But just because it’s looking brighter and fresher outside doesn’t mean an automatic shift in your outlook. It can take time to shake off the winter blahs and create new habits that can help lift your mood over the long term.
Here are a few ideas and activities to consider as you start thinking about the warmer months to come.
Fresh air can do wonders when you’re feeling low, sluggish and tired. Spend some time in the woods, a local park or another green space near you to help reduce cortisol (stress hormone) in your body and raise your endorphin levels and dopamine production, which can boost your mood and spark feelings of happiness.
Find a reason to get outside more in your daily life: walk to nearby errands, ride your bike to work, plant a garden at home or at a shared community space. If your kids are bored on the weekend, instead of checking for a movie or video game, plan an outdoor scavenger hunt.
Move a bit more
Make some time for movement that can fit in your existing schedule. It’s not about doing a long, sweaty workout at the gym. Focus instead on small bursts of movement you can do throughout the day to get your blood pumping and help you feel better.
Head outside for a short lunchtime walk, do a five-minute yoga stretch at your desk or walk to a colleague’s office for a quick chat instead of sending an email. (For more ideas on moving more during the workday, check out the Doctors Nova Scotia Healthy Tomorrow Foundation’s Make Your Move at Work program and toolkit).
Eat energy-boosting foods
Keep your mood – and blood sugar level – on an even keel by eating smaller meals during the day. Fuel up with nutrient-loaded fruits and veggies rather than processed foods like sweets, junk food and deep-fried foods.
Dark green veggies like kale, spinach and watercress contain magnesium, vitamin C, folate and iron, which all help lower cortisol and boost your mood. Pair carbohydrates with protein in your meals to help your body produce more serotonin, a chemical in the brain that gives a sense of well-being and calm. Omega-3 fatty acids can also help boost your mood; find them in nuts, seeds and fatty fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel.
Get a hobby
Working on a hobby can help you find new experiences and social connections, helping you tap into the feeling of satisfaction that comes from being “in the zone.” It might be time to reconnect with a pastime you once enjoyed – knitting, crafting, painting, woodworking or karate, for example. Connect with friends who share similar interests or check social media for local groups you can join. Or consider volunteering with a community group in your area.
Remember: there’s no magic solution for everyone when it comes to strategies that can help boost your mood and well-being. If you’re struggling, don’t delay reaching out for support, including tapping into online programs and resources in your community.