9 Strategies to Help Boost Your Mood During the Dark Fall and Winter Seasons
Dreading the dark months ahead? These tips and tricks can help you manage your mood as the days get shorter and shorter.
It’s an understatement to say there’s a lot going on right now: Everything likely feels pretty overwhelming to even the most optimistic and happy-go-lucky among us. That’s because many of the things we’ve grown accustomed to having in our lives to spark joy and reset are a bit harder to come by, whether it’s travel to far-off locales, visiting with friends and family members (at least indoors), or even just a concert or a dinner out.
But you don’t have to go too far (or spend a single penny) to bring some much-needed satisfaction into your life right now, as we prepare for the cold months ahead. In fact, you probably have everything you need at home to help boost your mood. Just try one of these uplifting strategies to help you relax, unwind, and find a little joy right now, and you may find that the long months ahead seem a little more manageable.
Many of the hobbies and activities we’ve taken up during quarantine—from virtual yoga classes to learning a new language—are open-ended, with no finish line in sight. But it might help you feel better to pick a smaller goal that has a definite (and satisfying) ending. “Try things like cleaning out a closet, learning to play two songs on the ukulele, or getting caught up on photo albums,” says happiness guru Gretchen Rubin, author of Happier at Home and Outer Order, Inner Calm. “You’ll get the good feelings of tackling and finishing it, and the surge of energy that comes with completing a task.”
Now’s the time to start stocking up on things that might make the winter more wonderful for you. While the spring was all about baking and adopting pets, Rubin expects that there may be rushes on things to make your home comfier, whether it’s a patio heater or fire pit to make outdoor get-togethers doable, or a large-screen TV to make movie nights on your couch at home more epic.
As the days get shorter and colder, seasonal affective disorder can be an issue. You can help stave off the winter blues with exposure to sunlight. “It’s really important to get sunlight, especially that early morning light,” Rubin says. Just a 15-minute morning walk outside (even if it’s overcast) can help you improve your focus. (Bonus: That vitamin D can also help boost your immune system.)
RELATED: How to Be Happy
Indulge in a little eye candy—or better yet, something that smells wonderful. “People are really tapping into their sense of smell now,” Rubin says. “Scented candle sales are through the roof, since people are home more and looking for ways to make it special. But any good smell—a bottle of vanilla, maple syrup, pumpkin spice—works.”
Upbeat music can really help you feel better, so go ahead and put together a playlist of songs that can act as a pick-me-up. And choose a song that you love as your wakeup alarm. “Just be sure to rotate it out after a while, so you don’t start to get a Pavlovian response to the song if you have a hard time getting up in the morning,” Rubin says.
Giving to others always makes us feel good—and you’ll be helping to brighten someone else’s day, too. Rubin suggests offering items you’re decluttering from your home on a local freecycle group or helping to make introductions for people—in a time where people are looking for connection and opportunities to safely socialize, it’s always great to help people meet a potential new friend or colleague (even if it’s virtually).
If you’re still working (or working out) from home, it’s probably long past time to upgrade your setup, whether you want to splurge on a standing desk instead of using your kitchen table or invest in some new workout equipment. “I think more and more it’s sinking in that we need to make ourselves comfortable and work well in our home environment,” Rubin says.
There’s a reason that so many shelters were cleared at the start of the pandemic—and you are probably still seeing a lot of new puppies or kittens in your neighborhood or your Instagram feed. “If you want an instant pick me up, pet a dog or cat,” Rubin says. “Everyone’s hungry for touch, and petting a dog or cat is such a soothing thing.” If you don’t have a pet to snuggle, head out for a walk—there are probably a few puppies being walked right now outside your door that would be happy to let you pet them for a few minutes.
Lots of research shows that better organization helps you feel happier at home, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to commit to spending long hours scaling back your closets and book collections. In fact, it may be as simple as committing to a minute at a time. “It takes so much energy to clear clutter,” Rubin says. “But if it takes less than a minute to do, you should do it without delay—whether it’s filing a document or bringing your dirty coffee cup back to the sink. It doesn’t feel like it’s a toll on your energy or time, and it gets rid of a scum of clutter. And that can be very energizing.”