More light in the darkness:

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Smile

OK... so we are in Tier 4...and it's cold and dark... It would be all too easy to get the blues. So how do we keep our spirits up? Drop us a line with what helps you and we will pass it on...

For today, I'm going to focus on some small things that most of us can do that can make a big difference.

Exercise
Every interview I've heard over the lockdown with people who stay positive has a running theme... (Excuse the pun). Each and every one mentions how helpful exercise has been in helping them to stay energised, happy and how much it supports mental health. You don't have to do a 10k run or 30-mile bike ride. Just do something, preferably outdoors, that gets your heart pumping or breaks a sweat for 20 to 30 minutes. It seems the more we do, the better we feel.

Make eye contact and smile:
Social bonding such as eye contact and being attentive promotes the release of the feel-good hormone dopamine which fosters closeness and motivation. Eye contact in a Thank You always feels so much more sincere. Smiling makes us happy:. The physical action of smiling stimulates the glands in the face which release the happiness hormones: "endorphins". You really can see a genuine smile in the eyes and wearing masks has really highlighted that.

Do something you've been putting off for a while
Whether that's apologising to someone, or doing your tax return or like me today... I've been putting off doing my workout. I know when I get it done, I'll feel good, not just because I've exercised, but because I've overcome my reluctance.

Small acts of kindness — anonymously
Do something kind, ideally anonymously. For the environment, for a person, for your village. Send an anonymous postcard to someone who you know that needs cheering up... Put the bins back for a neighbour, maybe pick up some rubbish that missed a bin...Some takeaway restaurants allow "Pay it forward" you can pay some money for a breakfast, lunch or a drink for someone who needs it. Pret a Manger cafe's are known for this, but it's not just them. Ask the takeaway if they do a "pay it forward" scheme or maybe suggest it. I love paying the toll for someone behind me on a manned toll bridge and looking in my rear-view mirror and seeing the confused look on their faces.

Show appreciation:
Write down five things that you appreciate about to someone in your home, your family or your life. Then write them a letter. Hand-writing a letter can really open your mind to how you truly appreciate that person or something they do that inspires or supports you. Either send them that letter, send them a message, tell them in person or take a moment to give them a call.

Count a few blessings:
Write down five things you are really grateful for and count as a blessing; maybe it's 'Living in a great village'... or 'having a lovely place like Grogan's walk to exercise in' or even, 'living in a peaceful country', 'Having the NHS'. I often include things that are really basic such as "I have the gift of sight, good hearing'.

Get inspired:
There are so many examples of inspiring people who have disabilities or tough circumstances and don't let their disability hold them back. Maybe see if you can find a podcast, film or Wikipedia page of one of these people:
Dame Evelyn Glennie, World-renowned Scottish percussionist who is also profoundly deaf. Joe Wicks, who grew up in a council estate and is now a multi-millionaire Fitness and health writer, you-tuber and broadcaster. Chris Packham CBE, the much-loved naturalist and TV presenter was only diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome in his forties. Even Winston Churchill overcame learning difficulties, Abraham Lincoln overcame severe depression Or simply google inspiring stories. They really can be "chicken soup for the soul".

Stay safe and Keep Smiling, Tarvin