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4 Easy Steps To Beat Winter Blues

4 Easy Steps To Beat Winter Blues

The decorations are gone, Christmas is over, and New Year’s resolutions have been made and broken. Summer is still several months off and those long winter evenings transformed from a cozy novelty into a depressing inconvenience several weeks ago.

Yes, the post-holiday period is a notoriously grim time of year, but there’s still time to turn it around. Here are four ways to beat winter blues and start the new year as you mean to continue it.

1. Change your routine

Getting stuck in the same routine is, at best, uninspiring. During a period when the things we can do in our leisure time are limited by factors like the weather, lack of daylight and other winter delights, it’s easy to get stuck in the same patterns. This doesn’t just apply to our daily routines: when our external routine is the same, we can get stuck in the same emotional patterns too.

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One solution is to change your routine. Nothing radical that’s going to totally disrupt your sense of stability, but small changes that are enough to inject a sense of novelty and rejuvination into your day.

If you eat lunch at your desk, go to a local cafe once or twice a week. Get off the bus or train early and walk the last couple of blocks home. If you already walk home, vary your route. Take up a new hobby. Browse your local listings for evening classes. If you have a partner or close friend, talk to them about taking up joint activities. There’s nothing like a weekly Lindy Hop class to dance away the winter cold.

On that note…

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2. Get moving

We all know that getting off our asses and getting moving makes us feel good. Whether it’s five minutes dancing around your living room to Tina Turner, or heading out to a local Zumba class, exercise has a multitude of both physical and emotional benefits. Among the many side benefits of exercise, it improves your mood and energy levels, leaving you feeling happier and more relaxed (not to mention virtuous).

The main condition of ‘get moving’ is that it’s fun. Punishing 10K runs on Sunday mornings might be some people’s idea of a good time, but most of us would rather ditch the trainers and stay in bed. Your moments of movement don’t have to be “traditional” exercise: choosing something that motivates you is more important than being conventional.

3. Keep a journal

Journaling is one of the most valuable personal development tools around, and it doesn’t cost you a cent. If you’ve never journaled before, the idea of starting a daily or weekly practice might feel daunting, but the great thing about journaling is that it can be whatever you want it to be. Journaling is traditionally done using pen and paper, but you can use drawing, painting, collage or even music as your medium. As long as the format gives you a voice, it’s worth a try.

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Some starting suggestions for journaling ideas include:

  • A gratitude journal: Write down 5-10 things you’re grateful for from the day that’s just passed.
  • A “have done” list: The perfect antidote to endless to-do lists, a have-done list involves writing down everything you’ve done that day, big and small
  • Morning Pages: Write stream-of-consciousness for 3 pages of your journal (or about 750 words). If you think it, it goes on paper. This exercise from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron encourages your internal dialogue to come out, cracks through your defences, and helps to reveal your true thoughts and feelings.

4. Connect

Who we surround ourselves with deeply impacts our levels of happiness and satisfaction. Connecting with like-minded, supportive people is a fantastic way of reclaiming our mojo.

Choose one or two people from your circle of friends who are cheerleaders—people who are accepting, encouraging and inspiring—and make a plan to schedule regular meet-ups or conversations with them. If you find it hard to identify these people within your existing group of friends, use this as a chance to branch out. Taking up a new hobby (see idea no. 1) or attending a new exercise class (idea no. 2) are great ways of meeting new friends who share similar interests.

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What are your tips to beat winter blues? Leave a comment and let us know.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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