BILL MERRINGTON looks at how to lift your mood

WILL 2020 be a good year or a one you will want to forget? There are many things that will influence our lives that we have no control over. Take the weather to begin with. It could be a glorious spring and summer that will lift your spirit or we may be fighting floods and strong gales. Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD) is bad enough in the winter without it stretching all year.

We have some control over our physical health, but some illnesses just come and hit you regardless of your lifestyle. On top of this, the world news and politics will be up and down casting seeds of either gloom or joy.

Then there are the past years, which can overshadow you. I grew up in an atmosphere of gloom and fear. My grandfather fought in two wars being injured and mentally damaged by it. This had a profound affect upon his children and grandchildren. He created a home life of constant fear, never knowing when his anger would erupt. It takes an active choice to shake off a negative upbringing.

Now this seems rather negative, so lets think about what we can do to make 2020 as positive as possible? After all, there is no value in worrying about the things we can’t control. If you think about it, most of the things we worry about never occur anyway.

I’m going to focus on five aspects of life that you can adjust and are recognised as making a profound difference in a person’s outlook of life and their general mental wellbeing. It will all be based around the anagram PERMA. This stands for Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Achievements.

Hopefully PERMA will help you remember them and put them into action. Today lets begin with P.

P stands for positive little emotions on a daily basis. Neuroscientists have discovered that smallest of things can affect the wellbeing of an individual. A person’s feelings of happiness are partly controlled by their hormones that are produced by glands in the body. Certain hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins all can uplift a person’s mood. The amazing thing is that we can affect these chemical levels ourselves with a positive lifestyle. Now you might think this is a chicken and egg situation, which comes first, the hormones or lifestyle. Well it doesn’t matter because if we choose certain actions, it will affect how we feel and think about ourselves. So let's begin by increasing positive little emotions each day.

This might be simply giving yourself a smiley face when you have ticked off a job from a list. It doesn’t matter how small the emotion is, provided it is positive. Recognising small things that are positive in your life on a daily basis give the brain a positive chemical boost that is as good as caffeine. So you might be a person that writes lists and seriously works through them and crosses them off one by one. That’s fine, but by adding a smiley face after each one, it is acknowledging something positive in your life. Hopefully you just might smile yourself! Smiling itself is an action that increases positivity.

It might be worth thinking through your day and seeing if you can increase positive feelings after each activity.

You will already have some of these moments built into your daily and weekly routine.

I always get a pick me up when I weekly go out for a coffee and a teacake.

It’s small and seems insignificant, but it reminds me of positive memories of my childhood and sets me right for the rest of the day.

See of you can make a list of small things that don’t cost anything that will give you a positive emotional feelings.

It might be playing a piece of music that makes you smile. It could be re-watching a TV programme that you love, going for a walk, patting a dog or cat, or cooking something you enjoy.

The list can be endless, and once you start, you will find that the list grows.

What we are looking for is anything that gives you an uplift. This is what makes you laugh, tickles you, makes you warm in your heart and makes your day. These things lead to you having a more open mind, increases your creativity and energy. It also makes you more sociable and more successful in solving problems. It’s a virtual circle, for as you increase your positive emotions, it will increase your wellbeing and in turn increase your positive emotions. In a sense we are actively choosing to see our cup half full. Have a go, I’m sure it will do you good. Next Tuesday we will look at E for engagement.

Dr Bill Merrington is a private therapist and Chartered Psychologist working in the York district ( or contact