Health tips by Barmer: Happiness begins in the mind
Mornings are dark, and cold, wet winter weather and a grey sky are waiting outside – that can get you down. Many people’s mood and energy levels drop with the temperatures; in the dark season we are naturally a bit more tired and less energetic than in summer. We can’t change the seasons, but we can lift our spirits with positive thoughts and a few little “happiness booster” tricks. And it’s worth it: an American study found that optimism has a positive effect on our life expectancy and can increase it by as much as 15 percent.
Five little “happiness booster” tricks for the winter
1. Take things slow
In winter, it’s often harder to get going. Don’t put pressure on yourself if you have less energy. “Nature rests in winter, and we should too: accept and enjoy the peace and quiet,” recommends Brigitte Dohmen, psychosocial consultant at BARMER. “Now is the time to wind down, get cosy, and not expect life to be as vibrant as in the summer.” For example, deliberately give yourself more time in the morning: “We should start the day slowly,” Dohmen advises, “enjoy the warmth of our bed again, stretch, take time for a cup of coffee or tea – we simply can’t start the day in November with the same energy as in July!”
2. Give yourself some “me” time
What do you really like doing, what makes you happy? Taking a warm bubble bath, reading a book in peace, hiking? Then do exactly that more often, because “me” time is not given to you, you have to consciously create it.
3. Exercise in the fresh air
A walk in the fresh air refreshes your mind and thoughts: “Exercise is an antidepressant,” explains Brigitte Dohmen, who advises BARMER on all aspects of mental health in the workplace. “Physical activity outdoors, whether in your lunchbreak or after work, relieves stress and relaxes you, even at this time of year.”
4. Try laughter yoga
Laughter is good for you – and it is a skill you can train! By doing laughter yoga, for example. This doesn’t use jokes, but breathing and vocal exercises as well as group laughter. “Laughter is a form of instant meditation, it clears the mind,” explains Cornelia Leisch, laughter trainer and President of the European Professional Asso- ciation of Laughter Yoga and Humour-Training. “Laughter changes the chemistry in the body, reduces stress hormones and releases endorphins. Laughing regularly has a training effect: it keeps your mood at a generally higher level and stops the negative mental chatter,” explains the laughter coach.
5. Appreciation for small things
Positive thoughts don’t always come on their own, but you can coax them out: “Think about what you are grateful for today, what encounter has particularly touched you, what is valuable in your life,” advises Brigitte Dohmen. It doesn’t have to be anything big, even small details generate positive thoughts. If you like, you can note everything down in a gratitude diary. If you tend to brood over things in the evening, try an inner “gratitude ABC”: “For each letter of the alphabet, find something you are grateful for,” explains Dohmen. “This way you focus on nice things. It stops you brooding, and you can fall asleep more easily.”