I write this just as we apparently reach the worst Monday of the year – Blue Monday. Obviously entirely made up by the media and perhaps better ignored but in 2021, it may have some significant resonance for many of us.
A normal January Monday can be a grey affair but there is no doubt that this January is perhaps tougher than others have been. Having spoken to many members and other clients over the last fortnight, finding positivity is proving to be a tricky customer.
So I thought I would dive into some ideas about ways to find some positivity – even on the gloomiest of days. Some of the ideas you will undoubtedly have seen before, but I hope they are a little reminder to help you actively focus on your internal landscape.
Don’t forget, we can’t change anything that’s going on ‘out there’ but we can influence what’s happening inside us.
Please also remember, that community is a key part of anyone’s life and the Simply Club is always here for you. Please reach out to me, to the club on Facebook or make a meet up some time soon. Also head to step 11 – a bonus with reading to back up some of the steps below.
- Prioritise your positivity. When times are tough, it’s all too easy to keep ploughing on doing what you’ve always done in the hope that a positive feeling will somehow just return. This, in my experience, doesn’t work. You have to make space in your diary to create positivity and really work on it. As business owners, this resilience building is as crucial as filling in your self assessment or marketing what you do. So step 1 is to make at least 30 minutes a day available to some of the activities below. Block it out as a meeting or slot every day.
- Gratitude. We’ve heard this a lot and it’s not so easy if you feel in a grey dip so I like to make it an activity (part of your 30 minutes perhaps?). You could try a gratitude jar – each day add a minimum of one folded piece of paper to the jar with something that you’re grateful for that day. This could be that you got up and walked or it could be a positive piece of feedback about your business. Anything counts and at the end of the year, you will have a full jar of thankfulness that you built into your life and business. Other ideas are gratitude journals – add something each evening before you sleep ending your day on a little ray of sunshine. You could also do ‘morning pages’ – picking up a pen and paper immediately after you wake and scribbling any words or sentences that are whirling around your head – a great way to get rid of the busy head we often have.
- Silence. There are some amazing books on silence and the power it brings to our lives. Finding just 30 minutes of total silence each day can make a huge difference to our feelings of wellbeing. Best of all, it allows your brain to get a little creative or stretch its elbows just a little. This won’t happen quickly but with practice may unlock opportunities you hadn’t thought of, ideas to inspire or simply rest your busy overwhelmed brain to feel more positive.
- Choose your companions. Not easy in lockdown perhaps BUT you can still choose to hang out with those that fill you up. This is in contrast to those folks who may focus on bad news, drain your energy or leave you feeling anxious. Actively plan time with those people who give you a boost and pop it in the diary. A weekly dose of positive vibes, a giggle or a moment to chat honestly will make a huge difference to your overall positive feelings. Member Meet Ups and the Facebook Group might be the best first call!
- Lose the strict targets. As a business coach and advisor, this is not usual advice BUT as a micro business, we know that business doesn’t follow a straight line of growth. It’s really important to write down your vision, why you do what you do and where you would like to get to. It’s really important to know your values and what kinds of customers you want to work with. However, if you set such concrete deadlines during a pandemic, then you might feel low if your plans slip. Set clear goals instead. Your trajectory is key but not the time. Give yourself a break, stay focussed and remind yourself that you’re on your way.
- Observe not absorb. Taught to me by a friend, this never leaves me. Clearly it’s important to not stuff our heads in the sand right now but we need to remember that news outlets are in the business of constant news which is frankly, no good for humans. Our brains can’t do everything all the time. If we fill them with constant news updates, there is simply no room for the good stuff. Choose one or two moments in the day when you choose to stay updated. Observe that carefully and not while you’re doing something else. Note it, perhaps even have a little cry/rant etc, but then move forward to another activity. If we have the news radio on as the backdrop to our working lives, we will absorb the negativity without realising it.
- Self talk matters. Who has a work ethic voice that is of the Victorian school teacher variety?! I know I do. If I don’t take time to find silence, be mindful of my thinking, phrases like ‘you’re not enough’, ‘you didn’t try’, ‘who are you to do/say…’ etc will appear, stealth like and stay. Even if you have to stand in front of the mirror each day and say out loud ‘you’re doing the best you can’ or ‘today you achieved this’ – being kind to yourself and encouraging yourself in the same way you would a child makes such a difference to our positivity.
- Sleep. I was listening to another podcast recently about the latest research around sleep. If you knew it was important – check again! Sleep not only helps us rest and restore but actually rewires our brains each night to stay positive and to work through negative events or feelings. Key to great sleep are the things we know but don’t always practice. No screens for an hour before sleep. Aiming for the same 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Being in bed for an additional hour to our optimum sleep hours e.g. if you like 8 hours, then go to bed with an hour to spare. A good sleep regime is as important as exercise and what we eat.
- Do one thing well. Often we have long lists of tasks to complete each day. As positivity reduces, we tend to spread ourselves ever thinner and dilute our magic or scatter our skills. Choose one thing each day that you’re going to do really well. One core activity. This could be a business task like a beautifully crafted social media post or a carefully updated cashflow forecast. Or it could be something personal like one carefully prepared and enjoyed meal or a deep clean of your living space.
- Accept the journey. Finally, I want to say that you don’t have to be positive all the time! Micro business ownership is a windy path of ups and downs, rather like life. If you need a moment to rant, cry or chunter to the dog, then go ahead. But then move on and move away from that space. Move along the path. It’s important to move through the feeling and come out the other side rather than swim in the same place for ages. Little steps matter – just keep moving, accepting the scenery and heading for your dream destination – however slow the progress.
- Bonus – here are some great books to help…
- Silence by Erling Kagge
- Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
- The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
- ‘Morning Pages’ https://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/