Tis the Season to be… Jolly?
This time of year is supposed to be all sugar plums and cheer, but if you're feeling like the holidays bring more stress than joy, you're not alone. Between finding the time (and money!) for shopping, traveling to visit family, and navigating ice-slicked roads the real “Magic of Christmas” (or "Miracle of Hanukkah") is how we all manage to keep it together.
If holiday stress wasn’t enough, for many the cold weather also brings the “Winter Blues.” Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that affects 10-20% of people, primarily during the winter months. It saps energy and motivation, leaving us feeling numb.
With all of this stress and depression assaulting our psyche, it’s awfully tempting to jump in bed and hibernate all winter. But resist the temptation! Instead, try out these simple mental wellness techniques to boost your mood, energy, and motivation!
Mental Wellness is For Everyone
We spend a lot of time talking about your outer dome and how to keep it healthy, but today we want to take a little time to focus on your inner dome. You know that 3-pound chunk of meat that sits between your ears? It processes 400 billion bits of information every second and controls everything your body does.
Your brain is where you think, feel, and perceive the world. A well-cared-for brain tends to have a healthier balance of neurotransmitters and fewer stress hormones than an ill-tended brain.
Healthy brains are happy brains!
Caring for your brain may be easier than you think: today we’ll explore some of the simplest and most powerful techniques for inner domecare.
Taking Care of Your Inner Dome
Promoting Restorative Sleep
Consistent, restful sleep is often the difference between feeling energized and “blah.” According to Harvard Health, sleep disruption wreaks havoc on the brain, making it difficult to think clearly and regulate emotions.
Your brain does critical work while you sleep. Experiences from the day are processed and stored for long-term recall. Connections are formed and reinforced. Brain tissue is grown and repaired. Important Stuff!
Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If you have trouble falling and staying asleep, consider trying some of these proven sleep tips:
- Every day, try to spend time outdoors doing something active- Walks are great!
- Use the hour before bed to wind down. Avoid screens (which stimulate your brain), and instead choose a relaxing activity like reading, guided meditation, or talking with a loved one
- Keep your bedroom quiet, cool, and dark
- Use an aromatherapy diffuser with lavender essential oil, which is proven to promote relaxation and sleep
Managing Your Inner Voice
The little voice in your head can have a gigantic impact on your mood and outlook. Negative self-talk is overly critical and self-deprecating. It’s toxic to mood, motivation, and self-worth.
On the other hand, positive self-talk can lift you up emotionally. It helps you see the silver lining in unfortunate situations. Positive self-talk has even been shown to improve endurance and critical thinking skills.
Many of us don’t even bother to notice our inner voice: we accept it as a normal part of “me”. However, just like that extra belly fat or unconvincing combover, your inner voice is something that you have the power to change.
This Healthline article lays out some excellent self-talk techniques. The first crucial step is to start paying attention to your inner monologue. Notice how you talk to yourself throughout the day. Do you say positive, uplifting things to yourself? Or do you insult, demean, and minimize yourself? If so, forgive yourself and work on replacing these self-attacks with self-love.
Mindfulness is a state of being. It’s a way of being fully present in the moment, completely aware of where you are and what you’re doing. It’s a technique for focusing the mind on the now, without ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.
Regular mindfulness practice has been shown to help people feel calmer, happier, and less stressed throughout the day. It also improves blood pressure, sleep quality, and focus.
While there are many ways to become more mindful, there is one ancient and powerful technique that’s accessible to everyone... and it can take as little as 10 minutes!
Mindfulness meditation is the practice of putting aside time to be quiet and pay attention to the present moment. We observe sensations, thoughts, and feelings non-judgmentally, and each time a particular thought captures our attention we simply release it and return to the present moment. It’s often helpful to follow your breath as it flows in and out. This helpful guide from mindful.org will get you started with this life-changing practice.
Talking with a Professional
As a nurse and wellness advocate, I take every opportunity I can to promote and de-stigmatize psychotherapy. You don’t have to be suicidal or “crazy” to talk to a therapist. Therapy can have incredible benefits for virtually everyone. It helps us understand our own mind and cope with the stress of daily living in healthy and constructive ways.
Therapists can connect you with tools and resources that will help you lead a happier and more fulfilling life. They can act as an unbiased soundboard to help you talk through a tough decision or uncomfortable situation. Therapy is such a fantastic outlet and resource, I cannot advocate for it enough! This guide will give you some tips on how to get started with talk therapy.
Time for Some Inner Domecare!
Your brain is more than a hunk of meat. It’s your most powerful tool for navigating this crazy world. It determines your mood, thoughts, and experience of life. Taking care of your brain is a critical step in taking charge of your health.
So, how’s your dome? Have you tried any of these or other techniques? What has worked for you? Tag us on social @cranium.care and use #ownyourdome to tell us what you do to take care of your whole dome!
Ben Clements, RN
Ben is a Registered Nurse and health writer. When he's not crafting evidence-based articles, he loves playing outdoors with his wife and two young kids.