February in the northeast can be downright dismal and depressing with the dullness of brown and grey day after day. It seems like forever since you've felt the warmth of the sun on your face and the “brey days” are turning your grey matter blue. Holiday bills are high, temperatures are low, and the days are way too short. It is the middle of winter and the winter blues are the only pop of color accenting your browns and greys.
It’s right around this time every year when you start to feel a little bummed. You don't have to wait until Spring to get out of your funk and start smiling again. Here are 9 scientifically proven ways to lift your spirits and ease the winter blues… err browns, greys and blues.
1. Brighten your environment. When your body is craving more daylight, sitting next to an artificial light—also called a light box—for 30 minutes per day can be as effective as antidepressant medication. Opening blinds and curtains, trimming back tree branches, and sitting closer to windows can also help provide an extra dose of sunshine.
2. Eat smarter. Foods, like chocolate, can help to enhance your mood and relieve anxiety. Other foods, like candy and carbohydrates provide temporary feelings of euphoria, but could ultimately increase feelings of anxiety and depression.
3. Simulate dawn. People with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that usually begins in late fall or early winter and fades as the weather improves, may feel depressed, irritable, lethargic, and have trouble waking up in the morning—especially when it’s still dark out. Studies show that a dawn simulator, a device that causes the lights in your bedroom to gradually brighten over a set period of time, can serve as an antidepressant and make it easier to get out of bed.
4. Exercise. A 2005 study from Harvard University suggests walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week improved symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Exercising under bright lights may be even better for seasonal depression: A preliminary study found that exercise under bright light improved general mental health, social functioning, depressive symptoms, and vitality, while exercise in ordinary light improved vitality only. Try yoga. to find your inner self and peace. Yoga is food for the heart and soul.
5. Tune in. In a 2013 study, researchers showed that listening to upbeat or cheery music significantly improved participant’s mood in both the short and long term. Choose your genre and exercise the “brey days” away.
6. Plan a vacation. The beach is calling. Research shows that the simple act of planning a vacation causes a significant increase in overall happiness.
7. Help others. Spending time at the soup kitchen for the local shelter or volunteering your time can improve mental health and life satisfaction. The act of helping others is rewarding and humbling.
8. Get outside. Spending time outside (even when it's chilly!) can improve focus, reduce symptoms of SAD, and lower stress levels.
9. Reconnect. Reconnecting with friends and spending time laughing and sharing makes memories that comfort the soul. This does not mean via social media, but rather Face-2-Face.
Don’t get stuck sitting in your room with grey walls, your adorable chocolate lab puppy and a box of chocolates, while reading FSG… sans a Valentine. You can always paint your walls orange and adopt another puppy. Orange is the happiest color! Or you can wait for Spring… it will be here soon!