Monday, January 5, 2015

Staying positive in the winter


Let me just start this post by saying: I'm not, by nature, a positive person. I think that I'm genetically programmed to be negative. Seriously, if there is a negative personality gene, I'm a carrier. After all, I come from a long line of negative people, on my dad's side. I kid you not. Growing up, surrounded by negativity and self-pity, I thought that it was normal for people to complain about everything and feel sorry for themselves. As I got older, I learned that this negativity isn't really socially acceptable, nor is it appropriate. There are so many people who have it worse than me and still have a smile on their face. How do they do it? Awareness is the first step to fixing a problem, and my change in attitude is a continual work in progress. 

One thing I have going for me is that I have a sense of humor. I laugh at everything. Maybe too much! I work at a job where a lot of bad things happen to good people. Not funny, and it can kind of wear on you if you let it. But I also encounter a lot of funny and/or odd situations. When you work with the public, you walk away shaking your head a lot of the time. I'd say that you need a sense of humor to survive in the medical field. Also known as "gallows humor", humor that treats serious or grim subjects in a light or satirical way, it is common to professions that deal with difficult situations. Kind of a coping mechanism, if you think about it...


What are some other coping mechanisms that can be used to promote positivity? Especially in the dark days of winter? It's hard to stay positive when the skies are gray and the temperatures are below freezing. 

Take your run outside!

Winter is here, and that just seems to exacerbate my negativity. It's a lot easier to feel positive and happy when the sun is shining and the air is warm. Truth. A month ago, we had a streak of cloudy days that never seemed to end. As a matter of fact, December 2014 went down on the record books as the cloudiest December ever in Chicago. We saw only 16% sunshine. Sure, it was warmer. But is was gloomy. Lifelong Chicagoans will tell you that if you want to see the sun in the winter, you have deal with the cold. We did have a few sunny days around Christmas, and I could just feel my mood lift. It wasn't that cold either. Getting outside for a run on some of those sunny days really helped put me in a more positive frame of mind. This is one of the reasons I run outside all year long. There is something to be said for being outside in the natural light, even if the sun isn't shining. Actually, research backs me here (there are more studies listed on the page if you chase the link). Light therapy has been mentioned as a possible treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Studies comparing light therapy to outdoor light exposure show the benefits of natural, outdoor light to help lift one's mood. This is no surprise to me. I always feel better after a run outside, even in the snow or pouring rain. 

And then there's that...

Start having more positive thoughts!

Christine Felstead, whose yoga video, Yoga for Runners, Intermediate Program, I do on a regular basis, addresses the use of positivity when pushing through a tough pose. "It helps, "she says, "to have more positive thoughts". Think about it. If you are holding a pose for a long time, and you tell yourself how hard it is, yes, it feels hard. She also suggests focusing on breathing through the tough poses. What about those runs where you are having a tough time and you start feeling tired? Tell me you haven't started thinking about how tired you are, how hard this is...and you start to slow down. Maybe you even tell yourself that you can't do it. Maybe even stop. Berate yourself for being a wimp. Now turn that around. Instead of telling yourself how bad your run feels, remind yourself of another tough run that you pushed through or a race where you pulled it out for a PR. Remember that your body listens to what your brain is saying. Or you can do what Becky made me do last summer during marathon training. "For every negative thought you have or word that comes out of your mouth," she proposed, "you have to do 10 burpees." And she meant it. Everyone knows I hate burpees, with a passion. So this was a really good incentive for me. During my training runs, if I started to feel bad, I reminded myself about the punishment. And that reminder turned my thoughts around. Mile 23 during the Chicago marathon, when my hamstrings were yacking at me, I had a mental image of me getting down in the middle of Michigan Avenue and doing 10 burpees. That image made me laugh, and the rest is history.

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Wear bright colors.

