Boost your mood without spending a dime
Beat the winter blahs this year with these simple, free strategies to keep your energy level soaring all season long
Sugar energizes you, so make it the healthy kind. Arrange in-season fruit, such as oranges, pears or kiwifruit, in a glass bowl on the den coffee table or another high-traffic area. This makes it easy to grab a healthy snack, and the fiber will fill you up.
Go for a run
Studies have found that 30 minutes of aerobic activity three times a week can chase away the blues. One theory is that exercise influences brain chemicals, like serotonin, that control mood. But don't expect an overnight lift―you'll probably need to exercise regularly for several weeks before the therapeutic effect kicks in. Data suggest that strength training can also improve your state of mind.
Change your bulbs
Light deficiency is a leading cause of the winter blahs. When it's dark outside, your brain secretes more melatonin, a sleep-related hormone that is associated with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), so shorter days can make you feel sluggish. Light therapy is standard treatment for SAD. Start by changing the lights in the kitchen and bathroom, the two places where you likely spend much of your time. Try screwing some bright-white halogen bulbs into any recessed or decorative fixtures you have in those rooms. Another fix: Insert compact fluorescent lightbulbs into your table lamps.
Sit near the window
Lamps aren't the only source of mood-brightening light. Moving your desk near a window can help. Or run errands during your lunch break; even a cloudy day offers far more light than indoor spaces.
Add a hue
Color is the easiest and cheapest way to make a visual and emotional change. For an espresso-size jolt, accessorize your wardrobe and your home with vibrant socks, scarves, lingerie, towels, pillows or sheets.
Make the room cozy
Nothing will sour your outlook like a room that's too hot or too cold. At home, experiment with the thermostat to find the temperature that suits you best. (If your husband starts to kick up a fuss, let him know that your mood―and your health―depend on it.)
Do a lap indoors
Not up for facing that frigid air on a winter morning? Try expanding your definition of the track: Hop in your car and go for a brisk walk around the mall. As an added bonus, you'll enjoy window shopping as you work out.
Enjoy the view
Natural landscapes seem to have a mood-elevating effect. But you don't have to spend your days gazing out the window or driving long distances to a scenic spot. Interior views, created by incorporating earthy touches into your space, can be just as soothing. Make tabletop arrangements of found objects, such as seashells and rocks; light up the fireplace; or place leafy, inexpensive plants throughout the house.
You take your cues from your environment. If your house is a mess, you probably won't feel clearheaded and energized. Start small: Make sure your refrigerator is tidy and clear the space under your bed for an emotional lift.
Hang a crystal in a window facing south to produce colorful reflections in the room. You can't feel sad when rainbows beam in!
Dream it, then do it
The power of imagination can help you find an activity you'll enjoy enough to stick with no matter what the season. Visualize yourself in motion: Are you speedy and quick? Take up running. Methodical and mindful? Go for yoga. When you enjoy exercise, you're more likely to handle obstacles to happiness, like bad weather or family or job stress.