If you are reading this just after I have published it, then you too are looking at the blue sky and hopefully feeling the positive vibes that so many of us get from summer and sunshine.
Or if you came across this post at another time in the year, then you are possibly dreaming of bluer skies and missing your flip flops and iced coffees.
Why is it that summer makes us feel so much better? The term ‘blue sky thinking’ is used to describe the sort of creative, almost day-dream-like planning ahead that is so good it might not come true. And why do you think it got its name?
We are more optimistic when the weather is good. The combination of warmth, better health (more vitamin D and less winter colds), extended daylight hours (which boost our brain chemicals and neuro-endocrine system – I know, sounds fancy), and the general sense of wellbeing all adds up to a huge mood boost.
We ‘see the bright side’, think optimistically, and are generally more resilient in terms of how we handle the general stresses of life. When there is a warm evening in the garden with a cold glass of something to look forward to, we feel that we get more out of our days. And I’d suggest that we actually do. We see more friends, see more nature, and spend less time staring at the TV or laptop when it’s nice outside.
If you are going through a hard time or are generally in need of a resilience boost, then a little summer goes a long way to lift you up. But when it’s not summer at home, few of us can afford to just check out of work and fly to a warmer part of the globe. So instead of wishing for what you can’t have, and feeling even worse for that fact – I’d like to suggest some season-appropriate ways to boost your mood and mental resilience.
Let’s get a little strategic about this…
Strategy 1 – Let there be light
In the summer, the light levels are naturally higher. If you are stressed or tired and need help getting out of bed in the morning, then try going to bed with your curtains open. Let the dawn wake you up naturally, flooding your brain with those little chemical signals that boost your natural cortisol, which in turn wakes your body up and gets you moving.
If you are inclined to add in a little exercise for good measure, then a pre-work jog in the morning sunshine is an excellent move. If that’s not your thing, try having breakfast in the garden or by a big, open window.
In the winter, when daylight is a precious resource, make it a priority to get some while you can. Make sure you step outside at lunchtime to swap that unnatural indoor lighting for the real stuff. Even on a grey day, your brain can still tell the difference.
As for waking up in the morning, a sunrise simulation lamps is a worthwhile investment. The difference between waking up naturally from increasing light levels, to waking up suddenly from the intrusive sound of your alarm, really makes a difference to your morning mood!
This is also a really good tip for those who suffer from anxiety. The loud noise and sudden jolt of your alarm can add to feelings of anxiety – so try swapping it out for something gentler if you can.
Strategy 2 – Make screen-time substitutions
With the balmy summer evenings and beer gardens, comes more socialising, real conversation, and of course, less screen time.
In the midst of winter you probably don’t want to force yourself and your friends to huddle around an outdoor heater in an attempt to replicate the experience! But you can find other, more sociable and healthy substitutes for our winter staple diet of television and not talking to one another.
Talking to your loved ones really helps to boost your mental resilience by making you feel heard and bringing back that sense of community that comes more easily around the summer BBQ.
So what could you substitute that with in the winter? A board games night at your house, a proper family-style dinner around the table, or any variation on those themes are all simple ways to keep friends around you. This really helps to keep your spirits up in the darker months, and to not let isolation add to any stress you are feeling.
Strategy 3 – Remember your needs
As you are probably noticing by now, much of cultivating mental resilience involves being proactive – putting some simple things in place to keep you feeling happy, supported and strong. This last idea I want to share is no exception.
Self-care isn’t just about getting your summer pedicure or your winter bubble baths. It’s about managing your time and making sure that your human needs are prioritised over the demands of the outside world.
I’ve had a few clients that have fallen into the trap of working overtime all winter in order to pay for a fabulous summer vacation. The trouble is if you burn yourself out for half the year, then your summer becomes about recovery rather than enjoyment.
Remember to pace yourself, and always take a reasonable amount of time for yourself, every single week.
There are 52 weeks in a year, and they each present an opportunity for you to make progress on your goals while taking care of yourself and feeling good. If you pace yourself, you can find something to feel good about in every single week of the year.