Q: Mr. Pedometer, I get depressed in the winter by gray skies and fewer hours of daylight. Any suggestions of how to be “merry” despite those features?
A: You are far from alone in getting the winter blues. A recent article in the Parade magazine insert of our Sunday newspaper offered the following suggestions on how to brighten these darker days…
VEG OUT – “Plant-based foods, like fruits and vegetables, feed the good bacteria in our gut that help produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin, explains Karen Bush, a board-certified functional medicine health coach at Cleveland Clinic. It doesn’t have to be fresh: Frozen produce often retains its flavor and nutrition.”
EMPLOY FLOWER POWER – People who woke up to flowers reported a better mood, in a recent study. So place a vase of tulips or daisies on your bedside table. When in doubt, opt for blooms that are yellow, a hue that’s often associated with sunshine, energy, and happiness.”
MAKE A PHOTO ALBUM –“Positive memories greatly enhance our present happiness and can even reduce depression, says Dmitry Golubnichy, founder of the 100 Happy Days Foundation and author of Can You Be Happy 100 Days in a Row? Sort through your photos and assemble the happy ones into a book you can flip through again and again.”
LOL – “’Laughter reduces stress and overrides other emotions in the moment,’ says Donna Agajanian, a New York City-based certified life and intuitive coach. Laughter ‘therapy’ has even been shown to function similarly to antidepressants by raising serotonin levels….”
COLOR YOUR WORLD –“When you find ways to brighten your days physically, you’ll literally feel brighter, says Amy Spencer, author of Bright Side Up: 100 Ways to Be Happier Right Now. Wear a colorful shirt or scarf. Buy a pen with green ink or some turquoise sticky notes. Get pillows for your couch in Kelly green or sheets in tangerine… ‘Just a few shades of difference in your everyday items can make life feel more vivid all around,’ Spencer says.”
CHANGE YOUR ROUTINE –“’Small changes can bring big rewards for our spirits,’ says Agajanian. ‘Routines are often connected with the past, so changing one that links to a past negative association can break that link and open up space for other feelings.’ One tweak that takes minimal effort: Make your bed (if you don’t already). “It’s a form of self-care and a way of telling yourself that you matter. That alone can lift your mood,’ she says.”
MAKE FRIENDS WITH WINTER WORKOUTS – “Just 5 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise releases feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins. Exercising outside will give you an even better workout. For one thing, it tends to be more strenuous that indoor sweat sessions, so you’ll burn extra calories. Plus, researchers find that people who get physical outdoors enjoy it more. ‘I tell people to go outside for 10 minutes,’ says Bush. ‘But once they’re out there, they realize how beautiful it is and they stay for an hour.’”
WALK THE HAPPY WALK – People in one study who walked as if they were sad (slowly, without a lot of energy or body engagement) ended up feeling sadder. How to make your gait a mood boost? Happy people walk with an upright, steady torso and swinging arms, reports Golubnichy.”
FLASH A SMILE –“It actually spurs a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing hormones like dopamine and serotonin that increase feelings of happiness and reduce stress. Even forcing a fake smile helps. For best results, smile with your eyes and your mouth….”
The very good news is that you can accomplish all of the last three on the list if you come “Walk ‘n’ Talk” with us on Saturday mornings! If you aren’t in our area, consider starting your own “Walk ‘n’ Talk” group. Here’s to a cheerier wintertime!