Two things happened this morning that brightened my day – and I realised, not for the first time, just how much we need such highlights in winter.

It’s tempting to hunker down, stay at home more, and go into hibernation mode.

But attractive though that may sound, it’s unwise in terms of our mental health.

We need variety and stimulus. We need company. We need fresh air. And we need to be living a full life rather than a dilute version of it.

When I was working as a therapist, I used to encourage patients suffering from low mood to notice, and list, five enjoyable moments every day.

This was surprisingly effective, so I recommend it now as a strategy to help keep us smiling through the dark, inclement weather.

In fact, most of us, if we put our minds to it, can manage more than five.

As I’ve mentioned, I’d experienced two cheery happenings this morning before I’d had my second cup of coffee.

The first was that I put on plenty of robust clothing and went out to walk briskly for an hour.

I know I’m always plugging the virtues of doing this, but that’s because walking is one of the very best stressbusters and mood-lifters that there is.

The second special moment was when Sarah, my favourite local courier, turned up with a parcel.

She was all smiles as usual, but she was also wearing a woolly hat decorated with flashing lights, which made me laugh.

Later, there were more merry episodes. One involved a short visit to a great friend.

Another was when I shopped online for a gift for my favourite four-year-old and managed to find a really fun, warm dress and contrasting leggings which I know she’ll love.

Anticipating her excitement provided me with a distinctly feel-good moment. I just wish they made the outfit in my size!

Then, at the end of the day, I discovered a TV series on Britbox which I’d last viewed 20 years ago. It’s called “State of Play”. You may remember it. I was delighted to find it seems as excellent now as it did back then.

So, why not look out for, or create, five, daily cheering activities yourself? Hopefully, this will prove a marvellous antidote to the downsides of December.

Another useful tactic is to reward ourselves with special comforts when the going gets tough.

Of course, this might involve a glass of wine or some festive cake from time to time.

But having bombarded you with health messages all year, can I just say that we all need, additionally, to engage in different uplifting forms of consolation that don’t sabotage the good work we’ve been doing.

So instead of an excess of biscuits, or numbing ourselves with too much booze, let’s opt for pleasure in other ways such as a WhatsApp video with friends, or taking a long, hot bath with soothing, fragrant oils.

Music too, is a great pick-me-up whether you’re playing or singing it, or simply listening.

And it can feel like an absolute tonic to peruse travel sites on the internet and plan a holiday for the future. Just the thought that you can go somewhere interesting with sunny weather will perk you up and eradicate gloom.

Talking of gloom, we often reflect the darkness around us by wearing dull colours. But sometimes just putting on a bright sweater or scarf – or in my case an ancient red duffle coat – can not only cheer us up but those around us too.

I was at a concert the other evening where virtually everyone was in sturdy shoes and an assemblage of black or grey, bulky layers. 

However, one woman had braved the elements in a stylish, beautifully fitted coat, and long, high heeled boots in a fetching shade of pink.

I hope she wasn’t too cold and that she enjoyed how magnificent she looked. Certainly, she was the recipient of many approving glances and comments.

So, don’t forget to dress up every now and again, and add a splash of colour. You’ll feel better and help others feel better too.

Above all, do try to stick to the structure in your week that works for you and do your utmost to avoid the “cancel culture” we can all too easily fall into at this time of year.

Ducking out of stuff we like because it’s miserable outside is likely to make us miserable inside.

So, whether it’s Pilates, a dance class, yoga, chess or book club or choir practice, urge yourself to go even if you don’t feel like it unless it’s actually going to put you in any danger – like having to walk on icy pavements, or drive in a blizzard or dense fog.

When the weather is just mucky, cold and uncomfortable, I think we should make the effort to get to our usual commitments.

When we don’t, we shrink our lives and, as older people who want to age positively, we need to fight that tendency.

Better by far to do as much as possible of our normal routine. If we don’t, the winter will feel extraordinarily long.