It's quite common for us to feel pressure as a new year begins. Pressure to set resolutions. Pressure to make big changes, to do more, to be better. The reality for many of us, especially those of us caring for someone, is that we are already at our limit. There is no room for more. If anything, we’re desperately trying to think of ways to do less!
So this year, we want to do things differently. Instead of focusing on what we want to add to our lives, let’s take stock of what’s already there that helps us feel our best. The small things that bring us joy day to day. This might help us to encourage our minds to focus on the lovely things we have going on already and to help us prioritise these within our busy routines.
30 simple things that helped carers feel happier
You’ve probably seen newspapers, or online articles, sharing listicles with 30 or 50 things that will give us the secret to a happy and healthy year. Including items like booking a holiday to get some winter sun, regularly making meals from scratch, or getting to the gym each day in our new matching athleisure set.
Many of these just don’t feel possible, or even particularly desirable, with our lives that tend to revolve around someone else’s wants and needs.
We asked our community of carers what small things bring them joy. Those little moments of happiness that break up a tough day. So, in no particular order, here are 30 things that can help us to feel our best, the Carer edition!
1. Time with our friends or family - Be it in person, or a quick phone or video call, spending time with the ones we love can be a simple way to fill our hearts.
“When my three year old granddaughter comes to visit I always feel happy. She is my therapy.”
2. Time with our pets - For those of us who are animal lovers, few things seem to beat time with our furry companions.
3. A daily walk - Getting our bodies moving, some fresh air on our faces, and daylight (however grey) on our skin is a real tonic. Daily morning walks can also help to realign our circadian rhythm, creating better quality sleep.
4. Getting outside - Even better when paired with the above, but just stepping out into our gardens for a few minutes can be a great way of finding a moment of peace.
5. Being in the moment - Noticing the beauty of the changing seasons around us, the smiles of our loved ones, or the moments of stillness between the chaos. Research has found that being more present can also help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and boost feelings of happiness.
6. Curling up in front of a fire - If this sounds appealing, why not take a look at other free and low-cost ways for carers to feel cosy this season.
7. Knitting or sewing - While providing some much-needed moments of us time, both hobbies have been found to do wonders for our mental and physical health, lowering blood pressure, reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, and much more.
“I started sewing during lockdown. It’s my life saver! Even though I am at home I can mentally "have a break"... and the odd thing I make is actually wearable too!!
8. A creative project - We are clearly a community who likes to make things! If knitting or sewing isn’t for us, carer’s found having any creative outlet can help their mood. For those of us who like to share our projects and creations, the Mobilise Hub is a carer community, who as well as sharing tips and advice, love doing just that.
9. Reading - Whatever our genre of choice, books can provide a much needed momentary escape for many of us. If you’re looking for book-spiration, try 11 books every carer should read.
10. Photos of loved ones - Be this getting them printed or just flipping through a photo album from time to time. Photos of the people and times in our lives that bring us happiness can immediately pop a smile on our faces and improve our moods.
“I use the FreePrints app (you get 45 free prints and only pay for delivery) to track my son's development and make lots of memories. I hope one day when he’s older we can both sit and go through them together.”
11. Look out our windows - For those of us not in a position to get outside as regularly as we would like, just looking out our window can provide a moment of respite. It has been shown to help us to feel more relaxed, as well as providing a deeper connection to our thoughts and feelings.
12. Listening to music - Bonus points for dancing or singing along!
13. Listening to a podcast or audio book - Like reading, this can provide a moment of mental respite, but with the added bonus of being able to listen along while cracking on with some boring chores if we want to. Our Who Cares Wins podcast might be a good starting point.
14. Watching the birds - We really can’t get enough of all things nature. Popping the kettle on and drinking our tea while watching the birds was something that many members of our community shared brought a moment of peace and joy.
16. Support from friends or family - When we have so much to carry, someone in our life doing even a little something to take some of the load off can make all the difference.
17. Friends checking in - Be it a text, call, or drop-by visit, even if they are not able to offer practical support just knowing our friends are thinking of us can be a wonderful feeling.
