Rain, rain go away, come again some other day.
I’ve been chanting this nursery rhyme for days. The dreary, grey drizzle is driving me mad. Cloaked in blankets, slippers and sweaters and consuming gallons of hot tea, I can’t seem to get warm or motivated to go outside, even to run errands. I think bears have the right idea—we should just hibernate.
Finally, yesterday, the sun broke through the clouds. Hallelujah! Raising my face toward the sky I relished the warmth on my skin.
A little sunshine and I immediately had a boost of energy. Suddenly, I found time to grocery shop, take my dog Snickers for a walk, fold and put away the mountain of clean clothes on the bed and check-off a dozen things on my to-do list.
I’m not alone in having the shortened days and lack of sunshine sap my motivation. It’s well documented that the winter months typically bring on increased sleepiness and lethargy and as a result, weight gain. It’s in our DNA. When our eyes detect darkness, our brain releases melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep. With the sun setting at 4:00 pm no wonder I’m tired by 6:30 pm!
Feeling like I have a case of the “winter blahs,” I researched ways to boost my mood. Here are the tips I’ve collected from the experts on how to chase the blues away.
- Get out there – Force yourself to go out even though you want to stay in. And if you really want a mood booster, spend some money on a great experience, e.g., a great dinner place, a concert, theatre tickets etc. Research shows that spending money on experiences boost your mood more than buying a new pair of shoes. (Side note to the experts: I don’t think you understand the emotional impact of shoes. My new Toms bring me loads of joy every time I put them on. So there. But I’ll do the experience stuff too.)
- Do a good deed. Focusing on those less fortunate creates empathy and forces us to appreciate what we have.
- Pull out old photos. Grab a cup of tea and start flipping through your kids’ baby albums or that awesome vacation you took to Italy. Who wouldn’t feel better after memories of pasta and wine flood their brain!
- Try bright-light therapy. Sit in front of a special lamp (a bright fluorescent light that mimics the intensity of the sun) for about 30 minutes every day.
- Start an appreciation journal. At night, jot down the good stuff that happened during the day. Recording even the most mundane activities that went well will help you focus on the positive.
- Exercise. Regular exercise relieves stress and anxiety. Plus, working out makes you feel better about yourself which will boost your mood.
- Try meditation or a restorative yoga class. New research shows that spiritual practices, such as regular mindfulness exercises, can actually change brain structure in a way that promotes a sense of wellbeing.
- Cut back on alcohol. While sitting by the fire with a glass of wine or scotch seems like a good idea, alcohol is actually a depressant, which can exacerbate a depressed mood.
- Treat yourself to a massage. During a massage the levels of the stress hormone cortisol fall and the levels of the feel good hormone serotonin rise. Bad stuff goes down, good stuff goes up. Sign me up.
- Consider Omega-3 and Vitamin D supplements which both have been shown to have a positive effect on depression. Talk to your doctor about the correct dosage, especially with Vitamin D as too much is toxic.