The New Year is not happy for everyone. Shorter, darker days, brutally cold weather, and recovering from all of the holiday “cheer” can make January and February tough days for many people. And as a busy mom, with the craziness of the holidays behind us, and so much to do to recover from two to three months of holiday madness, January may be even more depressing. January is often tough for me and I admit to fighting the winter blues.
So, I did a little research into some activities that can help us improve our happiness level this winter.
8 Tips for Beating the New Year/Winter Blues:
- Get out of bed and hop, hop, hop. Or do some jumping jacks, squats, or lunges. But do something, even if you only have time for just a few minutes when you wake up. According to research by Dr. Kenneth Fox, there is now plenty of evidence showing that exercise – which causes your body to release endorphins that make you happy – is helpful for beating depression. So, start your morning by hopping on over to that coffee pot!
- Try Smiling. Even if it’s a fake or forced smile, the research shows that people who smile more are actually happier. So, even if it’s cold and dark, plaster that grin on. For a fun “experiment” with the kids, go someplace and walk around smiling at everyone. Tell the kids to record the reactions. There’s a good chance you’ll all be giggling in no time.
- Dance it out. Put on some upbeat music and dance around the house. The kids will love it, you’ll feel better, and you burn some calories while you are at it. Singing along can also help boost your morale.
- Sniff something that smells good! Flowers, essential oils, household cleaners? Whatever smell lifts your mood. Citrus (particularly orange) and lavender scents have been associated with mood enhancement. Buy some flowers, light a candle, or get into the new essential oil trend and let those happy smells waft through the house.
- Throw on a green sweater, green socks, or some green accessories. Green, which symbolizes nature, can increase your mood by giving you the feeling that you’ve escaped into nature.
- Do something good for someone else. The organization Action for Happiness explains that there is psychological evidence proving that doing something good for someone else actually makes us happier. Helping others boosts our mood and reduces stress by giving us a sense of meaning and purpose, among other things. This could be something as simple as doing a chore for someone you know needs help, all the way to longer term volunteering. There are plenty of ways to give back and do good for others in our communities, bringing happiness to ourselves in the process.
- Eat chocolate! Yes. It’s allowed. Dark chocolate, that is. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants and helps regulate our stress hormone, cortisol.
- Try out something new. If you live in a place with a good climate, have you tried out all of the public parks? There may be one or two you haven’t visited. Don’t want to get out in the cold? Buy a new family game or have an indoor camp fire around the fireplace.
While the cold, dark months of winter can do a number on our serotonin levels, the good news is that beating the blues can be easier than you think. And hey, if you actually implement most of these activities, you might actually lose that ten pounds you’ve been resolving to lose for the last 5 new years.
We’d love to know if you try any (or currently do any of these things) and how it works out for you.
Kenneth R Fox (1999). The influence of physical activity on mental well-being. Public Health Nutrition, 2, pp 411-418. doi:10.1017/S1368980099000567.