Ever wanted a quick fix for life? Feeling stressed at work or during exams? Found yourself in a new town knowing nobody? Then the Fab Four are for you.
When we are stressed, feeling like we are a failure, are down or lonely, we often shut ourselves off until we feel better. We tell ourselves that people won’t want to see us like this, or that we won’t be much company. We stop doing the things that make us feel good, because “what’s the point?”. This can lead us down into a spiral of low mood and depression that can be hard to climb out of: this is the flip side of Barbara Frederickson’s Broaden and Build model.
So how do we turn it around?
Building four simple actions into our week:
- Something that gives us pleasure
- Something that gives us a sense of achievement
- Something physical
- Something sociable
Let’s break it down a little.
Something that gives us pleasure
Doing pleasurable things for ourselves can be seen as a self indulgence. But by lifting our mood, we become more open to new ideas, which in turn can help us solve problems more creatively, which can lift our mood even more, starting a positive spiral of wellbeing. So let’s start thinking of things that you like to do. It maybe to get a massage, or have your hair done. It maybe to buy a new pair of shoes, or to sit in the park and listen to the birds. It doesn’t matter what it is (as long as its legal) as long as it makes you feel good. It can be as simple as smiling at someone on the street, and getting a smile back.
I often ask clients, who are looking for ‘more’ to think about things that they used to like to do that they no longer indulge in. This has led to people digging out old albums they haven’t listened to for years, or looking through photographs of happy times and reminiscing about places. Some have booked trips, others have spent time volunteering. Whether it is the hedonistic pleasure of a shiny new toy or the eudaimonic satisfaction of experiencing something good, it will help lift your mood and open you to the next steps.
No, this has nothing to do with donning lycra, unless you want to of course. For one daughter of mine, this would be a 10k run, for a young client of mine it would be to go ice skating, for me, well I am happy to swim, to go for a walk or head to my really happy place of scuba diving (this is really a 2for1 activity for me). Whether it is yoga, some cycling, just taking the stairs instead of the lift, or heading to mall with your trainers on, it really doesn’t matter. The dreaded E word (exercise) can help lift depressive symptoms, boost self esteem and gets the circulation going. That’s without taking the health benefits into account.
Just 30 minutes of physical activity, even cut up into 10 minute chunks, will benefit you. For me, the 8 minute walk to the shops can take care of two of those chunks easily. So look at how you can add some physical activity into your life.
A sense of achievement
We are not talking completing a marathon here (although I can see how that would tick not only this box, but also the two above at the same time). We are talking small things, which can build into big things. Yesterday I finally cleared a flower bed in the garden that had been making me feel bad every time I looked at it. Even without planting it, just making the start gave me a sense of achievement, lifting my mood. For a student studying for exams, being able to close a topic, having completed their revision will tick this box, or for some, just starting the revision!
So, what have you got on your “to do” list that you can tick off this week? Finishing a report? Finding something more interesting for supper? Buying that present for a friend? Finding a new expat group to meet up with? Booking a driving lesson? Writing the next blog post? Make a start on working on it. It will boost your self confidence and sense of self efficacy, helping to send you on that upwards spiral.
We all need people, whether we are extrovert or introvert. Some prefer quiet one to one meet-ups, others love a party. So think about your relationships. Look at the ones you might have been neglecting and reach out to say “Hi”. Research has shown that it’s not the quantity but the quality of relationships that make a meaningful difference to people’s sense of wellbeing. Whether it is chatting over lunch with a friend, calling home to speak to a child or a parent, or working with a team to achieve a task, having social contact does make us feel better. So look at your week and plan in some activities that involve other people.
So how do we use the Fab Four?
Try to get a balance of activities (at least one from each of the four) each week, working in at least one thing each day. For example you might plan in a coffee and chat with a friend (ticking the pleasurable and social boxes at the same time) one day and a swim the next. You could fix that lightbulb that has been flickering in the hallway, or take the car to be serviced and feel a sense of achievement.
Plan them into your diary and then note down what you do in each category each day, so you can see how well you are doing. Note down how you feel after doing each one, or what happened to stop you doing it. You will work out a combination of regular activities that works for you and recognize what might stop you achieving the full week of activities.
You don’t have to wait for the weekend. Make a start today!