Finding Happiness as Winter Holds On

Winter can have a deleterious effect on your health and well-being, especially when it drags into spring. And despite the date on the calendar, winter has still got most of New England firmly in its grip. In some circles, “Polar vortex” has become a phrase people use to describe their mood.

SAD, or seasonal affective disorder (also called winter depression) is a real affliction. Even though Forbes.com ranks Norway, Sweden, and Canada among the top 10 happiest countries in the world (maybe they did research in summer? but probably the happiness is based on factors of economy rather than sunlight), SAD tends to affect those in Nordic countries and in countries with similar climates like New England.

While it is true that cold, cloudy weather can worsen a bad mood, happy people tend to stay happy despite the weather and other outside influences. But if you’re not one of those genetically happy people there are some things you can do to turn things around.

  • Plan your garden – Planning ahead for something wonderful can make bad weather days much easier to tolerate.
  • Stay active – Physical activity is a scientifically proven mood booster.
  • Keep warm – There are few things worse than shivering on a cold, gloomy day. Wear a few extra layers. Silk is great for warmth without too much added bulk.
  • Get outdoors – “The poetry of the earth is never dead.” ― John Keats
  • Maintain good nutrition – What you eat directly impacts your mood. “Researchers at Penn State University have found that poor eating habits can actually worsen a person’s mood, especially among women who are concerned about how they eat.” (http://www.livescience.com/27977-junk-food-bad-mood.html)
  • Try aromatherapy  – Though the science of aromatherapy is not quite mainstream, it has been proven that good smells have a positive effect on the emotions.
  • Be social – This means old school social, like engaging with friends in person or even talking with strangers in the checkout line at the grocery store.
  • Sing in the shower – “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast.”
  • Brighten Up – Bright colors can affect our mood. Red and violet inspire perkiness and energy, yellow is optimistic (think daffodils), orange has yellow’s optimism and red’s energy.
  • Surround yourself by other happy people – “Individuals who associate themselves with cheerful people have a happier demeanor and consequently a better sense of well-being. The effects of one person’s happiness influences another person’s mood which boosts another person’s mood. It is a chain reaction!” (http://www.unh.edu/healthyunh/blogs/2012/10/15/surround-yourself-happy-people-be-happy)
  • Decide to become one of them – To decide to be happy is the simplest thing in the world, though it is not the easiest. Meditation, humor, exercise can all contribute to the how happy we feel.