A fter everything we ’ ve been through in the past couple of years , if you ’ re down in the dumps , you ’ re not alone . The unpredictability of the pandemic has left many of us feeling disappointed and run down . Since spring is a time of fresh starts , it ’ s about time we clear out all the mental junk souring our moods and find ways to feel good again . Helping us with that is Gilroy ’ s own mental health specialist Martha McNiel , director of DreamPower Horsemanship .
Spring Cleaning ... Your Mood by Crystal Han
When it comes to uplifting your mood , one guaranteed method McNiel suggests is the trifecta of nature , sunshine , and exercise . According to the National Recreation and Parks Association , being in nature has been shown to give us a sense of calm , and sunlight is not only good for helping your body make vitamin D , it helps regulate your sleep cycle too , which plays a vital role in mood regulation . If you ’ ve been feeling down more than usual , McNiel recommends exercising more than you would normally to get those mood boosting endorphins going . Now that spring is in full bloom , it ’ s easy to do all three of these things at once . You could go on a nature hike , work in your garden , walk outside during your lunch break or whatever gets you out and about .
When things go wrong , it ’ s easy to dwell on how we ’ ve been let down or disappointed . Maybe a concert you were excited for was canceled or restrictions are tightening back up because of the newest variant in the pandemic . When negative things happen , it ’ s better to focus on the things that you can do , rather than the things you can ’ t .
“ Focusing on all the things you cannot do will not bring them back , and it will not make them happen any faster ,” McNiel said . Instead , find the things you can do that haven ’ t been canceled or use the time and money you would have spent on your missed event on helping someone else . This isn ’ t to say that you can ’ t honor your disappointed feelings . McNiel recommends giving yourself five minutes to have a really good cry or vent to a friend and wallow in your disappointment . But only for five minutes . “ It ’ s good to acknowledge those feelings , but the longer you spend on those feelings — any feelings — the bigger they get ,” she explained .
Practicing gratitude is also a good mood booster , she recommends . McNiel said that people who have a more positive mindset tend to focus on the things they do have and count their blessings .
Additionally , though it may seem counterintuitive , paying attention to the bad things happening in the world can be helpful in the right context . “ There ’ s all kinds of things that people in the world are struggling with and it can be helpful to look around and see all the bad things that are happening that did not affect you . That can actually be a positive thing to do ,” she said . For instance , your house might not have been destroyed by a natural disaster , you might not live in a warzone , you might not be starving .
The quickest and most guaranteed mood-booster , however , is helping others , she said . “ What we know , which is actually really cool , is that when a person helps another person , it makes the person doing the helping feel better , it makes the person being helped feel better , and it makes anybody who knows about it or witnesses it feel better ,” McNiel explained . It doesn ’ t have to be a grand gesture either . Simple acts of kindness , such as calling an elderly neighbor who ’ s lonely or dropping something off at a friend ’ s door can make an impact . Wherever you feel a calling , whether it ’ s helping animals , keeping your local area clean of litter , or using a skill or hobby to help someone else , helping out will make a difference in your mood and the moods of others . McNiel assured that if you talk to your circle of friends and family , you ’ ll be sure to find someone in need that you can help .
Life is a constant , unpredictable struggle , but it is also beautiful if we take the time to truly see it . “ The reality is that we ’ re all part of something bigger than ourselves , and the more that we can acknowledge that and act like it , the happier we ’ re going to be ,” McNiel said . Our bonds with people , animals , and nature can give us the perspective we need to freshen our moods .
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