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10 Easy Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

NEA Member Benefits – January 2017

It’s the perfect time to try these winter pick-me-ups that will help lift your spirits until spring.

Every year, like clockwork, many educators and administrators sink into the winter doldrums. Not only are we facing shorter days, blustery temperatures and cold/flu season, we may also be struggling to get back into the swing of things on the heels of a multi-week break. By the time the Super Bowl ends, many of us would prefer to take a time out and wait for spring.

Experts agree: Winter is a challenging time to stay engaged at work, no matter what your profession. In fact, according to Caroline Adams Miller, MAPP, coach, speaker and best-selling author of several books, including the forthcoming “Getting Grit,” short days, post-holiday debt and broken New Year’s resolutions combine to make February prime time for depression and disappointment.

But there is a silver lining: You can make good use of this time by focusing inward, re-evaluating and establishing new routines that can pull you out a funk and help you recharge. Set the stage for success with these 7 strategies:

1. Get outside (yes, in the cold). Pizza parties and movie marathons are poor substitutes for fresh air and sunshine. Even if it’s cloudy, getting outside can help boost your psyche. Studies show that spending time in the great outdoors—even when it’s cold—can boost mood and enhance feelings of pleasure.

2. Turn up the color. “Anything you see, hear or smell in your environment can have a powerful impact on your mood, so if wearing bold, bright colors lightens your mood and creates more zest or optimism, go for it,” says Miller. Not keen on overhauling your closet? Brighten your space with colorful bulletin boards, fresh cut flowers or even a new screensaver for your laptop.

3. Create a new ritual. A growing number of positive psychologists are extolling the virtues of performing a set of symbolic activities for everyday things. “Morning and evening routines and rituals can bring new meaning to our lives,” says Stanley. So, set an intention at the beginning of each day or go for an early morning stroll. Even sipping coffee by a specific window can start your day on the right foot. Similarly, engage in the same soothing activity (say, taking a bath, meditating or writing in a journal), each night before bed. Researchers say it doesn’t matter which set of behaviors you perform as part of a ritual. The key is doing the same set of activities to mark the beginning and ending of your day.

4. Go on a social media hiatus. Social media can be a great connector, but it can also muck up your self-image. The reality: Social media posts portray a distorted view of reality, just as fake as airbrushed models. People post what they’re proud of, not their latest failure. So instead of fixating on how you measure up, power down your computer and connect with friends and family in real life.

5. Plan something fun! Research shows the anticipation of pleasure can bring more joy than the experience itself. So just making plans to go away for a long weekend, outlining the details for a future bucket list trip, or browsing catalogues for cruises and treks to far-away lands can start the momentum of anticipation, optimism and happiness, says Miller. After all, spring break will be here before you know it!

6. Get a Fitbit or download a new fitness app. High-tech gadgets such as the new Fitbit Charge 2 not only tracks all-day activity, exercise and sleep, it also reminds you to move and breathe (complete with guided breathing sessions to calm you during times of stress). A bonus: It assesses your pulse and heart rate, too, so you can see the tangible effects of your efforts. Short on cash? Inexpensive and even free fitness apps often provide similar perks. A few to try: MyFitnessPal, Sworkit and MapMyRun.

7. Challenge negative thinking. If your default pattern is to replay your top 10 misery hits on a loop throughout the day—I can’t teach, I’m a horrible role model for these kids, my home life is falling apart—become aware of those thoughts so you can break the pattern. The beauty and curse of the mind is you can choose one thought over another and decide whether you’re going to buy into those beliefs.

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