Vogue magazine had a great article on wearing bright colors to lift your mood. Now that I've stunned all of you into thinking I read Vogue (I don't), let me just say that this article was preaching to the choir. It was fun to read because the author talked about what various colors do for your mood. For example, orange (hello sunshine!) helps with being social and helps bring you out of your shell. Orange is the best color for helping you adapt to change. As if I need any help getting out of my shell, according to the author, orange will do it for me. I love my orange running tops and instinctively pull them out on a gloomy day. Bringing my own sunshine, as I like to say. And what about my favorite of all colors, red? Red, she says, is energizing! Well, ok then! What better color to put on for a long run on a gloomy, cold day? Green is "balancing". Pink is "the color of love and kindness", and yellow is a "joy ray"! Thinking I need to get some yellow tops. What about black? While black can be "a security blanket", black has "a depressive quality" to it. Think about that the next time you are shopping for running clothes, especially for the winter! 

Bringing my own sunshine!

Listen to positive music

I'm guilty of being a fan of rock and roll to push me through my runs, especially songs with heavy guitar riffs. But have you ever listened to some of the lyrics? For example, a song that I like by Velvet Revolver, Fall to Pieces, has lyrics like this: "Every time I'm falling down, all alone, I fall to pieces". Not exactly inspiring! Or this one, from New Politics, Everywhere I Go, which is a gem to run to but also not exactly inspiring with lyrics like this: "Downtown hopping fences, I smashed a window on a Lexus, now 5-0s on my tail but they movin' like a snail, I got some shit to sell but everybody's gotta get by..." you get the drift. I take those songs with a grain of salt. But how about some positive songs to lift your mood? Like Pharrell's Happy? Doesn't it just make you want to clap while you're running? How about an oldie but a goodie, ELO's Don't Bring Me Down? You can't help but smile with that one and it's got a great beat to run to! Sunlight by The Magician is a new find for me, and another positive one! The video (click on the link) will put a smile on your face, too...



Hang out with positive people

This is easier said than done. But I noticed over the holidays that my family tried to zap my mojo. My dad is generally negative and when I talk to him, trying to turn the conversation around is an exercise in futility, although it does force me to be positive in my responses. It's just exhausting talking with him sometimes. My teenage sons had way too much free time on their hands and I had a few sleepless nights, although as far as I know, they stayed out of trouble. There were some tense moments with my younger sisters. I came home from the final family gathering and told my husband that I refuse to let them make me feel bad about myself.  On New Years' Day, I met my running friends for a planned run, and it did my heart good. 

I love these ladies!

Say it, forget it; write it, regret it

Before you hit send on a post, re-read what you wrote. Is it something you'd want to read in your feed? On a blog? I follow a lot of pages, and I've noticed that some people's posts are always negative. No matter what they've done for the day, they're complaining. I get it, it's hard to stay positive when you've had a bad run or you're injured (been there!) but I believe there is always something positive in every situation. One of the page admins I follow on Facebook has a broken ankle, but she's started a New Year's challenge and posts ab workouts and a different yoga pose for people to try every day. I know it can't be easy for her, but sometimes forcing yourself to present your thoughts in a positive way can turn it around for you too. In December, when I was feeling so overwhelmed by the holidays, work, and life, I tried really hard to keep my posts positive. It was a challenge, for sure, but it was almost therapeutic, trying to figure out a way to put it out there without turning people off. It's ok to have a bad day and vent about it, and we all do it, but don't make a habit of it. It will bring you down.



And those selfies I post on my Facebook page? They force me to put a smile on my face. And that always lifts my mood! You can't smile and be crabby at the same time, right? 

Red. Energizing for a snowy, blowy day!


Linking this post up with Jill Conyers The Fit Dish!

30 comments :

  1. I come from a negative family as well and from about age 12, its been my mission to not be like them. I can feel when my vitamin D levels are low for sure. I suppose with this latest cold snap at least we'll see plenty of sunshine. It is beautiful the way the snow sparkles. I know what you mean about negative people seeming to suck the life out of you. Love me some bright running clothes!

