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Creating Successful Leaders

In the northern hemisphere, we are entering the darkest time of year. For many of us, we wake up in darkness and finish work in darkness. And that absence of sunshine can be difficult, even if you’re surrounded by the twinkle of holiday lights or the love of family members or friends. For some, this is an immensely difficult time of year—a time characterized by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and/or isolation. While some people enjoy “hibernating” in their home during the winter months, others find it difficult and yearn for human connections.

In truth, people can find themselves in “dark patches” at any point during the year. We might find ourselves depressed or frustrated with our personal life, finances, or career, or we might simply be grappling with burnout. But actual darkness can amplify those feelings and frustrations, and make us long for any sliver of sunshine (metaphorical or not!) that we can get.

How can we find light and levity amid all the darkness?

Aside from taking steps to aid your body (exercising regularly, taking Vitamin D), there are several ways to boost your spirit and your mood. Let’s talk about some of those mood-boosting methods:

1. Focus on Gratitude

This might sound a little…squishy, but gratitude does work. According to Harvard Health, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

If you’re thankful for what you have, you develop a more positive mindset, and that can go a long way (it even can affect your physical health!). Foster gratitude by setting aside time each day to reflect on the positive aspects of your life. What is going well right now? What are you thankful for? You might also choose to jot down some of your thoughts in a gratitude journal.

2. Fight Pessimism

Many of us have negative narratives that constantly run through our brains. I call this your “saboteur.” This is the voice that tells you you’re not good enough or capable enough; it tells you to sit down and stay quiet because you don’t have anything valuable to contribute. It’s time to start talking back to this inner voice!

Start by paying attention to your thoughts. When you catch yourself thinking pessimistically, hit the pause button. Reframe your thinking so you focus on the positive and start seeing solutions, instead of barriers. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself. You’re smarter, braver, and more capable than you think you are.

3. Tune in To Positive Media

What we surround ourselves with makes a difference—the daily TV shows, movies, music, podcasts, and radio shows. Attitudes of fear, anger, mistrust, or sensationalism can easily leak into your subconscious. Even if you believe you are immune to negative news stories or terrible TV shows, you probably are not. We tend to become what we consume.

Make a conscious choice to read, listen to, and watch media that is affirming, productive, or uplifting. That doesn’t mean you have to tune out the news, but it does mean you should be mindful of your time and what you’re allowing into your life. Balance trashy TV shows with more thought-provoking content. Sprinkle in informative podcasts in between celebrity gossip. Think of the media you consume as nutrients that nourish your brain and emotional wellbeing.

4. Tap into Your Network

You don’t have to slog through your slumps on your own. Dare to reach out to trusted friends or family members and seek their support. Let them know what you need from them—someone to listen, someone to grab a cup of coffee with, someone to lend a little support—and be honest about what you’re going through. If friends and family members are not enough, consider seeking support from a licensed therapist.

5. Busy Yourself with a Hobby

Adopting a productive hobby can be a healthy way for dealing with dark periods. Do something that interests you and lifts your spirits. This could be baking, woodcarving, learning an instrument, practicing photography, painting, writing—anything that captivates and energizes you. If you’re not sure where to begin, try browsing through online course offerings through Udemy, Coursera, or Teachable.

(My online leadership course is hosted by Teachable. Feel free to check it out!)

6. Breathe

When you feel the weight of the world pressing down on you, take a time out. Pause whatever you’re doing and focus on yourself for a few minutes (or longer, if that’s what you need). Concentrate on your breathing. Take a deep breath in through your nose, hold it for several seconds, and puff it out through your mouth. Do this several times, counting to yourself as you go through the motions.

You might also try other relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation (apps such as Calm or Headspace can help you get started), listening to relaxing music, stretching, or going for a quiet walk. Recognize when you’ve hit a wall and need to practice a little self-care.

Though we’re entering a dark time of year, your mood doesn’t have to match the night sky. Try a few of these techniques and let me know what worked for you. And remember to seek additional help if you need it. You’ve got this!



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