Goal
These are moments or activities in your day that make you feel good. Lately, many families have been struggling to interact in a positive way (guilty). Similar to the theory behind behavioural activation, this is a simple way to add some positive interactions into your day. This is the easiest goal to accomplish alongside your kids, it’s an easy one to slide into a 10 minute break from homeschooling or as the dinner simmers on the stove. A feel good goal could be:
A dance party
Shake your sillies out, play loud upbeat music, stretch it out. The kids think it’s fun and it feels so good to move.
Get your vitamin D, while the kids play, simply stand and take a few deep breaths of fresh air. Or pick up a ball (snowball or otherwise) and toss it around with the kids. They’ll be surprised to see you feeling happy and you’ll surprise yourself with how this positive, simple and short interaction can improve your mood.
Baking something yummy
Get the kids involved- don’t stress or worry about the mess, LET IT GO. Just enjoy the moment. Louder for the clean freaks in the back… LET GO OF THE MESS and enjoy the moment.
Singing in the shower
Who cares who’s listening, in fact; sing even louder the kids will think it’s hilarious and you’ll feel good doing it.
These are items that you need to do, they’re on your to-do list and are non-negotiable yet, they still sometimes slip through the cracks leading to bigger problems and greater stress. Like paying a bill for example, you know you need to get online to do it and yet you’ve procrastinated and now you have a late payment. Let’s stop this procrastination cycle. Prioritize one accomplishment goal each day. By completing your goal, you’ll actually save yourself time later with a bigger headache caused by letting these things slip through the cracks. An accomplishment goal is totally personal to what you have to do, but often can include things like:
-Weekly menu prep
-Online grocery order
-Register the kids in their activities
-Book the doctor’s appointment
Unfortunately, an accomplishment goal is often an item found on the invisible task list that moms feel burdened with. Until we’re able to start a motherhood revolution, just try your best to accomplish one per day. And always ask your partner for help, they don’t know what’s on the list, it’s invisible (and they can’t even find stuff when it’s right in front of them anyway).
These goals are where you connect either with yourself or with someone else. It’s a time to reflect, or feel less alone in your worries. Many of these can be broken down to repurpose the time we do have. Connect with an old friend while driving or take your deep, restorative breaths while going pee (seriously, repurpose the time you have to make it a mood boosting moment). Some easy ways to achieve connection might be:
Taking a Walk
It is scientifically proven that a walk can boost your mood. Like any cardiovascular activity a walk will release endorphins to make you feel better and bust stress hormones so going for a walk can certainly be considered your connection goal. Take the dog out, walk to the mailbox or park the farthest parking spot from the store if you can’t find the time for a longer walk.
Friends with Benefits
No, not that kind of benefits! Add a friend to your walk, and you’ll multiply the benefits! Studies show that talking with a supportive friend can have excellent cognitive benefits, in fact; the advantages to your brain are comparable to completing a crossword puzzle!
It doesn’t have to be trendy or fancy or even hard. A few deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth. When you start thinking about how you forgot to register your child for school, just acknowledge it and take another breath. Contrary to popular belief, meditation isn’t about not thinking, but more about acknowledging the thought and then letting it go. Like, yep, I forgot…but now I’ll take another deep breath. Visualise the breath coming in-and-out and make the breath what you think about. The benefits of a deep breath is your connecting with your body. When you’re relaxed your body automatically takes slow deep breaths. So what you’re doing is taking deep breaths first and tricking your nervous system into believing it’s relaxed. This can be done while you’re on the toilet, standing waiting for the coffee to brew or the very first few minutes of your day. No special rooms, no fancy candles or Tibetian singing bowls needed.
Calling a friend
When in doubt, call your mom. Studies show that talking it out, connecting with others (even a positive interaction with a stranger) can make us feel more connected to friends, family and our community which boosts our mood.
Sending a card or gift
Happy people do more for others (this doesn’t mean you need to take on more laundry at home) but it could mean sending a friend a quick message to say you miss seeing them, or send an eldery person on your street a bunch of flowers. Brighten your day, by making someone else’s a little brighter.
Do yourself a favour and add one feel good, one accomplishment and one connection goal to your calendar today. By seeing these mood boosters as three little tasks, you won’t scare yourself away with the big picture. No, you don’t have the bandwidth to do it all, but maybe you can commit to sing in the shower, pay the phone bill and take the dog for a walk. Break it down each day, and you’ll go to bed each night knowing you accomplished the list, which is a huge mood booster in and of itself.
If after a few weeks you’re feeling these goals have made an impact, and you’re feeling better you can start to add in some tougher stuff. Keep in mind, once you’re already feeling in a more positive mood, adding more won’t seem as daunting as perhaps it does today. Maybe you can commit to yourself to get off social media for a few nights a week? Or add some more leafy greens to your diet, or get an extra hour sleep? All of these things slowly added together will have significant mood impacts. Plus, once you feel better, you’ll start to see the dynamic between you and your kids improve, too. Then before you know it, Spring will have sprung and we’ll be moving into brighter days.
Note: if you’re reading this and it all seems so incredibly overwhelming and daunting. If you’ve tried these tips and it’s not working, or if your mood has been exceedingly low for a long period, please consider reaching out to your healthcare provider for support. There should be no embarrassment in needing extra help, it’s not shameful; it’s biochemistry.