While some people may be feeling excited and energized about the start of a new year, the months of January and February can be tough for those impacted by seasonal depression, also known as seasonal-affective-disorder. The onset of seasonal depression typically starts in the fall thinking about changing and creating habits may be something that you’d like to do but having a hard time getting started.
For those of us living in Minnesota, shorter days and less sunlight can really impact mood and motivation. Getting out of bed can be difficult, especially when it feels like there is no reason to get out of bed.
Setting a small but significant habit such as a morning routine can have a tremendous impact. Think about the costs versus the benefits. How does this impact your thoughts and feelings about yourself? How does this impact your relationships? How about your income or future goals?
Creating a goal with specific measurable objectives, building in accountability, and incorporating positive-reinforcement for goal accomplishment can help change your current habits and create a new routine.
One of the things that I really enjoy as a therapist is seeing how taking a small step such as creating a morning routine can create momentum for so many areas of daily living.
Here are 7 Tips for Creating or Changing Your Morning Routine in the Winter Months:
Think about your goals and write these down. Try focusing on one area at a time such as “create a morning routine”. Then add specific objectives written in language that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound aka SMART goals.
Find an accountability partner. This may be a therapist who can help identify and create SMART goals with you. It may be a parent, partner, or roommate. Apps, online sources, and support groups can also be good resources.
Identify strategies that will help build accountability. Ideas include phone reminders, alarms, regular check-ins, etc. Individuals have strategically scheduled recurring therapy sessions during the morning hour to help with accountability. I love this idea since I have witnessed firsthand the positive impact on mood and productivity.
Prepare and plan the night before. Take time to set up alarms, lay out clothing for the next day, do some meal prep such as ingredients for a healthy breakfast, and identify your most important tasks for the next day can help you be off to the best start possible.
Use positive reinforcement such as a reward. Talking with your accountability partner about realistic expectations and rewards that match the situation can be helpful. Sharing progress with others with similar struggles and goals can be very powerful as they can offer praise and encouragement.
Reflect on what is/ is not working. Behavioral change does not happen overnight. It is important to be kind to yourself and not give up when things are challenging. Utilizing problem-solving can be helpful. Additional support such as medication-managementcan be helpful for those who are struggling with moderate to severe depression.
Celebrate wins (no matter how small). If you struggle to get out of bed 7 out of 7 days but were able to do this at least once, that is a win! We can work towards decreasing the number of days to 5, then 3, etc. Then we can move on to another area once a habit has been established.
I am so proud of the steps that my clients are taking in their daily lives, and it is so exciting to see the long-term impacts of changing and creating habits.
Written By: Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC
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