Stepping-out into the darkness in the late afternoon just feels wrong to me.
So much of me wants to hunker-in and try to wait out the return of the sun, but half my life would pass me by.
I’m a heat-seeking, light-loving person who longs for the warm, long, bright days of summer. Learning how to lift my spirits during winter’s shortened days has been a life-saver. Simple happiness-hacks have reduced my suffering, and are my holiday gift to you.
If you’re like me, you may find some helpful strategies in these expert-backed hacks for happiness, allowing you to feel brighter and better at this time of year. Many of them are built into the traditions we practice at this time of the year.
• Reducing screen-time both on email and social media. Engaging with people around you instead of opting for the virtual world. People who spend more time glued to the screen are found to be more prone to depression and anxiety, according to research.
• Random acts of kindness not only benefit others, they really boost our moods. Even planning them causes an internal boost. Donating to meaningful charities or causes also lifts our spirits.
• Meditating daily offers a host of benefits for our health and happiness.
• Practicing gratitude, whether by expressing it verbally or writing it down, helps us live longer, happier lives, reduces depression and anxiety. It also helps us make healthier choices, according to a 2015 study by the University of California-Davis Medical Center. Writing thank-you cards is a fun way to express our gratitude.
• Listening to music and singing along to the tunes.
• Planning fun activities. Choose to spend money on experiences rather than possessions. Plan a vacation.
• Doing something creative, whether it be a craft, baking or preparing your favourite meal.
• Getting outside, go for a walk, and breathing deeply. Exercise gets those endorphins flowing and are the perfect hack to lift your spirits. If it’s too cold outside, consider indoor exercise such as yoga or dancing.
• Buying yourself flowers or a new plant. Fresh flowers are found to do wonders for relieving anxiety and lifting a negative mood, according to one Harvard study.
• Smiling more often, even if you don’t mean it. The simple act of smiling activates happiness centres in our brains, lifting our mood.
• Increasing the light in our homes by opening the shades or using artificial lights. Consider purchasing a seasonal-affective disorder light if other means aren’t effective.
• Smelling citrus fragrances activates secretion of beneficial chemicals in our brains. Whether it be aromatherapy, or the real-deal, oranges, lemons and grapefruit are mood-boosters.
• Spending time with happy people helps to lift our spirits. Choose who you spend your time with wisely, and be sure to include a good dose of the happy ones.
• Considering what excites you and gives you a sense of purpose. I love to consider my “why,” or the purpose, behind what I do. When I remember my greater purpose and intention for living, I feel enlivened.
• Reaching out and calling a friend. Staying connected and interacting with others is vital during these darker times. Don’t wait for others to call you, be the one who reaches out because social interaction is important to our mental health.
• Volunteering gives us a sense of meaning and purpose, helps to connect us with others, gives us a sense of belonging and is a proven way to boost our happiness. Research at Harvard revealed the “happiness effect” created by weekly volunteering equals that of a life-changing salary increase. Wow!
• Eating chocolate even helps, as it is found to be a mood-booster when it contains 70 percent cocoa or more. Chocolate contains chemicals that boost the brain’s serotonin levels. Other foods such as poultry and eggs can have similar effect, but what’s more fun to eat?
• Then consider the Fred Rogers solution. I love this one and use it frequently. For one-simple-minute, think about someone who has really helped you or impacted your life in a positive way.
I love the inherent wisdom of what many of us do by tradition at this time of the year. Doing so mindfully helps us harness the benefits of them all.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.