Everyone is prone to feeling a little blue sometimes. For most people, sad feelings come and go with different life events. Other individuals might even develop a mental health condition related to unhappy feelings and thoughts; for example, the risk of depression alone impacts 10-25% of women and 5-12% of men.
With or without a diagnosable mental illness, glum feelings tend to be more common in the winter. In fact, winter depression, or seasonal affective disorder, impacts approximately 10 million people in the United States.
Though combating a mental illness may require professional assistance, anyone can take a few steps to help keep the winter blues at bay. If you’re feeling as gloomy as the weather, try the following unusual but effective mood-lifting activities to feel a little better this winter.
1. Touch Something
It sounds odd, but research shows that humans benefit mentally and emotionally from physical contact with other humans and even with animals. A long hug from a friend, family member, or partner evaporates stress, and 74% of survey respondents reported mental health improvements from keeping animals as companions. If you’re running a little short on pets or pals, don’t fret. Simply snuggling under a soft blanket can calm worries. For a winter mood boost, get cuddling!
2. Clean Something
Many people dread cleaning, but studies find that even the biggest slobs tend to experience a mood boost during and after a cleaning project. In fact, according to Huffpost, cleaning and organizing gives us a chance to realign our home environment with our values, and the act of cleaning itself gets the body moving and feel-good endorphins pumping.
Cleaning makes your home environment healthier, too. Flooring or furniture made from wood can last for hundreds of years without rot or wear with proper care; however, without regular cleaning, a wet surface can become riddled with unhealthy mold in as little as 48 hours. Mold, germs, and other aspects of a dirty environment can increase infection risk, aggravate allergies, and worsen asthma symptoms. For a mood and a health boost, start your spring cleaning a few months early.
3. Let In Some Sunshine
Though doctors have yet to pinpoint the cause of seasonal affective disorder, many suspect that lack of sunlight during winter months plays a part in symptom development. If you’re looking for an odd but easy way to boost your mood, try letting a little more light into your home. Or, go for a walk during the daylight hours to absorb additional vitamin D. If getting outside or opening the shades don’t do the trick, you can even purchase an artificial lamp to bring brightness to gloomy winter days spent indoors.
4. Help Someone Else
Changing your own mood can seem impossible, but changing someone else’s mood might be a better strategy. Research has shown that individuals experience better mood and greater life satisfaction when they spend time helping others. Holding open a door, paying someone a compliment, or volunteering at your favorite local charity can help you feel more involved and valued in your community. For a boost in your own mood, spread the feel-good love and do a nice thing for someone else.
5. Set A Small Goal, And Achieve It
We tend to feel better about ourselves and better about life when we’re achieving. The goal itself matters less than the act of completing a task. To feel like a winner, start your day with simple, easy challenges to boost your mood. Try to send out morning emails in under half an hour, or try to send a text using only your nose. Fun and silly challenges help us take life less seriously, and help us feel like we can tackle bigger, more important tasks when they arise.
It’s easy for anyone to start feeling glum during winter months. Cold weather, long nights, and the end of the holiday season can leave many feeling downright sad. Whether or not you’re impacted by a mental health condition, performing simple mood-boosting activities can make your winter days a little easier and happier.