Many people experience feelings of sadness, depression and lethargy once the winter months kick in, often due to the change in weather, the shorter days and long periods of being cooped up indoors. If the winter blues are starting to set in, check out these 10 ways to boost your happiness this winter.
Make a plan
The winter months can often seem quite dull, with many of us spending the majority of our time stuck indoors. A good way to alleviate this feeling of ennui is to break out of your routine and create something to look forward to. This could be a night out or weekend away, or something ongoing like a new fitness challenge. Whatever your plan, make sure it is something you feel excited about and that you can focus on and look forward to.
Get creative about fitness
Exercise is a great way to beat the blues as it releases mood-boosting endorphins and will also leave you looking great. However, many of us find our workout routine takes a hit when the cold weather sets in. To stay inspired to exercise through the winter months, try searching for something new such as an unusual exercise class or sport. If you can't face heading out into the cold, find fun ways to exercise at home such as hula hooping, dance fitness DVDs or skipping.
Get an indoor hobby
We often give up or postpone many of the activities we love when it gets cold. However, just because you are spending more time indoors, that doesn't mean your interests and activities have to be reduced to browsing the TV guide for what's on next. To keep your mind occupied and add some fun to your evenings, try taking up an indoor hobby for the winter. There are many to choose from, such as reading, writing, painting, growing indoor plants, baking or learning a new language.
It is tempting to reach for comforting, stodgy foods during the winter; however, research results published in the Public Health Nutrition journal reveal that regular consumers of fast food are 51 per cent more likely to develop depression. Instead, try to fill your diet with nutritious healthy foods; particularly those rich in B vitamins, which help the brain produce serotonin; Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lift depression; and vitamin D, which you may be short of in the winter months.
Perk up your social life
As people retreat more indoors to the warmth of their homes, it can feel as though your social life has gone into hibernation. However, spending time with others can be one of the greatest mood boosters. You can't always rely on other people to make plans, so if your social life could do with a boost, it's time to get proactive. Pick up the phone and make plans to spend time with friends and family. Alternatively, take up a hobby or join a club to find some new people to spend time with.
Laugh more often
Laughter is an extremely effective mood booster, and studies have found that even the anticipation of laughter can help to lift our spirits and reduce stress. However, many of us don't laugh nearly enough. While it may seem like a regimented approach to such a laid back and seemingly frivolous activity, try to make sure you dedicate at least 20 minutes a day to something that makes you laugh, such as chatting to a friend, reading a funny book or watching a funny DVD or YouTube clip.
For many people, the lack of sunlight over the winter months can bring on strong feelings of depression and lethargy. To help improve these symptoms, try to make sure you spend as much time exposed to natural light as you can, leaving your curtains or blinds open, sitting close to windows where possible, and spending some time outdoors each day. It may also be worth investing in a SAD light box which can help to reduce the negative effects caused by the lack of natural light.
Make someone smile
It is easy to get bogged down in our problems and fixated on our own bad mood, so it is good every once in a while to put our own issues to one side and focus on making someone else happy instead. Whether you want to take on some volunteer work, make a one off donation (of time or money) to charity or make someone you know smile with a thoughtful gift or gesture, dedicating time and effort to the happiness of others is a great way to get take your mind off your own problems and also increase your sense of purpose and fulfilment.
Become a problem solver
Many of us fall into the trap of spending a lot of time moaning over or rehashing our problems, but very little time trying to think of ways to solve them. If there is something more than the weather getting you down, try to think about what that is and what you can do about it. Make a list of all the things you would like to change about your life right now and jot down some solutions, then make a plan to tackle each thing one by one, starting with the thing most integral to your happiness.
To boost your happiness over the winter, it is important to make time for those little things that boost your mood. Make a list of the day-to-day things that make you happy - such as having a catch-up with a friend, having a scented bubble bath, or listening to your favourite song - and make sure you schedule one of these treats into every day. Planning regular treats not only gives you something to look forward to, it can also subtly improve each day.
Need more help with boosting your happiness? Check out these Five foods to beat the blues.
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