Happiness Hacks To Beat The January Blues
Grow Talk by Sofy Robertson
Amidst the chaos of Brexit, a word that in itself strikes negativity in the heart of many, it feels like a good time to focus on the positivity that a new year can bring. With that in mind, Grow Talk bring you its happiness hacks and remind you that, despite everything that’s going on ‘out there’, happiness, even if only some, is within your power.
Unlike most ‘new year, new you’ fads, these happiness hacks are simple, free and are intended to last you longer than January. It is likely that there will be difficult times ahead for the UK politically with unknown impacts on our work and personal lives, so it has never been more important to hold on to happiness.
Make contact with your nearest and dearest
They may not always be near you geographically, but in our modern world that doesn’t mean that we can’t communicate. Send a text, start a GIF-a-thon (yes Joff Alexander-Frye, I am thinking of you here), pick up the phone or squeeze in a FaceTime or Skype. The method of communication doesn’t really matter; research shows that those who reach out and foster connections tend to lead happier, healthier lives.
My Morning Routine; an essential ingredient to a positive day
At Grow, we already know morning routines are really important for the day ahead, that’s why we have a whole monthly feature dedicated to it. As psychologist Tim Sharp explains:
“What we do first thing in the morning typically sets the tone for the rest of the day.” (Huffington Post)
A large part of our morning routine may be formed by that ‘most important meal of the day’; breakfast. Whether or not it is the most important is constantly under debate, but regardless, at some point in your morning routine you will need to eat. It’s a no-brainer that eating foods rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants like fruit and veg will make you feel good so including these in your morning food routine will help set up a positive start to your day. And, let’s face it, no one wants a hangry co-worker in the morning!
Make note of your gratitude
Gratitude and happiness have a symbiotic relationship so if giving thanks can make you happier, then let’s make it a thing. You could keep a daily journal of what you are grateful for each day, or if that seems a bit involved, scribble it on a post-it or say it out loud to yourself or a loved one (and yes, that includes the cat for those of you feeling a little self-conscious). There is no escaping that life events from bereavements to Brexit to missing the bus will happen, but this small hack can serve as a reminder for the little rays of positivity that shine into your life.
It’s ok to not be ok
Some days, there is just no escaping it; it’s a bad day. You want to cry, scream or rage and rather than quashing that down and plastering on an acceptable smile and manner, give yourself time (and an appropriate place!) to release those feelings. Have a rant with your loved one, express your feelings in a journal, or just have a good cry. Although crying leads to an immediate dip in mood, research has shown that around ninety minutes later, people reported that they felt even better than they did before they had reason to cry.
Blow away the cobwebs
Speaking at the Exeter Climate Summit, Alex Lochead, Policy Advisor for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, explained
“we spend 80% of our lives indoors.”
With this staggering statistic in mind, the importance of getting out and getting some lungfuls of that good ol’ fresh air seems tantamount to a happy and healthy lifestyle. In Grow Talk’s Lunch Alert: Get Out, I wrote about the importance of getting out of the office at lunchtime and how there is research to back the importance of a lunchtime walk.
It’s not just the exercise that is important here. Research has shown the positive impact that being in nature has on our mood, which has caused several major companies to engage in biophilic design to boost employees’ heath, productivity and happiness.
Bin your negativity
Yes, literally. Many of us suffer from persistent negative thoughts; the ‘what if’s, the ‘why didn’t I’s. Rather than letting these constantly cycle through your mind, write them down and chuck them in the bin. Sounds ridiculous? Maybe. But no one other than you will know you are doing it. There’s even research to support the practice, so why not give it a try, you’ve got nothing to lose other than your negativity.
Shake your… well, you know
It’s pretty much common knowledge now that exercise has some great mood-boosting properties. As if that wasn’t enough, new research has demonstrated that exercises alleviates Alzheimer’s disease and slows memory loss.
If you groan at the thought of exercise, you clearly haven’t found the right form. Making a chore out of exercise will mean that you are doing it less effectively, and therefore it will have less effect on boosting your mood. If you’re gym-phobic, then hit the pavement or local trails for a run or walk. Water babies have plenty to choose from and for those who don’t enjoy swimming pools and live in a coastal region like Devon, you’re simply spoiled for choice (though investing in a winter wetsuit comes highly Grow-recommended). The greatest thing about exercise, is that you can combine it with a number of other happiness hacks; exercise with a loved one (four-legged friends are of course included, though dogs tend to prefer walking and jogging over cats), use it as a chance to take a tech break or do it as part of your morning or lunchtime routine.
Yo-ga-na love it
If you’re still cringing at the above exercise hack, then fear not, you don’t have to get hugely sweaty and active all the time. Yoga and Pilates have been shown to release endorphins and get your blood flowing. With classes happening in village halls, gyms and schools all around the country, there is plenty of opportunity to go it solo or drag along a loved one (probably not the four-legged one this time). If you’re not feeling it financially or socially, or perhaps are finding it hard to fit into your schedule, then thank goodness for YouTube. All of the stretching and endorphin releasing, but from your living room. Just mind the cat.
Take a tech break
For many of us, our work lives involve a high level of technological involvement, from working at a computer to keeping up with sales calls. Technology may be unavoidable during our working day, but we can choose to take a break from it in our down time. I am by no means saying that technology is bad thing, but, as with many things, too much of it can have a negative impact.
I know how easy it is to slip into that evening habit of dinner in front of Netflix and then some casual Facebook stalking or Instagram updating. These can be positive experiences, but equally social media platforms often throw us toxic curveballs or draw us into global issues to add to our worry bank. Reading a book, taking a walk, playing a board game; a little low tech every now and then can be entirely refreshing and can also offer a time for togetherness and family or couple interaction.
One of my favourites is heading down to The Hourglass in Exeter; a pub with no TVs or screens of any kind, a pub where you can’t even get phone signal and are therefore forced to partake in the old-school drinking culture of sitting, chatting and maybe playing a game. It’s a pub where I have met many new people as there are no screen barriers. For those of you on Dry January, apologies, but the same ethos applies to the coffee shop culture; a chance for that social interaction that made up the first hack in combination with a tech break.
Make life a 2-year-old and say ‘NO!’
If you’re looking at your calendar and tearing your hair out over the number of social engagements you’ve agreed to, this one is for you. It may be hard to hear, but you could be a people-pleaser. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you still get some all important ‘you time’. Juggling other people’s wants and needs can become exhausting and can lead to unwanted emotions like anxiety and stress. So block in some time in your diary with ‘me appointment’ or some other silly name that will remind you to take time out and do what you want, even if it’s just to spend a day in bed!
It’s SARK time!
Spontaneous Acts of Random Kindness; they can be as big or as little as you want. Research has shown that being kind to others can make you happier. There is an instant gratification from smiling and receiving a smile in return and a SARK can be as small or as simple as this. These acts don’t need to cost you anything; make a cuppa for a co-worker, donate some unwanted items to a charity shop, walk a neighbour’s dog, give your relatives a night off from the kids. You may not believe in karma, but improving someone else’s day, even if only a little, will boost yours too.
Another hack that I feel very strongly about, having written about why car karaoke feels so good (and is proven to have health benefits). Listening to music, whether in the car or out, increases your levels of dopamine and can increase your antibodies, thus boosting your immune system against those winter nasties.
‘You’ll find that life is still worthwhile if you just smile’
Nat King Cole was on to something there. Here at Grow, as much as we retain our ‘relentlessly positive’ attitude, we can’t change the news or offer certainty in these unstable times. So instead, we’ll end on a smile in the hope that it will be returned.