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Positive Psychology

I welcomed the first lockdown with open arms.

I know that's controversial, but my family needs a lot more space and downtime than our day to day life had been giving us, and the opportunity to rest and recover and not feel the constant guilt of saying no to events was, in honesty, a relief.
My kids were happier, less stressed and we enjoyed some really great family time.
Second time round?
I'm not loving it so much.
I'm not sure what's changed, but the thought of a winter with no Christmas parties and Markets and Carol services and Craft fairs... it's a little bit depressing.

Kari Leibowitz, a health psychologist, studied the people of Tromsø, a city in Norway that does not see the sun between mid-November and mid-January.

It's my idea of hell.

But interestingly, although we associate lack of sunlight with symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), the people of Tromsø show virtually no change in their mental wellbeing across the year.

Leibowitz argues that our appraisal of a situation, whether we perceive it as threat or opportunity, changes how our bodies respond. For example, in an experiment at Harvard Business School, participants who had a fear of public speaking were asked to say out loud "I am excited", which led to better performances and less anxiety.

Sure enough, when Leibowitz measured people's mindset's regarding how they felt about winter, it accurately depicted their mental wellbeing over the next few months.

This is why the concept of 'hygge' is so important in Scandinavian culture.

So I need to set myself up with a positive mindset for the coming winter.
Embrace the hygge.

The thing is, positive psychology doesn't come naturally to me. It's something I have to work at.

There were a flurry of articles recently slating the #goodvibesonly hashtag on instagram calling it harmful, and suggesting it was delusional and that we all need a good dose of realism, and generally, that's where my mindset naturally wants to go.

There is a distinction between having good mental health and being happy, it's important that we accept 'negative emotions' and develop the skills to acknowledge and move through them

However, I think there's also a time and a place for protecting our mental well being, by choosing what we focus our attention on; choosing to devote as much mental capacity as we can on what is good, righteous, pure, admirable, and lovely.

As we enter another winter of isolation, it's important to continue to connect and meet with others in whatever capacity is safe and legal, but also to choose to try to find positives in our situation.

We're celebrating a sort of 'Sukkot' in our home this week.

We've built a temporary nest in our living room (if you come by and the curtains are closed, that's why) and we're reading aloud together as a family, sleeping together, spending time in our temporary dwelling and reminding ourselves that our bodies are temporary, but also that this situation is temporary. COVID lockdown is not our permanent home.

The diffuser is on with some tangerine and clove oils in it, the fairy lights are out, we're eating nourishing foods and we're making our home a cosy safe haven from all the stress of politics, we're grieving the loss of my daughters beloved hamster, welcoming a new one, and doing life at a slower pace.

If you're looking for slow down, but camping your whole family in the living room for a week seems a little extreme, start small.

Maybe just start with baking some cookies, from scratch, not the packet mix kind! Filling your home with the beautiful aromas of ginger and nutmeg and clove.

Or perhaps, if even that is too much, make yourself a nourishing hot chocolate and get a blanket to snuggle up in next to your diffuser whilst you work.

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