10 tiny changes to brighten your day

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Health | Lifestyle - AILBHE MALONE

I’m a big be­liever that small changes can have a big im­pact on your mood and well-be­ing. But for some­one who talks a lot about the im­por­tance of look­ing af­ter your­self, it took me a long time to re­alise I had to look af­ter my­self too.

Some read­ers may re­mem­ber I was a mu­sic colum­nist for The Ir­ish Times for the bet­ter part of seven years. Now I’m an edi­tor for a busy me­dia com­pany, which re­quires me to be on top of dead­lines and in con­trol if things go wrong.

I al­ways thought my fo­cused mind­set and de­ter­mi­na­tion to share my ex­pe­ri­ences with read­ers meant that over-think­ing was par for the course. (“I’m not over-analysing my bad day, I’m fil­ter­ing for the reader!”) But to be fair, I have al­ways been a wor­rier. (Who doesn’t panic if they don’t ar­rive at the air­port ex­actly two hours – three for long-haul flights – be­fore their flight takes off?)

My life went on this tir­ing, anx­ious way for the bet­ter part of 28 years, un­til I started treat­ment for a gen­er­alised anx­i­ety dis­or­der. When I fi­nally be­gan treat­ment, I found the process of get­ting bet­ter over­whelm­ing. How­ever, through baby steps, I learned that the sky wouldn’t come fall­ing down if I put my­self first ev­ery now and then. I be­gan to look af­ter my­self by fo­cus­ing on the lit­tle things.

Even for those of you who don’t suf­fer from anx­i­ety and sim­ply need a pick-me-up from time to time, here are some easy-to-fol­low, prac­ti­cal tips that I gath­ered to­gether in my book 101 Tiny Changes to Brighten Your Day that will help to calm your mind and boost your self-es­teem.

1 Buy some nice cosy clothes

That doesn’t have to mean cash­mere jog­gers but maybe a pair of comfy H&M track­suit bot­toms. Make a con­scious de­ci­sion to be com­fort­able at home. De­cide to make your leisurewear some­thing you ac­tu­ally en­joy wear­ing, not an af­ter­thought.

2 Find a YouTube chan­nel that calls to you

I can’t get enough of Yoga with Adriene – free, chill, in­clu­sive yoga classes with an in­struc­tor who stops ev­ery few min­utes to make sure you’re do­ing what feels best for you.

3 Ex­pe­ri­ence na­ture through your phone

Take a photo of a green space you love – it can be some­thing from a hol­i­day, or even a snap of su­per­mar­ket flow­ers . There are loads of stud­ies which show that even look­ing at pho­tos of “restora­tive en­vi­ron­ments” has a pos­i­tive im­pact on “men­tal fa­tigue”. Good rea­son to change your desk­top to a chill na­ture pic.

4 Eat some­thing

Eat what­ever makes you feel good. Eat toast, eat McDon­ald’s, eat ce­real. Now is not the time for mind­ful cook­ing or turmeric lat­tes – it’s the time for ba­sic nour­ish­ment and what­ever will keep you go­ing.

5 In­vest in a hot wa­ter bot­tle

When I’m low and slug­gish, the idea of leav­ing my snugly bed is not invit­ing. But fill­ing up a hot wa­ter is a valid rea­son to leave your bed and sit on the sofa for a bit.

6 No work emails at home

Re­move your work email app from your phone.

7 Say ‘no’ rather than yes

If plans and com­mit­ments are over­whelm­ing you, it’s okay to can­cel or ad­just them. If you’re some­one whose de­fault is to make no plans, then make a cou­ple of small, low-risk plans – maybe to walk around your lo­cal park with a friend, or to read two chap­ters of your book in a new cof­fee shop.

8 Turn off no­ti­fi­ca­tions on your phone

The Fu­ture Work Cen­tre calls push no­ti­fi­ca­tions a “toxic source of stress”. So push back against an­swer­ing ev­ery­thing straight­away. If it’s ur­gent, they’ll call you.

9 Don’t wake your phone

Don’t look at your phone for at least 10 min­utes af­ter you wake up. Although I am pa­thet­i­cally tied to my phone, I refuse to let it set the agenda for my day. In­stead, try to stretch and look at the sun com­ing through the cur­tains. Eas­ing into the day in a more mind­ful way sets your mood to be­ing less anx­ious, from the out­set.

10 Block out a piece of time in your cal­en­dar for your­self

Take a crit­i­cal look at your week, and fig­ure out which day is your most stress­ful. Then keep aside one hour on that day to let your­self catch up. (It’s okay to resched­ule. I used to take pride in the fact that I kept to a tight sched­ule. If I said we would meet at 10.15, I would be there at 10.11. But liv­ing like that is ex­haust­ing , and puts oth­ers’ needs ahead of your own.)

101 Tiny Changes to Brighten Your Day by Ailbhe Malone (£9.99/ ¤12.99, Icon Books) is avail­able on Amazon, at Ea­son and book­shops

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