Tricks for quick and lasting mood boosts.
With the temperatures rising and the snow beginning to melt, our hermit days are finally nearing their end. The onset of Spring and increases in Vitamin D brought on by longer, warmer days elicits an optimism and cheer that is close to forgotten during our winter hibernation until tulip buds and fresh sprigs of grass peek back out from the thawing ground.
What is it about blue skies and sun filled days that makes us feel so darn happy? Is it possible to harness that feel-goodness of summertime all year round? Below are some tips and tricks for boosting your mood and putting a little extra spring in your step no matter what the weather forecast may be.
1. Get plenty of sleep
We are all by now well aware of the surmounting benefits of sleep, but research has found that not only depressive symptoms are affected by season, but so are our sleep patterns. Due to the increase in the photo-period (or length of light exposure), core body temperature and melatonin levels are higher in summer months, which encourages us to go to be earlier and wake up earlier. Studies have also found that insomnia and fatigue rates are lower during the summer months as well.
So how can you ensure a better night’s sleep regardless of the season?
- Practice a routine bedtime and stick to it. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning – even on the weekends. Limit your naps as well. By conditioning your body to expect sleep within a certain time frame, you will effectively train your brain to start preparing for sleep only at appropriate times.
- Exercise. Research shows that 150 hours of physical activity a weeks can help improve sleep quality by 65%. Who can argue with those odds?
- Relax before bed. Try meditation, breathing exercises, lighting a candle and taking a bath before you hit the sack. Also try to avoid stressful or anxiety provoking television or conversations right before you’re trying to unwind for sleep. This will help your mind settle and your energy levels naturally decrease.
2. Pay attention to what you eat
According to research, we eat an average of 86 calories more per day in the winter while also exercising less. This change in diet can cause feelings of drowsiness and fatigue. However, a biological explanation for this is primitively humans needed to “beef up” for the cold winter months and were consuming mostly stored, cured food, like potatoes and dried meats, but during the spring and summer months, fresh fruits and vegetables were readily available so diets were lighter. Luckily, we now have the ability to eat fresh food year round that are proven to affect mood. Foods like mussels, dark chocolate, Greek yogurt and asparagus can make you happier and increase energy levels, and foods like almonds, cheese and crackers, tuna, and rice can even help improve sleep.
3. Practice gratitude
A growing body of research – particularly from the field of Positive Psychology – is finding that simply expressing gratitude can increase happiness and general well-being. Some examples include writing down five things you’re thankful for everyday, saying “thank you” to coworkers for a job well done, and telling your spouse or partner what you appreciate about them – all proven to increase happiness and satisfaction overall. It has also been found that spontaneous gratitude, whether an intrinsic personality trait or a learned life skill, can even bolster resilience and minimize stress. Luckily, practicing not only the recognition and appreciation of organic moments of joy in your life, but also making an effort to create moments of happiness is something that can be done to increase your overall well-being year round.
Although warming weather and longer days are natural mood boosters – and we can all be grateful for them – lucky for us, authentic happiness stems from within and can by nurtured and fed to grow and blossom.
Featured image artist unknown.