12 Little Ways to Boost Your Mood This Winter

In January and February, it can be hard to summon a positive attitude about winter. The holidays are over, but the days are still extremely short. The weather is frigid in most parts of the United States, and there’s isn’t another fun holiday until Valentine’s Day, which most people are conflicted about anyway.

All these factors can lead to a major decline in mental health, with some people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a mood disorder that tends to manifest in winter. It’s estimated that between 1.4 to 9.9 percent of each state’s population suffers from SAD every year, depending on where they’re situated. If you believe that you’re suffering from SAD, you should consult a doctor or therapist.

If you’re just feeling down because of the crummy weather, here are some little tips that will help boost your mood this winter.

1. Get outside when it’s sunny

There are two reasons why the lack of sun in winter affects our mood. Human beings get the majority of our vitamin D from the sun, and vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to depression. The sun’s rays are such a powerful source of vitamin D that just six days of casual sun exposure can make up for almost 50 days with no sun.

Another reason why the sun affects our mood is that it helps regulate our circadian rhythm. When our circadian rhythms are out of sync, it can make us feel tired and irritable.

To mitigate the effect of the long winter nights, try and get outside as much as possible when during the daytime hours. Open your curtains and blinds and take advantage of sunny weather to go for a walk and get some fresh air.

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2. Exercise regularly

It seems counterintuitive but getting outside and getting some physical exercise is one of the best things you can do to combat the winter blues. A 2005 study from Harvard University found that walking for 35 minutes five days a week helped improve symptoms of mild to moderate depression. You’ll get sunlight on your skin (if the sun is out), plus you’ll get the mood-enhancing benefits of physical activity.

If it’s too cold to go outside, you can work out at home by lifting weights, doing yoga, or using a convenient workout app like Sworkit or Keelo.

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3. Pet your dog, or offer to walk your neighbor’s

Research has shown that spending just 15 minutes a day petting or playing with a pet has been shown to reduce stress hormones and boost our levels of serotonin, a mood-enhancing neurotransmitter. The change in these hormone levels causes our blood pressure to drop and can help improve our mood.

If you don’t have your own pet, you can offer to walk a friend’s dog or drop in on their cat while they’re at work. If you want to make some money while boosting your mood, the app Rover allows you to make a profile so you can sign up to walk dogs in your spare time.

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