We’re not going to sugarcoat it: winter can feel challenging. For people who don’t live in places that are sunny year-round, the cold weather and dark days can feel super gloomy and uninspiring. Milder forms of this feeling are often referred to as “the winter blues,” while more serious feelings can be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD—a clinical diagnosis related to the shortening of daylight hours). We urge you to speak to a mental health professional if you think you might be experiencing the latter. Here are some mood-boosting tips to help lift your spirits this season.
1. Connect with others
We know that making plans can be hard to prioritize and stick to, especially this time of year. But try to commit to at least one day a week of doing something with a friend or loved one—even if it’s just a quick coffee run or a virtual date with your friend who always makes you laugh. Seeing people who care about you and vice versa serves as a huge mood lifter.
2. Try aromatherapy
We know it might sound out there, but stay with us. A review published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine suggests that essential oils could potentially help lessen symptoms of depression by influencing the area of the brain that controls moods and your body’s internal clock. While the study notes that evidence is limited, using essential oils like body oils or aroma sticks can’t hurt (plus, they smell really great).
3. Nurture your soul
Sit down for 5-10 minutes a day to do something that feels good, just for enjoyment’s sake. Whether that’s listening (or dancing) to your favorite song, reading a book, doing a puzzle, or taking a bath, as long as it brings you joy, we want you to make time for it.
4. Get out in nature
Study after study has shown that even a short walk in nature can improve your mood. Being surrounded by greenery (or even snow-covered greenery) has been proven to increase mood. So try a quick walk around the neighborhood or a trip to the closest park.
5. Consider a mood lamp
If you’re on vacation or live somewhere that is overflowing with Vitamin D—great, take a step outside and soak in some sunshine. But, if you live in parts of the country where the sun just won’t come out, you may want to consider light therapy. NIH researchers pioneered this practice by replacing missing daylight hours with an artificial substitute (like a light box). Studies have shown that light therapy relieves SAD symptoms for as much as 70% of patients after a few weeks of treatment. There are many “happy lamps” on the market said to replicate this effect.
6. Prioritize sleep
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests things like reducing how much you’re drinking before bed (bathroom breaks are extremely disruptive), keeping the room cool, turning that TV off , and more can help you get better quality sleep and feel more rested. Consider embracing a bedtime ritual and setting an alarm for when you should begin getting ready for bed, stretching, meditating, dimming the lights, drinking a cup of tea, and turning out the lights to help you wind down.
7. Move your body
Exercise really does help. According to an article in Harvard Health Publishing, simply moving—going for a walk with someone, taking a meditative walk solo, or working out—can help you feel the effects of a boosted mood.
8. Eat foods that make you feel good
Can certain foods really boost your mood? That’s a story for another time. In the meantime, you’ve probably learned that certain foods make you feel more energized and better overall than others (hello, green foods). Focus on incorporating these foods throughout your day.