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Ten Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

Posted: 31/01/2013 23:00

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.

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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.

Eat mood-boosting foods

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.

Lighten up

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.

Treat yourself

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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  • Losing your temper

    Many of us have been brought up to believe that losing our temper is the ultimate social faux pas. To an extent this is true (nobody wants to hang out with that person who is always losing their cool and shouting their mouth off), however research has found that losing your temper could actually be good for your health. Venting your emotions is believed to reduce the effects of stress, while a Swedish study found that men who bottled up their anger when unfairly treated at work doubled their risk of having a heart attack. <strong><a href="http://www.realbuzz.com/articles/7-good-habits-that-are-bad-for-your-health">Find out which 'good’ habits are bad for your health</a></strong>

  • Sunbathing

    In recent years, official advice has been that we should cover up in the sun at all times to protect ourselves from skin cancer. However, more recently experts have stated that actually little and frequent sun exposure is good for us. In the UK, where vitamin D deficiency is common, seven leading health groups and charities have issued a statement advising everyone to spend 10 minutes in the midday sun without sunblock in order to avoid rickets. Meanwhile, a US study has stated that the vitamin D produced by the sun could help ward off colds and flu. However, experts have stressed that people should cover up after 10 minutes, and skin should never be red at the end of the day.

  • Giving in to your cravings

    Although constantly giving into junk food cravings is a sure-fire way to sabotage your healthy eating success, allowing yourself the odd treat will not only boost your happiness, it will also help you keep motivated to stay on track. Also, as many people crave the foods that they most attempt to resist, allowing yourself a little of what you fancy can actually help to reduce cravings. If you have imposed extreme restrictions on your diet and cut out entire food groups, cravings could also be a sign of a nutrient deficiency in your diet. <strong><a href="http://www.realbuzz.com/articles/5-surprising-things-that-make-you-slim">Do these 5 things make you slim? </a></strong>

  • Daydreaming

    Many of us view daydreaming as a sign of laziness or form of procrastination; however, researchers at the University of British Columbia have found that letting your mind wander can actually help boost your problem-solving abilities. The study found that when participants minds wandered, the parts of their brain associated with problem-solving became more active than when focused on routine tasks. So, while daydreaming can increase the time it takes to complete your present task, it can allow you to unconsciously sort through other important problems in your life.

  • Having a lie-in

    Feeling guilty about your weekend lie-in? Don’t be! Research has found that sleep can help you live longer, boost your memory and reduce stress, while not getting enough can lead to accidents, weight gain, and increased risk of heart disease. Furthermore, delaying your morning workout in favour of some shut-eye may have health benefits, as research from Brunel University found that heavy training sessions early in the morning can compromise the immune system.

  • Swearing

    Swearing: it’s not big and it’s not clever... but studies suggest that in certain situations it may actually be good for you. According to a study by the University of East Anglia, swearing at work could help employees cope with stress and maintain solidarity. Meanwhile, researchers at Keele University’s School of Psychology found that swearing can provide effective short-term relief from pain. However, the study also notes that swearing should be reserved for crises only, as the higher the daily swearing frequency was for participants, the less pain relief they experienced.

  • Skipping a shower

    OK, so repeatedly missing showers may not win you any friends, but if you are ever tempted to skip a shower here and there, research suggests that you could be doing your health (and the environment) a favour. Daily washing not only strips your skin of the natural oils that keep it hydrated and supple, it could also strip your skin of good bacteria that help to prevent disease. If you do decide to skip a shower, just try to do it on a day when you won’t be vigorously working out!

  • Fidgeting

    It’s the bane of school teachers everywhere, yet research suggests that fidgeting may be no bad thing – at least in us adults. Research suggests that fidgeting can burn up to 350 extra calories a day, helping you to keep off those excess pounds. To further increase your calorie burn, try to squeeze in more incidental exercise, such as getting up to change the channel rather than using the remote control. <strong><a href="http://www.realbuzz.com/articles/5-fun-diet-and-fitness-alternatives">Have you tried these 5 fun diet and fitness alternatives?</a></strong>

  • Drinking coffee

    Although drinking too much coffee can be detrimental to your health, in smaller quantities the popular hot drink can actually be good for you. When drunk in moderation (no more than three cups per day), caffeine can speed up your metabolism, boost exercise endurance and reduce your risk of gallstones and kidney stones. A study by the Harvard Medical School has also found that women who drink two or more cups of coffee a day are less likely to be depressed, while separate research has shown that drinking three cups cuts risk of age-related diabetes.

  • Gossiping

    Most of us love a good gossip, whether we’re giggling over a colleague’s new romance or passing an opinion on someone’s outfit choice or behaviour, and the good news is that gossiping could actually be good for us. Not only does listening to gossip help us to learn more about the characters of those around us, bonding and having a laugh with your peers also releases feel-good hormones which help to relieve stress and anxiety.

 

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