Years ago I saw a pattern in my mood: it nose-dived in winter. At first I believed I was at the mercy of my moods, so I suffered through them.
Finally, after some desperate prayers, I took steps to mitigate the moodiness. Here are some things I did, along with principles I use to guide me now:
- Every November or December I start feeding the chickadees, cardinals, titmice, doves, finches and other birds that call this spot home. I derive joy out of helping them, and that boosts my spirits. Principle: help someone else, even if only a bird!
- I write letters or send cards to people. I’ve practiced this kind of “social distancing” for awhile. My mother used to write monthly letters to relatives, BPC (Before Personal Computers). Now when people tell me receiving cards or letters lifted their spirits, I smile inwardly. They don’t realize the first spirits lifted were mine! Principle: Keep in touch with the people you care about; it takes your mind off yourself.
- I plant flowers. In years past I planted crocuses, daffodils and hyacinths bulbs for spring blooming. Knowing the bulbs come up every spring gave me something to look forward to. This year, I bought sunflower seeds, zinnia seeds, and shasta daisy seeds. I’m ready for some color this summer! I’m looking forward to planting the seeds, and even more at seeing the flowers in bloom. Principle: Give yourself something to look forward to.
- This fourth item is something I don’t do: I don’t look at the news much. It’s important to be informed, but being informed in times of crises can easily cross the line into being obsessed with knowing every new detail. One evening I saw an alarming prediction in the headlines. As I was about to click on the link, the thought occurred to me: Is this news story going to give you peace and in turn, strength to meet your everyday problems? Or is it going to provoke anxiety and disturbing images in your mind? I chose to turn to a different website. In the current COVID-19 crisis, there is so much conflicting information I don’t know what details to believe anyway, which in itself heightens my anxiety. To keep on doing what I need to do I set limits on the amount of news and other media I take in. Principle: Don’t feel you have to know everything going on; give yourself a break.
- Take time out every day to do something creative, just for fun. Whether it’s writing, painting, gardening, woodworking, or whatever, do it. Get away from the world and the stress, and lose yourself in the activity. Principle: Relax by doing something creative.