18. Wild swimming - For the brave and adventurous amongst us, a carer in our community shared the wonders that wild swimming does for her. Proven to release endorphins, improve our cardiovascular fitness, and our mental health, there are a number of benefits to fresh water swimming. A cold plunge can also create similar health benefits.
19. Laughter - Wherever, whenever, as often as possible!
“I love hearing others laugh, especially if I have caused it!”
20. Dinner or drinks with friends - Be it a meal out, or trip to the pub, scheduling in time to get us out of the house can be so beneficial. And there’s nothing like some quality time with our friends to get us laughing.
21. Twinkly lights - It doesn’t seem to matter if they are fairy lights or candles, our community love the chilled vibes that different lighting can bring. And lighting scented candles can also help us to feel more relaxed or energised, depending on the scent.
22. Someone, or something, to cuddle - Pets, family, friends, pillows, a blanket! Having a good cuddle encourages our body to release a hormone called oxytocin that calms us, and helps us to deal better with stress.
23. Hearing we’re doing a good job - Our caring roles can feel like a thankless task for many of us, and just hearing that we’re appreciated can make such a difference.
“My two daughters both gave me Christmas cards with lovely handwritten notes saying how I am doing a great job since their mum died in March and how thankful they are for what I do. These are now pinned to my bedroom wall and when I'm feeling down or stressed I look at them and know I am making a difference.”
24. Hot chocolate - We were surprised that this was the only food-specific thing to make the cut, but it is a good one! Our favourite, when we’re feeling really extravagant, is the hot chocolate stirrers that come ready equipped with mini marshmallows. Bliss!
25. Ticking off a big to-do - Is there any feeling quite like ticking something off our to-do list that we’ve been avoiding? And often it wasn’t half as awful as we expected.
26. Making time for our faith - Whatever that might look like to us.
“Going to church and the quiet time I spend in the evening with my journaling bible is the time I get just for myself.”
27. Doing a jigsaw puzzle - The poster child for a relaxing hobby, it’s no surprise that finding time to work on a jigsaw brings us joy. And that feeling when we finish it, chef's kiss.
28. Social media sites - Although they can get a bad rep, when we use social media sites for connecting with the people we love, or communities that understand us, they can have a positive impact on our mood. Plus, come and say hi to us over on Twitter and Instagram too!
“Facebook. It's the main way I connect with the people I love.”
29. Putting new batteries in - Why does it take us so long to do this? Even if we can’t replace our own batteries, there’s something about finally having our mouse or remote working as it should that is so satisfying.
30. The Mobilise Community! We loved to hear that for many of the carers we spoke to, being in a community where they can connect with other unpaid carers makes a big difference.
“I am SUUUPPPEERRR excited to be part of this community - such an amazing resource and place to connect, so thank you Mobilise!”
It is worth reflecting on how reading the list made us feel…
Did we smile?
Did our hearts feel fuller when we read certain items?
We may have realised that we have many of these things in our lives already. Can we take a moment to appreciate them more?
Was it a surprise which items made the list?
It’s amazing how many of the same things came up again and again for different people. And possibly not what we might expect. No one mentioned getting new clothes, or the latest game console, or spending hours in front of the TV.
It’s the simple, and often free, pleasures in life. Quality time with loved ones. Connecting with nature. Creating something. By slowing down and appreciating what we have we can already hopefully start to feel a bit more positive about the year ahead.
For those of us thinking, I know what brings me joy, I just don’t have the time to fit them in, we might find it helpful to explore a carers' guide to respite, or tips on finding moments during our days for micro-respite.
If we are still feeling the pressure to change as the year kicks off, something that can help with this is to set more realistic resolutions for ourselves. Or, as a lot of resolutions stem from body image and feeling pressure to do more exercise, we may wish to consider working on changing our mindset to one of ‘enoughness’.
How many of the list resonated with you? Have we missed anything? Let us know over in the Mobilise Hub.