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Friday, February 17, 2023

Got the Winter Blues? Try These Remedies

If the short days and cold of winter are getting to you, we’ve got some great ideas for feeling better fast!

The daylight hours are finally starting to stretch out … but way too slowly for some of us. What we all need is a pick-me-up, but that can be hard to find when you don’t feel like getting off the couch. 

Most of our suggestions are free or low-cost. The point isn’t to shop yourself into a better mood. After all, research shows that the high of spending money on things is temporary, and sometimes followed by remorse over a smaller bank account. Accordingly, we sought things that almost anyone could do with very little money spent. 

Pick one idea from our list every day for a week, try it out, and prepare to feel a whole lot better!

  • Treat yourself. Light a scented candle and enjoy the aroma spreading around the room. Floral scents are known to be particularly good at lifting moods, but if you prefer vanilla or pumpkin spice, go for it. Another option is to buy a latte or macchiato and sit in your favorite coffee house. Buy (or bake) something wonderful and sit down to savor every bite. Or get some bath salts and have a good soak. 
  • Read. Iceland tops the happiness chart and its citizens read more books than any other nation. "Reading and embracing stories has been shown to increase our empathy, make us happier, and develop new neural pathways,” says Helen Russell, author of The Atlas of Happiness. If you’re not in the mood for a long novel, you don’t have to tackle War and Peace; pick up a poetry book and flip to random pages. Read the poems quietly or out loud for new viewpoints.
  • Eat, drink and be merry. Actually, eat and drink in a social setting and the merriness will follow. Russell’s book research uncovered a study that found levels of happiness went up nearly 11% when volunteers drank alcohol in a social environment. Invite a friend over for a glass of wine or a cup of tea or gather at a nearby bar for light imbibing and heavy socialization. 
  • Be kind. Shovel someone else’s sidewalk. Leave some cookies on a neighbor’s doorstep. Give a compliment to the next five people you encounter. Help a stranger carry packages into the post office. Write a card to a friend and thank them for specific help that person has given you, perhaps by listening to your woes or helping you see how to handle a difficult situation. Give praise to a child. Stifle a judgmental comment and offer a smile instead. Giving to others makes us feel good.
  • Do a five-minute declutter. It doesn’t have to be five minutes, but it should be very doable. Set a timer and quit when you’ve reached your goal, or make it your goal to clean the top shelf of a closet rather than the whole thing. Maybe you’ll want to keep going, but if you just reach your goal, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and order. Donate discards to a free-cycle group or take them to a donation center and give yourself another pat on the back.
  • Learn something. There is no age limit on learning. Set yourself a small goal, such as spending 15 minutes online reading up on the life of orcas or octopuses. (Your grandchildren will be in awe). Use YouTube to learn how to replace a light switch or grout tile. You don’t have to actually do it; understanding how it’s done can be its own reward. Install a language app and devote five minutes a day to Italian. Check if your local library is holding any events, or go to the next meeting of your local historical society. 
  • Paint a wall. A can of paint can lift your spirits. Choose one wall to do in an accent color that will brighten your mood every time you walk in the room. Uh oh … did you decide the new look isn’t as attractive as you thought it would be? Pick another color and try again. Don’t be afraid of bright, bold colors, especially if you choose a smaller wall to cover. 
  • Reflect sunshine. If only we could put in more windows to fill our houses with light! That’s usually impractical, but interior decorators have a trick to make rooms seem more full of light than they actually are. Hang a big mirror or set it against a wall where it will reflect the sunshine from a favorite window view and make your room appear larger in the bargain.