The global coronavirus pandemic has turned the world as we knew it upside down for over 18 months now and many of us have been thrown into this stop-start mode of life.
While we continue to learn to adapt, it’s hard to stay jolly-happy every moment. Inevitably, there are days where everything just seems to go wrong and you just want to throw your hands up in the air and give up, because clearly the world is against you!
So, what can we do when our children or even ourselves have one of those bad days? Here’s our list of achievable things you can do to turn things around.
1. Soak Up the Sun
Spend 20-30 minutes in the sun on a walk around your neighbourhood or just enjoy a cup of coffee under the sun. They key here is being exposed to sunlight.
Sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of serotonin, a hormone associated with boosting mood.
2. Get Moving
Most adults think about exercise as working out at the gym, taking a spin class, or lifting weights. For kids, exercise simply means playing and being physically active. Running up and down the stairs, throwing a ball in the backyard or dancing to their favourite tune, they just need to be moving enough each day.
But how much exercise do they actually need?
The Australian Government Department of Health recommends children and young people 5 to 17 years old do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity that makes their heart beat go faster each day.
For adults aged 18 – 64, each week you should aim for:
2.5 to 5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity like brisk walk or swimming
1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous intensity physical activity such as jogging and fast cycling
Or an equivalent combination of both
Exercise increases the blood flow to all body tissues, including the brain, allowing greater transport of oxygen and nutrients. Studies report that regular exercise reduces anxiety and depression in children, in addition to improving their mood, self-esteem, and confidence.
3. Have a Laugh
Laughing when you are in a bad mood may not come naturally but you can always use stimulus like thinking back to a funny memory or finding a funny video on YouTube, then have a good laugh.
Laughter increases dopamine in our brains, a chemical that elevates mood. Plus laughing can increase oxygen to our bodies which cools our stress response system, resulting in a positive, relaxed feeling.
Parents, if you need a laugh, check out Canadian stand-up comedian Russell Peters, his YouTube channel feature plenty of short videos, but the ‘10-Year Old Rebel’ is quite befitting. ⚠️ He does swear a bit so maybe watch it without the kids.
For a more family friendly laugh, there’s always America’s Funniest Home Videos.
4. Stay Connected
Let’s face it, whether you or your child is an introvert or extrovert, as humans, social interaction is essential to every aspect of our health. Every person is different and yes some might need more social time than others, but we all need it. Spending time with peers at school and weekend activities is typically part of that process.
Yes, we want to manage screen time but in these extraordinary times, a short 5 to 15 minute video chat with friends and family can be invaluable. Plus, it’s absolutely fascinating to watch younger children talk to each other if you don’t get asked to ‘stay out’.
💡 For grandparents who find it hard to keep up with the latest Minecraft, Roblox or Pokemon topics, try Caribu. It's an interactive video call that lets you read, draw and play games together.
5. Express Gratitude
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
Studies show those who practice gratitude regularly (even if they don’t share it openly) appear to have a more positive outlook on life, are happier and have lower rates of stress or depression.
Gratitude dispels negative emotions, builds resilience and a greater sense of self-worth. When we express gratitude, we feel good, we feel happy, and this makes us happier. Positive emotions then open up a world of possibilities, boosting our ability to learn and make good decisions.
Focus on what went “right” each day
Encourage children to say “Thank you” regularly
Model gratitude - it starts with you. Share what you are grateful for, and remember to say “Thank You” too
Keep a gratitude journal, write down 3 things you are grateful for each week.
There is no one size fit all approach but in the Raising Grateful Children Program at The University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill, they outline four focus areas to foster gratitude:
What we NOTICE in our lives for which we can be grateful
How we THINK about why we have been given those things
How we FEEL about the things we have been given
What we DO to express appreciation in turn
To learn more, access the free program here.
6. Listen to Music
The type of music you or your child like is very personal, but whatever type of music you are into, listening to it can put you into a better mood. Plus if you play music that your children are familiar with, encourage them to sing and dance along for an extra emotional boost.
Some studies have found that listening to music that you like may increase the release of norepinephrine and melatonin that can lead to you being happier.
There are heaps of playlist on YouTube, but the Donut Cat helped this one standout 😊
7. Know that Extra Help is Available
Speaking of positive thinking, now that the virus has been around for longer, there are a lot more support and resources out there should you need it.
Qualified counsellors to help young people aged 5 to 25, available via phone, webchat or email anytime and for any reason
Beyond Blue is focused on supporting people affected by anxiety, depression and suicide. Their support extends to both children, teens and adults.
Raisingchildren.net.au helps family grow and thrive together through free, reliable, up-to-date and independent information.
8. Give a Hug
Last, but certainly not least, never underestimate a cuddle or hug with your child. It’s good for both you and your child. (Be aware of COVID health advice though, if you’re in a hotspot, stick to hugging people within your own household) 🤗
When we cuddle or hug, our bodies release “feel good” hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. These hormones make us feel happier, more relaxed and improves mood.
It’s ok to have a down moment every now and then, life before COVID was probably stressful enough. Throw in a once in 100 years global pandemic, the world just got a whole lot more complicated. Hopefully these 8 achievable tips help you and your little ones pick yourself up when that happens.
“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.” - unknown