It’s autumn and daylight is dwindling, even before the clocks change back. The temptation to snuggle up in bed all day while the rain pours outside is getting harder to resist. I feel even more lethargic and my body shrieks at every attempt I make to come out from under the covers into the cold. As the dark nights draw closer, the ability to keep upbeat gets harder and can so easily bring me down, making me feel fed up.
Search the internet for ideas on how to lift a low mood and results will soon have you outside, exercising and meeting up with people. This is fine when you are fit and able but for us chronically ill this isn’t so easy and often causes more stress than any sense of relief. Gone are the days when I could jump on my bike and head to the hills for a quick thrill and adrenalin fix. I can only slow walk at best now and even that has me suffering in the days after.
These days I don’t have many friends around me and family live away, yet I do still seem to steer round a low mood and it made me think about what I do that could be the reason for this. Here are my top 10 mood boosters:
1.Open the blinds. Every morning (yes 11:45am is still morning) I make sure the blinds are opened. I call this ‘letting in the day’. I don’t know what any day has in store so I let it in and see what it brings. Letting in as much natural light as I can gives me a sense of space, freedom and of living. If I’m sat in the dark, I feel closed off from the world and my mood soon slumps.
2.Change of clothes. I know I’m sick but if I lay in my pyjamas and dressing gown all day, I start to feel grotty. I find clothing can impact my mood. I guess it’s like putting on a suit for work, you feel strong and empowered ready for the day ahead. Wearing bed clothes makes me feel slouchy and sluggish. I also find wearing bed clothes during the day confuses my brain. I don’t feel the sense of winding down like I do when I just got changed into my pyjamas for the night. So, on a good day I make sure I change into day clothes even comfy tracksuit bottoms and a hoody does the trick. On a bad day when I’m really struggling, I find even just putting on fresh undies can feel a little better. [Side note: throw away your raggy knickers! You may be the only one to see them but believe me newer knickers are more secure and they just feel great].
3.Feel the fresh air. Some days I can’t get outside at all but I find opening a window a welcome relief as the house can get stuffy. Even when it’s raining outside, a blast of fresh air wakes up my senses. If I can, I walk the dog, it’s a slow pace but enough to feel the benefit of being out of the house. When I can’t I am often found sitting in my back yard breathing in the fresh air. One large breath in and then slowly out refreshes me as it works its way around my body.
4.Eat well. I’ve been watching my calorie intake as I’m determined not to put on too much weight. My challenge each day is to limit any high calorie foods and also get in my 5 fruit and vegetables each day. If I manage to do this and feel I have eaten well, it gives me a sense of achievement. My hair and nails are in much better condition too, bonus! Overall, a huge feel-good boost to my mood.
5.Occupy myself. My day is so very long. I don’t work and all my activities are limited but somehow, I get through it without feeling too bored. My partner works shifts so I think this is a massive help as he is home half of the day and his banter keeps me smiling. When he isn’t around, I seem to break my day up. 1 hour of TV, 20 minutes sat in silence with a hot drink, 30 minutes of adult colouring, 20 minutes of housework, 1 hour of tv etc (I know total rock and roll life). I try to mix up mental and physical tasks and rest in between. Being unwell has brought out my creativity. When my back was bad, I found glass paining and now that I am too shaky to paint, I colour or stitch and do the garden. When I’m too tired for these, I watch You Tube, listen to music or watch anything light hearted. Comedy is great. The right entertainment lifts my spirits.
6.Pamper and learn to enjoy ’you’ time. I love a pamper. It gives me a sense of healing and wellness. I was never a girly girl who practiced hair styles, makeup and doing nails but as I’ve grown older it is definitely something I try to do. I usually keep my finger and toe nails in check each week with a soak and a file but what I really enjoy is a face mask. I go all out. Light up the tea lights (round the bath if I’m up to it), play some gentle music and then lay and relax. It feels like I’m actually resting and healing my body as I enjoy a moment of calm…aah.
7.Limit negativity. I cut out many people in the past who make me feel bad. Now my interactions are with people I am relaxed with and who I find easy to be around and it has really boosted my self-esteem. The same goes for social media too. I try to scroll past anything that triggers an emotional response or that makes me feel inferior. My Facebook interaction is mostly with different groups now. Sharing experiences with chronic illness groups not only helps me but it gives me a chance to help others too. Though I do try to limit my time with this as too much can become overwhelming. Connecting with walking, nature, wildlife and photography groups helps to break up serious chat with easy pictures to look at instead of lengthy moans and rants. My favourite is the Akita group. We have an Akita so it is great to be able to talk and laugh about the things they get up to and this also gives me a break from chronic illness talk. My Illness is doom and gloom but my every day doesn’t have to be. Balance life with fun and laughter.
8.Stop overthinking in its tracks. I sometimes sit and find my thoughts whirling around and either stressing me out or bringing me down. Sometimes I just let these thoughts come a go and not pay attention to them. Other times they are louder so I have to virtually bat them away. For some reason this works and so long as I busy myself, I soon forget about what I was thinking about. This has taken practice to do and the hardest part is snapping out of that thought in the first place. I blame having too much spare time for stirring up past memories and overthinking. After doing my Psychology degree I know they are just thoughts and often our thoughts and memories are skewed so they’re not worth paying attention to. Unless they are good ones, then go ahead daydream away.
9.Chat to friends, family, neighbours. After lockdown I have realised how much socialising benefits me. I made friends with my neighbours and now know most of the street to say hello to. It is good to see people in person but since my good friends are out of my area and I can no longer drive, then WhatsApp is just as good. We have so many ways to socialise these days, I find any interaction gives me a boost and distracts from my illness.
10.Finally, I can’t help but mention my dog, Kita the Akita. My partner helps to walk and look after her but having a pet fills the home with joy. Our dog is such a character, the faces she pulls to show her mood, and the antics she gets up to. Last week she stole a chew from the pet shop, a vanilla sponge cake from the market and a packet of treats in another shop but when you look at her cute face it is hard to stay mad. She makes me laugh and her coat is so snuggly to cuddle. When I’m not being annoyed by the amount of dog hair in our house, I find she is very calming to groom. Looking after her gives me a sense of purpose too. A definite winner for boosting my mood.
So, these are my top ten things on how I keep a low mood at bay. They may not suit everyone but you may be able to adapt them to suit your needs. You may even do some of these things yourself. Let me know in the comments how you keep a cheery spirit through the darker weeks. I’d love to hear some suggestions.