Winter mood lifters

Got cabin fever and a bit of the blues? Get up and move!

By Barbara Pierce

It’s February.

It’s the month to hunker down and weather the storms as well as snow, snow and more snow. These chilly temperatures and dark dreary days make you want to huddle under a cozy blanket.

Yes, the weather is colder and the days are shorter, causing many of us to feel drowsy, down, and low in energy.  Less sun affects our internal body clock, which can cause a drop in serotonin levels. Serotonin regulates our mood and can cause us to have those dragged down feelings some call the “blues,” or seasonal affective disorder.

In addition to feeling down and fatigued with low motivation, some even have difficulty concentrating.

The good news is there are ways you can brighten up your days to battle the winter blues and put a spring back into your step.

• Spend time by a fire: Sitting by a fire eases blood pressure and helps you relax. The warmth, the crackling sounds, the smoky smell and light of a fire helps soothe and comfort, especially when it’s cold.

• Consider candles: There’s just something about being near the light of fuzzy, flickering candles that makes you feel cozy.

• Employ flower power: “Chase away the winter blues with flowers,” suggests Margaret DeCarr, co-owner, Massaro & Son Florist in Herkimer. “During the winter, many people come in to pick up a few flowers to add color to our gray days.”

People who wake up to flowers reported they were in a better mood, found a recent study. Science has proven that flowers and plants naturally have a positive impact on our well-being. So, place a vase of tulips or daisies on your bedside table. When in doubt, opt for blooms that are yellow, a hue that’s often associated with sunshine, energy and happiness.

• Get out of the house: Don’t socially isolate yourself. Break out of your routine and seek warmth and companionship for cheap, good fun. Go for a walk, go for a latte, or sing at your place of worship.

Even if you want to stay inside and snuggle up on your couch, only do it sparingly. Getting out and mingling with people will lift your mood. Catching up with friends over breakfast or coffee can be a great pick-me-up. Find a group or committee for a hobby or cause you are interested in.

Just breathe

• Even though it’s cold outside, bundle up and make it a point to get some fresh air every day. Getting fresh air increases your energy, reduces stress and depression, clears your head, and improves your sleep.

When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins, which trigger positive feelings. Try going outside for five minutes; you may realize how beautiful it is and stay longer.

Or, play your favorite music loudly and dance. Walk your dog instead of letting it go in the back yard. Go to the local museum and walk around all the exhibits. Every bit of exercise makes you happier and healthier.

• Walk the happy walk: Happy people walk with an upright, steady torso and swinging arms. People in one study who walked as if they were sad (slowly, without a lot of energy or body movement) ended up feeling sadder.

• Pull out a good book: One good thing about being cooped up in the cold all winter is it means lots of time for reading. Fuzzy socks, a roaring fire, and a cup of something warm and tasty puts us in the mood for an absorbing read.

“I love cozying up with a good book,” said Christine Fleischer, director, Frank J. Basloe Library, Herkimer. Some of her recommendations:

— Fiction: “Where the Crawdads Sing,” Delia Owens; “Turning Point,” Danielle Steel; “The Silent Patient,” Alex Michaelides; “Every Breath,” Nicholas Sparks; “The Reckoning,” John Grisham

— Memoirs: “Becoming,” Michelle Obama; “Educated,” Tara Westover

— Of local interest: “Murder and Mayhem in Herkimer County,” Caryl Hopson and Susan Perkins; “A Woman Condemned,” James Greiner

“And of course, you can get physical books, e-books, audiobooks, DVDs and more, all for free at your local library,” Fleischer added.

• Eat well: Over the past couple of years, studies have shown a strong relationship between diet and mental health — a healthy diet can help prevent and treat depression. So, if your mood is low, consider what you’re eating. During the winter, it’s tempting to eat heavy comfort food, but it is important to consume mostly vegetables, fruit and lean proteins, especially if you’re prone to depression.

• Enjoy the sunshine: Getting enough sunshine is a simple and natural way to boost your mood. During the day, leave your curtains and blinds open as long as possible. If you can, take a walk while it’s still bright out, preferably in the morning. According to researchers, sunshine may increase levels of serotonin in the brain.