Had enough of the gigantic snow drifts, the biting winds, and the relentlessly grey skies?
Ready to fast-forward to spring?
Hey, me, too!
But odds are we’ve got at least a few more weeks of winter to contend with before the arrival of anything even remotely resembling spring. That can mean a few more weeks of grumpier-than-usual kids (which will almost inevitably result in a grumpier-than-usual you) unless you make a conscious effort to boost your mood (and hopefully theirs, too).
And, yes, it can be done. It’s not something we talk much about (surprising, given the fact that doing battle with the February blahs is part and parcel of being Canadian), but there are things we can do to boost positive emotion, as opposed to simply allowing the weather to dictate our moods (in which case you’re likely looking at another six weeks of grumpiness, at a minimum).
From glass half-empty to glass half-full
Here’s the thing: we humans have a built-in negativity bias—which simply means that our minds default to “glass half-empty” mode unless we make a conscious effort to shift that setting to “glass half-full” mode over time.
It makes sense, from an evolutionary standpoint, that we’re hard-wired to default to negative thinking. Our ancestors couldn’t afford to err on the side of optimism when a tiger was about to lunge out of the long grass and eat them for lunch. But now that we have fewer threats to our physical survival to contend with on a daily basis, we can afford to shift our default mood setting from negative to positive.
Doing this requires a conscious and consistent effort over time. If you would like your default mood to be positive, you need to spend as much time as possible shifting yourself into a positive state of mind so that feeling happy becomes your new normal. You can do this by exercising regularly (exercise is a proven mood-booster), reflecting on happy moments, engaging in activities you enjoy, and connecting with people you love. And you can encourage your kids to do all these things, too.
The magic of connection
I’m not talking about connecting with people in the online sense of the word, by the way. Research has shown that spending too much time online (and, in particular, spending a lot of time passively reading other people’s social media updates) can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression—the last thing you need on a gloomy February day. What I’m talking about here is connecting with people face-to-face.
And not only can connecting with people face-to-face help to boost your mood: A hug delivered in person by someone you love can actually deliver some unexpected health benefits. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Virginia concluded that hugs can actually help to protect us from infection and illness-related symptoms by reducing the harmful effects of stress. That’s a cool nugget of information to have at your disposal during cold and flu season, don’t you think?
Bring on spring!
This is not to say that combating the February blahs is easy. It can feel like an uphill battle at times, with negative moods spreading from family member to family member. But if the epidemic of grumpiness continues unabated, despite your best efforts, you can take solace in the fact that time is on your side. It won’t be long before that intoxicating first breeze of spring rushes in, providing everyone’s moods with a much-needed boost.