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The Winter Blues Are Real—Here’s How You Can Beat Them with Science

February 22, 2018

If you tend to feel down in the winter—you’re not alone. According to the American Psychiatric Association, as many as 20% of Americans experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), depression brought on by the shorter days and diminishing sunlight at this time of year. Outside of SAD, many of us get a case of the winter blues or a post-holiday slump, even if we live in a more moderate climate. To help you lift your spirits, here are five scientifically proven ways to improve your outlook:

1. Brighten up your environment. One reason that we get down at this time of year is that our bodies are craving more daylight. So do what you can to lighten things up, literally. Open your blinds and curtains, get outside, sit closer to a window at work and, if you’re really feeling blue, invest in a lightbox for home use.

2. Just say no to sweets. We all know that chocolate, candy and other sugar-laden foods provide only a temporary fix when it comes to our mood. But the next time you’re tempted to get a boost from a beignet, just remember that the pick-me-up effect is temporary and indulging may ultimately increase feelings of anxiety and depression.

3. Say yes to exercise. Research has proven that even mild exercise can help you feel better. Case in point: A Harvard University study suggests that 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.

4. Turn on the tunes. Along with exercise, research has shown that listening to upbeat music can significantly improve your mood in both the short and long term. So turn on your favorite songs—you’ll feel even better if you do so while exercising.

5. Pay it forward. While you may feel like huddling in your home, doing some community outreach or volunteering is a better bet because studies have shown that it can help to improve mental health and life satisfaction.

Don’t let this time of year get you down! Try some of the tips above to help you get the bounce back in your step well before spring arrives.

   

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