When life throws something tough at us, like a lockdown in the bleakest months of winter, it can be pretty difficult to find joy in the everyday.
But the good news is there are simple actions we can take to prioritise our wellbeing and amp up the feel-good factor at home.
So, next time you’re struggling, try practising some of these tips – it might just turn a negative day into a positive one.
1. Write it down
Without an outlet, our thoughts can quickly spiral and send us into a bit of a negative funk. One way to combat the issue is to write down what’s bothering you.
Dr Niall Campbell of Priory’s Roehampton Hospital says: “Keeping a diary and writing your concerns and your thoughts, including things you are grateful for, is a genuinely useful tool.”
“Journaling helps to stop the train of thought that will lead you to imagine the worst-case scenario. It’s a practical way to challenge your negative thoughts and separate what is in your control and what isn’t.”
2. Smile, even if you don’t feel like it
It might sound glib, but there’s evidence to suggest that the simple act of smiling can jump-start the process of feeling good.
A 2014 study, involving 169 participants and published in the journal Psychological Science, found that students who smiled as they dunked a hand in ice water (while having their heart rates measured) were better at recovering from the brief stress they had faced.
So trying to ‘grin and bear it’ might actually help us through some tricky moments.
3. Stick to a routine
Having structure to your day can boost your wellbeing, especially in difficult times like these.
Dr Meg Arroll, Healthspan chartered psychologist, says: “Having a firm daily routine gives us a pattern to daily life that is grounding and offers a sense of security in uncertain times.”
It could be as simple as setting a bedtime, showering first-thing in the morning or making sure you always clock-in for a lunchtime yoga session.
4. If you’re working from home, keep your commute time
While we’re not missing the traffic jams and delays, there are still some principles from our old commute that we can take into our lockdown life.
Bookending your working day with some quiet, solo time to read, listen to a podcast or meditate can help to put you in a calm and positive mindset for the day.
“Pre-pandemic, it often felt like we were rushing around 24/7 without enough hours in the day to truly unwind,” says Arroll. “By replacing our former commute time with a relaxing activity, we can develop a more balanced day that allows for ‘active rest’, which is as important as good quality sleep for sustaining daily energy.”
5. Turn the next few months into your personal health retreat
The NHS say that regular workouts can help us to reduce the risk of depression by as much as 30%, so why not use this extra time at home to fully commit yourself to a fitness challenge?
Priory consultant psychiatrist Dr Paul McLaren says: “People who build regular aerobic exercise into their weekly routine will deal better psychologically with lockdown.
“More exercise and less alcohol will buffer the negative effects of lockdown on mental health.”
6. Find boundaries with social media
If seeing other people’s lockdown pictures and status updates is making you feel unhappy, why not quit scrolling for a while and take a well-deserved screen break?
“Passive social media use can increase anxiety, negatively affect body image and dampen mood,” says Arroll. “It can also be a time vortex, so do set and keep to your boundaries with social media use.”
7.Spread joy and positivity
“Positive affect, in other words feeling in a good mood, is a cornerstone of wellbeing and maintains both mental and physical health,” says Aroll.
She explains that studies have found that happiness is a contagion phenomenon – if you’re having a good day, it can rub off on your pals, and they pass it on to their friends in turn.
“A number of emotions trigger positive affect, one of which is joy, which can also be contagious, acting in a positive loop. In other words, helping others feel good makes us feel good so it’s a win-win.”
So even if you’re secretly feeling glum about lockdown, sending some positive and motivational messages over WhatsApp to your friends could not only make them feel better, but you too.