Adding more colour to your January: simple ways to stay positive

In this blog we share some positivity tips from Iain and Michael Maitland’s powerful book Out of the Madhouse: An Insider’s Guide to Managing Depression and Anxiety – which details Michael Maitland’s recovery from years of depression, anxiety and anorexia, and his subsequent journey to become a mental health ambassador for young people.

Positivity tips for getting through January

Begin the day with a positive affirmation
Some people find it helps to look at themselves in the mirror
first thing in the morning and say something like ‘Today’s
going to be awesome’. You can do the same in your head; it
works for many. Having a positive start to the day – maybe
a shower/breakfast/catch-up-on-the-news routine that suits
you – is important too.

Watch out for ‘good things
Instead of focusing on negatives, it’s far better to watch out for
anything good that happens to you during the day – the sun
was shining, a neighbour took in a parcel for you, someone
moved out of your way when walking to work, someone else
smiled at you, and so on. Turn negatives around into positives. Stuck in traffic?
Listen to an extra track or two on that CD you have in the car.

Play upbeat music
Listening to happy, cheerful music can affect your mood for
the better. Music that you associate with happy times from
your past can be especially effective.

Eat healthily
What you eat is your call, of course – Michael was vegetarian
at this stage in his life – but it is good to eat regularly and
well: vegetables, plenty of nutrients, etc. We can include
drink and keeping hydrated here as well. Alcohol is often not
helpful for those with mental health issues, especially those
on medications.

Change your language
This one works well for some people. They pepper their
language with positives – ‘Wow’, ‘Brilliant’, ‘Awesome’. At the
very least, it sends out positives vibes that often come back to
you from other people.

Keep happy photos
A variation on that list of truths or list of good things, some
people find it helps to stay positive if they have photos of
family, friends and pets to look at as and when their mood
dips a little.

Think ‘What does it matter?’
This is a tip shared by someone who once, like Michael, felt
suicidal. When he comes up against what he calls ‘a blip’ – he
misses a bus, is a few minutes late for a meeting – he thinks,
‘What does it matter?’ It’s a kind of mantra. In the grand
scheme of things, most blips don’t really matter all that much,
if at all. The sun will still rise tomorrow morning.

Stay in the present
Few people, with good mental health or not-so-good mental
health, stay in the here and now. Instead, they are looking
ahead – to what they have to do tonight, next week, the month
after or whatever (and dwell overmuch on worries about it).
Keeping your thoughts on now and doing what you are doing
at the moment and just enjoying the present are helpful for
most people.

Get some exercise
Most people benefit from a little bit of exercise regularly,
perhaps 20–30 minutes a day of walking or some stretching
exercises after work or a gentle yoga wind-down at the end of
the day. (I talk about exercise a lot when doing presentations
to students and parents and can’t repeat this enough – exercise
is so great for mental health.)

Wind down the day
In the same way that you can start the day with a positive
affirmation, you can, after winding down to bedtime slowly
and peacefully, end it in much the same way. Reflect on the
good things that happened to you today.

Thanks for reading, and good luck getting through January, we’re all in it together.

Sharing tips and techniques that have helped them and others to self-manage, the Maitland’s book is an essential resource for anyone experiencing depression, anxiety, OCD and similar issues. Find out more about Out of the Madhouse, here.

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