WIN­TER MOOD LIFTERS TO TRY TO­DAY

Skies may be gray, but your spir­its can re­main sunny with these tips to beat the sea­sonal blahs.

Chattanooga Times Free Press - Parade - - Healthy - By Karyn Repin­ski

When the days get darker and the sun sets sooner, it’s im­por­tant to brighten up your day—lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively, says Pa­tri­cia Far­rell, Ph.D., a psy­chol­o­gist in Te­nafly, N.J. Here are 10 easy ways to beat the win­ter blues.

1 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-cer­ti­wed func­tional medicine health coach at Cleve­land Clinic. It doesn’t have to be fresh: Frozen pro­duce of­ten re­tains its ya­vor and nutri­tion.

2 EM­PLOY FLOWER POWER.

Peo­ple who woke up to yow­ers 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.

3 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 for 100 Days in a Row? Sort through your pho­tos and as­sem­ble the happy ones into a book you can yip through again and again.

4 LOL.

“Laugh­ter re­duces stress and over­rides other emo­tions in the mo­ment,” says Donna Aga­ja­nian, a New York City–based cer­ti­wed life and in­tu­itive eat­ing coach. Laugh­ter “ther­apy” has even been shown to func­tion sim­i­larly to an­tide­pres­sants by rais­ing sero­tonin lev­els. Al­ready viewed ev­ery cat video on YouTube? Try tun­ing in to a com­edy pod­cast on your com­mute.

5 COLOR YOUR WORLD.

When you wnd 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.

6 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.

7 MAKE FRIENDS WITH WIN­TER WORK­OUTS.

Just 5 min­utes of mod­er­atein­ten­sity 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 than in­door sweat ses­sions, so you’ll burn ex­tra calo­ries. Plus, re­searchers wnd 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, they re­al­ize how beau­ti­ful it is and they stay for an hour.”

8 USE YOUR SENSES.

Notic­ing the sights, sounds and smells of the sea­son—how the snow hangs on the trees, the scent of a Scotch pine— can help you ap­pre­ci­ate its beauty. “Our brains are hard­wired for the neg­a­tive—we think about how we have to shovel the snow or how some­one driv­ing by got slush on our pants,” says Bush. “But pur­posely think­ing about all the pleas­ing as­pects of win­ter—and hav­ing grat­i­tude for them—al­lows you to feel more pos­i­tive mo­ments.”

9 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 over your gait to gain a mood boost? Happy peo­ple walk with an upright, steady torso and swing­ing arms, re­ports Gol­ub­nichy.

10 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. Speak­ing of eyes: One study found that peo­ple who’d had Bo­tox for crow’s feet, which make it harder to crin­kle their eyes into a smile, felt more de­pressed.

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