The cold winter months can be difficult for many, regardless of an ongoing pandemic. Maybe you’ve recently lost your job, lost a loved one, or have struggled with the social isolation that has come with 2020. Given our environment it’s easy to understand why depression rates are higher than they have ever been. As I looked at my facebook memories yesterday, I was reminded of good times with a friend who took her life earlier this year, serving as a constant reminder to do our best and support each other through a difficult year. While so many of us are struggling in our own ways, and still waiting for restrictions to lift so we can hug our friends and family again, we have so much to still be thankful for and can extend that happiness to others.
This winter season comes with it’s unique challenges, which is why I want to talk about ways to improve happiness for yourself, for others, and for your community. Starting first with a personal level since that attitude quickly expands to our relationships with others.
Take Care of Yourself First
When I taught leadership courses in the past, we discussed how conflict builds and starts internally before expanding to our relationships with others. Reflecting inward to change our own thoughts and actions can play a huge role in creating a positive atmosphere in our homes, with friends, or at work. My infant daughter cries when she hears her older brother upset, reminding me how our energy feeds off each other. For example, when I am intentional about my actions and body language, my family is much more relaxed. Our families often follow our lead since negative energy spreads to our spouse and then to our children within seconds. Take care of yourself first!
- Gratitude Journal – Starting your day with three things you are grateful for will improve your mood for the day and help your brain focus on the positive.
- Take time for yourself – This year I gave birth to our daughter after juggling a full time job and a toddler at home. Post partum depression can be especially challenging during a pandemic while so many women are morning the loss of their village when support from family isn’t available. While not easy, find a way to carve out time for yourself, even if it’s a quiet bath, or time to read your favorite book.
- Take care of yourself – Sleep well, eat well, and exercise. It’s not as easy as it sounds. In my post, Daily Intentions for Happiness, I talk about what works for me, but consider some key habits or triggers that can help you succeed. For me, it can be as simple as taking 5 minutes to stretch in the morning, or forcing myself to drink a glass of water before breakfast. Oddly enough, I’ve found that if I eat cucumbers before lunch, I crave healthy food versus frozen pizza and soda. Figure out what those turning points are and focus on making them happen.
- Understand resources available to you and ask for help – Check out optionb.org for some excellent resources for you or a loved one as you navigate challenges. Scroll to the bottom of this post for other resources and virtual support groups that I came across that may help you as you navigate your situation.
Spread Happiness To Others
Conflict can build from an individual level to our relationships, but so can happiness and kindness. Last week, I had two friends tell me how I have been a positive influence in their lives on the same day. My heart was full in ways I could never express into words and motivates me to continue supporting family and friends.
- Write letters, pick up the phone, or send a quick text – Remind people that you’re thinking of them and that you miss them. 2020 is a challenging year and we can’t be together, but we can reach out and remind people we love them and how much they mean to us.
- Make a meal and drop it off to family or a friend– My husband loves to cook. Eventually, I’ll persuade him to create a YouTube channel to share his recipes after learning how to use a smoker because they are *delicious*. In the meantime, I have been able to persuade him to cook extra food that we share with others. You can maintain distance while still providing a tasty meal to someone you love, especially if they live solo or are unlikely to cook for one or two people. Sneak in a wave through the window while you’re at it!
- Send some pictures or a holiday card – My grandmother lives in the UK, and doesn’t have a computer, a smart phone, or the internet for us to easily share pictures. This forces us to print out pictures of our family and children to send to her, which then motivates me to do the same for others who may appreciate it. Our families grow up so fast, and sending physical pictures to share on the fridge can really brighten someone’s day. I am especially thankful for holiday cards in 2020 to remind me of all the people I want to hug as soon as able.
Spread Good in Your Community
My favorite part about starting this blog is that I challenge myself as I strive to teach others. As the holidays approach I want to push myself to do more for my community and donate more to those in need. We are stronger as a community and we can all find a way to contribute to support each other:
- Make a monetary donation – Not always easy, but challenge yourself to be creative. In the past, my husband and I have exchanged gifts to charitable organizations instead of physical gifts. On Facebook, you can set up a fundraiser for an organization for your birthday. The Salvation Army was a huge support network for a close friend while he struggled with alcoholism. He unfortunately is no longer here to spend the holidays with, so I make a donation in his memory each year. Whether it is $5, $100, or $1,000, if that gift required you to sacrifice something, I can guarantee that you’ll never forget it. That gift will mean so much more to you a year from now compared to what you otherwise would have spent the money on.
- Donate Supplies – Referencing the CDC’s website, here are some common supplies that homeless shelters are in need of. Soap, hand sanitizers, tissues, trash baskets, masks, cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE). You can also donate food to your local food pantry or consider an organization like Feed America.
- Donate Your Time – While so many of us work remote, so are volunteer organizations. Check out Volunteer Match to find something you’re passionate about and volunteer your time while still working remotely. Consider contacting your local hospital to write letters to those who are unable to see visitors. Or consider volunteering with your local health department to assist with contact spreading. If you’ve recently had and recovered from Covid-19, you could donate your plasma through the Red Cross to help patients recover.
- Volunteer for a cause that you’re passionate about. Give-19 lists some great options to consider, whether it’s supporting domestic violence victims, providing meals to children who are hungry, supporting front-line workers, or supporting elderly people. We have countless ways to support those impacted by the pandemic. It could be as simple as drawing a few hearts on the sidewalk to remind others that we’re in this together and we will get through it.
Whether you are going through a challenging time, or know someone else who is, check out a few of the resources below. We are still managing through a pandemic which adds challenges and unfortunately we can’t see and support each other in person. However, many organizations have virtual options available to those who are interested:
- Beyond My Battle – Free Virtual Support Groups for Illness/Disability and Care Partner
- Red Cross – Virtual Family Assistance Center
- OptionB – Building Resilience is like Building a Muscle
- Supporting friends and family
- Supporting parents of school-aged kids
- Supporting kids
- Supporting someone who’s lost a loved one to COVID-19
- Supporting people who are experiencing domestic violence
- Supporting frontline workers
- Supporting small businesses
- Support Groups Central – Virtual Chat Support Groups
- Alcoholics Anonymous – Virtual Meeting Options
- Anxiety & Depression Awareness Association – Peer to Peer Online Support Groups
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
- What actions are you taking to support your mental and physical health through the pandemic as the cold winter months approach?
- How else can we spread happiness to others while still social distancing?
- What are you doing, or what could you, do to encourage a strong community during the pandemic?
- What other resources have you heard about or want to share with others?
Comment below, I’d love to hear what other people are doing and how else we can support each other. If you found this article helpful, please share with others who may also benefit.
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