As the days get shorter and darker, here are some tips for mood management.
Gray, gloomy, dark … It describes the weather that’s coming, but it could also be your state of mind lately. When the golden autumn suddenly changes from sunny and colorful to rainy gray, we can all experience changes of mood. Here are nine ways to fight the blues …
1. Remember, it could always be worse …
An old Jewish aphorism says that if you don’t have enough room in your house, bring in a goat! After a while, sell the goat, and you’ll see how much more space you have. It’s a bit counterintuitive, but true. I used this method recently in my own house. When I was tired of the chaos that reigned in my home thanks to my kids, I invited friends with 6-month old twins and a five-year-old daughter to stay with us for a week. When they left, I realized that I actually loved my ordinary life!
2. Learn from others
Do you scroll through perfect photos on Instagram and think how beautiful and happy some people appear? Although Instagram photos can be very deceiving, I think we all have someone we admire and look up to, and whose apparent success we envy a little.
If we are so inspired by another person’s life, maybe there is something we can learn from them. I know a mom of four children who is a model of harmony for me. The house is always clean, her children are taken care of, she has time for date nights with her husband, she runs, and she tries to give back locally and help others. It turns out that what gives her the power to do it all is the fact that every morning she gets up before everyone else and meditates on Scripture for 30 minutes. She also goes to a retreat alone a few times a year. If it works for her so maybe it will work for me.
3. Go to the doctor
Man is body and spirit — that’s nothing new. But we need frequent reminders that those two things constantly affect one another. Often, for example, our dipping moods are caused by low levels of vitamin D in our body, which is due to the lack of sun. What to do? Supplement! After consulting a doctor or pharmacist first, of course; they can determine whether or not you need extra vitamin D through a simple blood test.
Alternatively, if you regularly get depressed at this time of year, and it lasts for more than a few days, you may be suffering from SAD, seasonal affective disorder. It can be treated in various ways, so if your problem seems persistent and is really affecting your life, get checked!
4. Visit the sick
Taking time out to spend time with people who are suffering is, first of all, a work of mercy, and one of the good deeds Jesus mentions as being done for Him when we do it for those in need (Matthew 25:31-46). As long as you check with the patient and/or his or her family ahead of time to be aware of visiting hours and other restrictions, your visit can mean the world to someone who is suffering illness and is in an uncomfortable environment. Your presence may also mean that a family member who has been accompanying the sick person can take a break, and grab a nap or a bite to eat.
On one hand, doing a good deed like this should in itself make you feel better. Also, though, contact with people who have it worse than we do can teach us gratitude for the “here and now,” for all the things we have that others don’t.
5. Show up
It’s been said that 80 percent of success is just showing up. For instance, I recently discovered that my local libraries organize a series of encounters with interesting people, for free. Talks with travelers, writers, actors, business people — the internet is full of information about such initiatives, many of them free. Nothing inspires me so much as meeting wise and interesting people. Pick an activity you enjoy, show up, and get out of the autumn doldrums!
6. Listen to others
If you happen to be sitting at home with sick children and you simply can’t get out, open YouTube and listen to TED Talks. These are brief presentations by some of the world’s most intriguing personalities who, in a very engaging way, motivate you to act, instead of complaining.
7. Wash the windows
Doing this gives you double benefits. Not only do you move a little — and we all know that’s good for your health — but you also get a little more light into the house, which is in such demand in the late fall and winter.
8. Try something new
In agriculture, farmers use crop rotation to bring in a good harvest. The same “rotation” needs to happen with our brain activity; our gray matter need changes and new stimuli to work well. Do you make pasta for dinner every day? Go to the store and buy something unfamiliar, and try to make dinner with that ingredient. Do you only read romance novels? Pick up a mystery. Buy a houseplant and take care of it. Change, take a risk, do something new!
Blessed Joseph Allamano, my favorite spiritual inspiration during recent weeks, used to say, “We can accomplish more in 15 minutes after a prayer than in two hours without a prayer.” So, when you are overwhelmed with reality and a ton of things to take care of, leave it all and grab a rosary. Afterwards, the work will go faster!