Positive Pumpkins!

Yesterday I spent the entire day outdoors and it was wonderful.  It made me feel ‘normal’ in a week where the world seemed anything but that.  I began with an early morning walk in nature with my lovely neighbour and her gorgeous dog, catching up outside rather than our usual school holiday chat indoors over a cup of tea.  It was great to walk and talk, swapping updates on our sons who are the same age and currently experiencing their second year of university in these strange times.

After that, I headed off to meet a good friend for pumpkin-picking.  I have known her since we were eight (I won’t tell you how long that is!) and, as well as being one of the most positive people I have ever met, she always makes me laugh until I ache.  It felt very strange being unable to greet her with a hug, but we stuck to the rules all the day, eating lunch outside, wrapped up in our coats and making the most of the fact that the rain held off.  By the time I got home in the evening, I felt happy, uplifted and nicely tired.  From my brain’s perspective, by spending time with people whose company I enjoy, exercising out in the fresh air, I was awash with serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins, those positive neurotransmitters, happy hormones that make us feel good and help us to cope better with life.

I didn’t forget about COVID-19 but I didn’t feel anxious either.  The pandemic – and the media coverage – is understandably raising anxiety levels for so many of us.  However, yesterday reminded me that, whilst we cannot control the current situation, we can have control over the way we think about it.  By focusing on the positive aspects of our lives, looking at the things we can do rather than dwelling on those we can’t, we begin to regain some control of how we feel.  And that helps us to cope better in challenging times.

At the beginning of every session with my clients, I always ask them to tell me what’s been good about their week.  If they’re having a tough day, they might struggle to answer this so I explain that what’s been good doesn’t have to be anything huge.  No, it can be something simple – enjoying a good cup of coffee, a phone call with a friend or loved one, listening to a favourite song or finally tidying out the ‘junk’ drawer.  By making a habit of noticing those agreeable little things, we train our brain to become more positive and, over time, this can make a big difference to how we live our life.

So next time I feel overwhelmed by watching the news, I’m going to turn my attention towards something else instead, some small positive thing that will help me to feel better and get back on track.  Even just looking at the photos I have of my lovely day picking pumpkins.