It has been a challenging winter so far. The temperatures have been below freezing, and it seems like every week we are experiencing a snowstorm. Winter is in full force. The weather has definitely been a “downer” and our friend the groundhog predicted six more weeks of it. Many of us are feeling the “winter blues,” which can be characterized by low energy, mild depression, and a lack of motivation. Rather than allow winter to get you down, I say Get Happy!
So here is a collection of mood boosting tricks to help get you through the remainder of the winter season. They are not cure alls for depression. They are tools to keep you feeling positive, strong and motivated until that first day of spring.
Listen to music, sing loudly and dance around the room
A number of studies suggest that listening to music stimulates endorphins and listening to loud music activates a part of the inner ear called the saccule that is connected to a part of the brain responsible for pleasure seeking activity. Stimulating this area could encourage you to engage in more satisfying endeavors!
If you want to go the more traditional route, then hit the gym. The effects of a good work out can last for several hours and will also release those “feel good” chemicals that improve your mood. It can be as effective as medication and can also relieve stress, be a good distraction, and can often produce a sense of euphoria.
Hang out with friends
Don’t underestimate the power of social support. The feeling of connection and belonging lifts mood and confiding in friends can lessen despair. People with a close social network tend to be happier and more productive. Remember to have fun and laugh, as laughter is still the best medicine.
Commit acts of kindness
Volunteering can prompt a “helpers high.” Doing good things for people is particularly impactful in promoting good feelings. In his book, “The Healing Power of Doing Good,” Alan Luks noted that simply recalling a charitable act brings back the same, albeit less, intense good mood. Remember to do good things for the people that are in your life and show your appreciation to them. Both you and they will feel good.
Bring nature indoors. Health guru, Dr. Andrew Weil, recommends purchasing flowers regularly to reduce stress and bring beauty into your everyday life. Make them bright red and feel their energy!
Seek the sunlight
Winter days are shorter and darker than other months. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a common cause of depression. Spending time in bright light can create a happier brain chemistry. Sunlight exposure releases neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood. Spend more time outdoors or in bright rooms. Try changing your light bulbs to “happy light bulbs,” which are full spectrum bulbs that mimic actual light and have the same affects on your mind as the real deal!
Use your senses
Stare at something yellow. As color psychologist, Angela Wright, explains, “yellow can lift your spirits and self-esteem.” It has also been reported that lavender is a major olfactory happiness tool. Lavender has been shown to improve mood and soothe anxiety. If you don’t have lavender handy, grab a bottle of vanilla extract from your cabinet, as it is also an aromatherapy happiness booster.
Spend a few minutes of the day doing nothing. Take care of yourself. Read a book, sleep in on the weekend, get a massage, try some meditations, or take a yoga class. Relaxation can alleviate stress, and mental exercises like meditation and positive thinking can ward off depression.
Winter seems endless. Plan something exciting — a change of scenery perhaps! Your mood will change as you anticipate the event, as well as when it actually comes.
Finally, embrace the winter and all that it has to offer. See it in a positive light. If that seems like a bit of a reach then, as I tell my clients, Fake it till you make it.