My column from January 13, 2017.
When feeling down in the dumps, one of my favorite ways to lift my mood is to find a cute animal video online.
It becomes much harder to feel grumpy when watching puppies or kittens frolic, chubby baby pandas taking turns going down a slide or sloths hanging out after a bath.
Sometimes the cute animal videos make the news. Owners of a convenience store in Toronto shared surveillance footage of stealthy squirrels that slip in the front door to shoplift nutty candy bars as part of a plea for ideas on how to prevent the theft. Simply closing the door is not an option, as the store feels stuffy (and an open door is more likely to bring in customers, not just larcenous squirrels.)
I sympathize with the storeowners. Shoplifting, even when committed by tiny, furry beasts, costs business owners far too much. Those poor squirrels clearly have a need for chocolate though– and studies show that dark chocolate stimulates the production of endorphins- brain chemicals that bring feelings of pleasure. I tend to squirrel away stashes of chocolate at home, the office and in my purse for a quick mood-lifting fix.
Exposure to the sun can help improve one’s mood, a resource that can be rare during winter months. Listening to upbeat music serves as another spirit enhancer, one that I try to use cautiously, given my tendency to sing along or start dancing at my desk. Such behavior can disrupt (or wildly entertain) the workplace.
Another suggestion is to keep a positivity journal. Write down at least one good thing that happens each day in a journal or on a slip of paper stored in a decorative jar. Taking the time to look back and reflect on the good things in life can help us cope with the bad.
Studies suggest scents can help lift spirits. Try using a candle, essential oil diffuser or a roll-on. The scent of lemon can induce feelings of joy, lavender can calm and peppermint improves concentration. If you can track down scratch and sniff stickers, that could be a fun way to enhance your mood. Those were one of the best rewards for good work in school—even the ones that smelled like a freshly cut lawn, licorice or leather. Orange, grape, pizza and popcorn remain my favorites.
Sometimes just taking a few moments to focus on your breathing can help improve your mood. When we become tense we tend to take rapid, shallow breaths. A few deep belly breaths can help calm and center you.
Recent weather (and road) conditions have denied me access to one of my most reliable methods of boosting my spirits – going for a run. Sub-zero temps earlier this month did not deter me, I just added more layers. But ice-coated streets and sidewalks make running too hazardous, especially after a slip and fall. I own a pair of ice/snow cleats that fit over boots or running shoes and tried to go for a run on Wednesday morning, but even those did not offer enough grip to pick up the pace safely. A friend and I made it for about 1/3 of a mile before opting to visit a gym for a cardio-focused workout. While not nearly as satisfying as a long run, working up a sweat helps my mood. I often call exercise my “sweat-therapy.”
How do you combat the winter blahs?