9 Strategies to Boost Your Mood During the Dark Fall and Winter Seasons

Many of us feel a drag on our moods during the darker days of fall and winter. These tips and tricks can help you manage your mood as the days get shorter.

Even the most optimistic and happy-go-lucky among us can feel a little moody as the seasons change.

Fortunately, there are practical ways to bring some small bursts of joy into your life—any time of year. 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 experience a little satisfaction. You may find that the long months ahead seem a little more manageable.

01 of 09

Make an easy-to-achieve goal (and complete it).

Many of the hobbies and activities we love—like yoga classes or learning a new language —are open-ended, with no finish line in sight. Try picking 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 organizing 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 something meaningful, and the surge of energy that comes with completing a task."

02 of 09

Prep what you'll need to make fall and winter better.

Whatever the date on the calendar, stock up on things that might make the winter more wonderful for you. Collect items to make your home comfier, cozy patio heaters or fire pits to make outdoor get-togethers doable, or a large-screen TV to make movie nights on your couch at home more epic.

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03 of 09

Get some early morning light.

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.)

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04 of 09

Engage your senses.

"People are really tapping into their sense of smell now," Rubin says. "Scented candle sales are through the roof, but any good smell—a bottle of vanilla, maple syrup, pumpkin spice—works."

05 of 09

Make a happy playlist.

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 wake-up 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.

06 of 09

Do something good for someone else.

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 when people are looking for connection, it's always great to help people meet a potential new friend or colleague.

07 of 09

Do a little home improvement.

Is it long past time to upgrade your setup? You might consider splurging on a standing desk instead of using your kitchen table for work. Paint the kitchen a brighter hue, or invest in some new workout equipment. "I think more and more it's sinking in that we need to make ourselves comfortable in our home environment," Rubin says.

08 of 09

Pet a furry friend.

"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.

09 of 09

Declutter painlessly.

Lots of research shows that better organization helps you feel happier at home, but that doesn't mean you 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."

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