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    1. You're lucky you figured it out early on! It took me a long time, and I still can get wrapped up in negativity. Especially with teenagers--I have to keep telling myself that I can't win with them, at least right now!

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  2. You know, this is so true. Yesterday my pastor preached a message on tuning out negative voices -- she said that you can't just ignore them you have to REPLACE them with other, positive voices. Sounds like you are doing just that - kudos!

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    1. I'm trying! It isn't always easy but in the end, its worth it!

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  3. Wendy, this is a great reminder to "look on the bright side," right? I actually usually see you wearing bright colors; my bright yellow/green stuff is my favorite, and maybe this is why! Like your experience in the Chicago Marathon, when I hit mile 23 last weekend, in a headwind, and my legs were getting tired, I thought about what my coach told me to focus on...those tough workouts during training that I conquered; in addition, my friend who ran with me started making up funny words to the song "Happy" (it was hilarious) and that got me giggling. I totally agree with you on all of these points; I find it hard to believe that you are a "negative" person, so you must be doing a great job of staying positive! :) Thank you for sharing this and for linking up again this week!

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    1. I keep saying that its a work in progress; being the mom of teens certainly tests my resolve to stay positive!

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  4. I actually don't mind running outside in the winter. It's better than the treadmill anytime plus it gives me an excuse to buy more running gear!

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  5. I like that you acknowledge your difficulty with being positive and are self aware enough to want to get past it. That's admirable. I think you're on the right track!!

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  6. As a fellow has been negative Nancy, I can relate to this post SO much. Thanks for the much needed reminder, although I just can't run outside in these frigid temps. Jealous of those who can!

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  7. I don't mind the cold as much as the wind. I am dreading running today!!

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  8. I figured out a long,long time ago that my mood is directly related to the amount of sunlight. If only I could skip the gray-bucket-of-suck days. But since I can't, I do "wear" the sun on these days. Neon yellow is a favorite. I like bright orange but don't have very much of it. I once had a lady that worked for me that I called my cheerleader. She always brightened any day. I need people like that around and I miss her greatly!

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  9. Sounds like you have a good strategy to conquer the winter blues. Your top graphic was pretty funny though! Happy New Year!

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  10. This post came at the perfect time--I'm dealing with yet another injury and having a pity party about it. I think I'm done, though, so at least my negativity was short-lived.

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    1. That's good! It's hard to stay positive when you can't run!

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  11. Great reminders to stay on top of the unhappy mood that creeps in from time to time. I have to run outside every day and it's definitely a mood enhancer even if it's not sunny. I could do without gloomy days for sure but overall I know it helps. :)

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    1. Being outside really helps me. I dread the bitter cold when I can't get outside!

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  12. Love this. My husband says I am SO negative and a pessimist, but I like to call is REALISM :)

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  13. Awesome awesome post! I like you struggle with negativity. And I"m definitely a work in progress! And I LOVE my bright neon non matching clothes when I run. (And sometimes the non matching part spills over into real life ha). I've had my moments this time with injury, but I've learned a lot for my previous injuries, so I'm trying to focus on the the positives. I love reading your stuff!

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    1. Thanks Amy! It was fun to find out about how wearing bright clothes affects your mood. Now I know why I like bright stuff--turns out I need it!

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  14. Oh the dreaded winter and your first graphic is so so true!

    Hanin' with positive people is almost always a game changer. It's hard to be negative when you're with them. I love "you can't smile and be crabby at the same time"!

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    1. I love the positivity that you project on your blog!

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  15. Great plan of action, Wendy! And that leo dicaprio meme is hilarious!!! Great point, too. I love honesty is so refreshing; thanks so much for sharing it with us!

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    1. I'll probably need to refer to this often as winter moves on...!

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  16. Giving some time to your self is one of the best ways to stay happier and it will directly result as more positive attitude. Am very sure this article going to help many readers.

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