This winter's been working pretty hard to deplete my happiness reserves. It's so cold on the east coast that even walking to the subway feels like an excursion up Everest, and with the sun still setting before 5 p.m., it's hard to get in even a few minutes of much-needed mood-boosting Vitamin D. The bitter weather's basically stuck me on my couch eating Rice Krispie treats and marathoning Riverdale day after day, and I'm not the only one in the doldrums. So what are some life upgrades that'll boost your mood?
First and foremost, know that it's normal to feel a little down sometimes, especially in the winter. In fact, the winter blues are so common they prompted the Danes to invent the (now very hip) concept of hygge, which basically exists to transform miserable months of cold and darkness into a time of warmth, coziness, family, and self-reflection. Sometimes the best mood-booster is a change of perspective, and personally, it's been helpful for me to embrace winter rather than make it an enemy. But there are other small mood-boosters you can take on that'll suffice for all seasons, since the mean reds aren't limited to the darker months. Here are some of my favorites.
1Keep A Journal
I've been journaling since the fourth grade, and though I cringe at all the now-embarrassing awkward moments and feelings I've chronicled over the years, in the moment I've found it really helpful to put all that stuff on paper. Journaling is a great way to keep your thoughts organized, or, as I prefer, to let them come out of you stream of consciousness-style. Sometimes the practice helps you work things out that you might bottle up otherwise, plus it puts things in perspective when you read over your entries later and know that the small dramas eventually resolved.
2Take A Break From Social Media
Social media is a great way to stay in touch with people and see what's going on in the world, but it's also a surefire way to suffer the dreaded FOMO. Scrolling through someone's dope vacation pics or engagement album isn't super useful when you're already feeling blue, and both studies and general anecdotes have shown that quitting social media can improve your life drastically, even if you just do it for a short period of time. Consider logging off until your mood improves —you may decide you don't need to go back!
3Toss The Clutter
Studies have shown that living in a chaotic (i.e., cluttered) environment can be anxiety-inducing, which doesn't do much good for your overall mood. You don't have to hardcore KonMari your closet (though I highly recommend it!), but getting rid of old clothes, piled-up papers and magazines, expired makeup, and other junk you don't need gives you some much-needed physical and emotional space.
4Get A HappyLight
I used to be skeptical of SAD therapy lamps, which are made for folks who need a little extra sunlight during the darker winter months to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder. But after borrowing a friend's HappyLight recently, I'm sold. The lamps run about $40 to $200, depending on size and power, but even the smallest iteration will give you a nice jolt of full spectrum light when you need it most.
5Invest In Scented Candles
Aromatherapy is an ancient mood-boosting technique, heralding all the way back to the days of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. Certain candle scents may trigger certain moods, helping to keep you calm, focused, or energized, or even aiding your immune system in battling colds and other ailments. You can splurge on store-bought scented candles, or make them on your own if you're feeling crafty. Just be sure to blow them out before you go to sleep or leave your home.
6Try Fennel Tea
Tea is typically soothing no matter the flavor, but the properties in fennel are extra-good at mitigating mood swings and keeping you calm. My mom bought me a box of Teekane fennel tea during a particularly trying time in my life, and it's been fairly useful tool to help tamp down my anxiety, though of course it's not a total cure-all. Either way, it tastes quite good with honey.
I started practicing yoga after getting brutally dumped a few years ago, and though it's done a great job of helping strengthen my body, the best thing it did for me is teach me to quiet my mind. You don't have to invest in yoga classes to get that benefit, though — apps like Headspace, Shine, or Calm will guide you through short themed meditations. A regular meditation practice need only be about 10 minutes a day to help you reap the benefits, which include boosting your self-esteem, sharpening your ability to focus, increasing your alertness, and, of course, improving your mood.
8Get Some Plants
I have killed every succulent I've come across, but I wish I had a greener thumb, since plants have been proven to boost both your mood and your productivity. Easy-to-care-for greenery include English Ivy, which helps clean the air; geraniums, which allegedly put your mind at peace; haworthias, which are succulents that can survive in even the darkest spaces, and lavender, whose soothing scent helps you de-stress.
Life upgrades don't have to be a major splurge to help you boost your mood; they can be as simple as switching around a small part of your routine. These eight easy upgrades can potentially help your mood when winter's got you down.