Dr. Rachell N. Anderson
Psychologist have observed that at this time of year, many people began to feel lost, stuck, overwhelmed and depressed. Why can January feel so blue? No more festivities and celebrations for the season, the weather, money problems, few exciting plans, low levels of motivation, and the feeling that we need to do something different in the coming year are some of the known culprits. For many, the future seems bleak. They lose interest in things that once brought them joy and happiness and experience signs of emotional distress such as difficulty sleeping, disturbed appetite, excessive drinking, being anxious or angry. For these people, happiness and joy are in short supply and they lose sight of how to get them back. In fact, the suicide rate is highest at the beginning of the year indicating the extent to which some people give up on themselves.
Joy and happiness are not the same but they are related. Happiness is the over all evaluation one makes about one’s life. It’s the long-term over-all feeling expressed by a person towards life. Joy is connected to a time and place whereas happiness is an average of many times. A happy person will, on average, have a lot more joyful days. But even a happy person experience some horrible days. A unhappy person can have joyful days but negate them for want of more.
When understanding the human condition, we need to remember that the mind is like a window stuck open or stuck shut. We are limited by reality and by our perception of things. Life gives all of us challenges that can seem insurmountable. It also gives us opportunities if we open our minds. It’s how we react to things that seals our fate.
Yes, January can be bleak but there’s an up side to the whole process. Here’s some of them. The holidays are over until next year. Good. The winter solstice happened weeks ago, the days are already getting longer and there is more daylight every morning. It’s not July or August when you’ll be sweating like a hog and trying to find one cool place. Actually it doesn’t take much bundling up to enjoy a cool winter walk. There are many bright red holly berries, blackbirds and cardinals to look at and a blue sky and the pine trees are still green. Gone are things that make us sneeze. Snakes and other wild things have gone to their special places but the sun kisses our faces nearly every day and is a welcome touch. And what about soup. There is nothing quite like a bowl of good hot soup. It’s one of my most favorite things to eat but most of us in Mississippi put it aside in the summer months and use it as a winter dish. Have a bowl.
If you want a better, more positive life, you must take more positive, proactive actions.
What’s A Person To Do?
1. Pay your bills or at least make a plan for doing so. A realistic plan can help you to feel more energetic and accomplished. Write it down and do your best to follow the plan in the months to come.
2. Get physical. Most people know that exercise is good for our lives. It’s good for the body and the mind. With just a little effort, you can move from a mild depression to a feeling of well being. Most doctors would rather see us do that than use a prescription. All medicines have side effects. Just 10 minutes of an aerobic exercise can have a positive effect. Try parking your car farther from the building or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Each will help to improve your mood and energy.
3. Pay attention to your thoughts
It’s easy to be unhappy. We Mississippians are good at finding flaws. And there are a lot of things that could be improved. However we all have faults. They make our personalities more interesting. Focusing on the negatives tend to have negative consequences. The most common patterns of negative thinking are: a. All-or-Nothing Thinking (If it’s not perfect or all good, it’s bad), b. Discounting the Positives (To a compliment you reply “Oh, this old thing”), c. Awfulizing or catastrophizing. (When something bad happens, it’s not just bad, it’s awful). d. If something is going to happen, it'll probably won’t out well anyway.
4. Look for the sunny side
Spring will be here soon. There’ll be warmer temperatures, green grass, beautiful flowers, wasps, snakes and mosquitos.
Enjoy winter foods and cooler weather of January? You can’t get this in July or August.
Dr. Rachell Anderson is a native of Tunica, a licensed Clinical Psychologist, a Professor Emeritus and author. She lives and writes in Tunica, Mississippi. Check out her website at WWW.drrachellanderson.com for more articles and books.