Keeping Your Mood Up During the Winter Months

When you work from home, it’s important to find ways to keep your mood elevated. I’m fortunate enough to live in Florida, where our winter is usually a few cold days here and there (with cold being defined as under 70) and some rain. But for some of you, winter is lots of super cold, gray days with rain, sleet or snow keeping you cooped up.

January and February can be especially brutal, with the excitement and social interactions of the holidays behind us. Add in decreased sales and it can be tough to stay upbeat and positive.

But there are a few things you can do to boost your mood, no matter where you live.

Step outside for a few minutes whenever you can

The weather might be cold, dreary and wet, but it can still be beneficial to step outside. The cold air can wake you up and make you feel more energized, and just getting out of the stale air inside can do wonders for your mood.

This can be a particularly helpful move on days when the sun does come out. On those days, try to spend a little more time outside. Take a walk around the neighborhood or sit on the patio or porch and just enjoy a few quiet minutes. A few minutes exposure to sunlight helps your Vitamin D levels, which improves mood.

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Plan some lunch dates

For many of us who work from home, lunch is a quick break midday. We grab a quick bite and some days, we don’t even stop working other than to prep the food. If we do stop working, we might spend a half hour or so watching TV or reading a book or scrolling Facebook. While there’s not necessarily anything wrong with any of those things, it doesn’t help boost your mood, either.

Planning lunch dates with your partner, a relative or friend can, though. It gets you out of the house, gives you a reason to dress up a bit, and gives you the in-person human interaction you may not be getting during the day at home.

If lunch is too much of a squeeze, consider breakfast instead. Or plan a night out with some friends. The point is just to get out of the house when you otherwise might not.

It’s easy, as business owners, to get caught up in work to the point that we focus on very little else that doesn’t absolutely require our attention. Taking the time to plan an “unnecessary” date with friends can help you find balance and feel happier.

Turn on some music

Upbeat music can improve your mood. Create a playlist of your favorite upbeat songs and crank it up whenever you’re feeling a bit bummed. Tap your feet, or maybe get up and dance around for a couple of minutes to really boost your mood.

You might even create a few different playlists so you can change it up from day to day.

Eat a healthy diet

When it’s cold out, we tend to want to eat hot filling meals — comfort foods like stews, soups, mac & cheese and pizza. We especially crave fats, carbs, and sugar. And it’s easy to give in.

But a healthy diet full of nuts, fruits, and veggies will make you feel better in the long-term, where giving in to the fat, carb and sugar cravings will only make you feel better in the short-term. A healthy diet will also help prevent weight gain — and weight gain would negatively affect your mood, as well.

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Look for ways to improve your favorite comfort food cravings. Maybe you make your pizza crust with cauliflower, or you make homemade chicken soup instead of buying canned. You might have a cup of tea instead of cookies or yogurt instead of ice cream.

Get plenty of sleep

This one might not be too hard. When it’s cold, it’s easy to lie in bed in the morning where you’re toasty and cozy. But if you’re lying there wide awake, and for a long time, you might be tempted to work later than usual to make up for it. So then you stay up late, which means less sleep when the alarm goes off, and it becomes a vicious cycle.

Most people need between about 7–9 hours of sleep each night to feel rested. Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day will help set a routine that ensures you get plenty of sleep. If that’s not possible, try looking at what time you need to get up the next day and figure out what time you need to go to bed to get your 7–9 hours.

If you have a small child that still gets you up during the night, consider adding in a short nap during the day as well. Some studies have shown that as little as a 20-minute nap can help improve cognitive function, and the added sleep can help keep your mood boosted.

Get some exercise

Go to the gym, walk the neighborhood, practice yoga, or put on your favorite high-tempo playlist and dance around the house. Movement releases endorphins that make you feel happy, so exercise is one of the best ways to improve your mood for both immediate and long-term effect.

Take about 30 minutes each day to do some form of physical activity. If you get bored easily, change up what you do from day to day. Ask a friend to join you.

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If exercising for 30 minutes all at once feels too daunting, or you think you don’t have time, try breaking it up. Try dancing for 15 minutes in the morning, then doing 15 minutes of yoga in the afternoon. Take the dog for two 15-minute walks a day.

Incorporate relaxation techniques into your routine

If you’re in a bit of a winter slump, your stress and anxiety levels are probably higher than usual. Relaxation techniques can help decrease those levels which will improve your mood.

Try meditating for a few minutes each day. Use guided meditations or body scans for muscle relaxation.

Schedule regular massages (or ask your partner for one — and of course, give one in return!). Take a bubble bath or a soothing shower. Diffuse some lavender essential oil.

Relaxation can be crucial to improving your mood. Sometimes we don’t even realize how stressed, tense, anxious, or frustrated we are. We think we’re relaxed, or we convince ourselves that our lifestyle is one that should allow us to be relaxed so we must be. It’s not until we do something to truly relax, such as meditating or massage, and our body loses that tension and anxiety that we realize it was even there.

Plan a vacation — even if you’re not taking one

When the winter days are short and gray and the cold feels like it’ll never end, you might be longing for warm, sunny days at the beach. So why not indulge your longing?

Take the time to plan a vacation. Maybe it’s to the beach or maybe it’s in the mountains. Maybe you want to take a vacation to visit family. Maybe you have a bucket list dream vacation that involves visiting multiple countries. Whatever it is, take some time to plan a vacation.

Even if you’re not actually going to take this vacation, just the act of planning where you’d go, where you’d stay, and what you’d do on it can help improve your mood. The fun of imagining yourself there can make you feel better.

And if you are going to take this vacation, planning early may save you money. It’ll also give you something to look forward to, which always improves mood.

Volunteer or do something to help others

Helping others can do wonders for your mental health.

Consider volunteering your time at a soup kitchen, for roadside cleanup, or other way of helping others with your time.

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If that kind of time commitment is too much right now, consider whipping up something that can be used to help others. Maybe you make some bags for the homeless that have things like combs, warm socks, feminine hygiene products, soaps and washcloths, toothbrush and toothpaste, some snacks, and a few dollars that you then give to a shelter or hand out when you see someone who could use it. Or you might make bagged lunches for underprivileged children or exploited women.

Beating the winter blues shouldn’t be that hard

If you’re just a little bummed due to the weather, many of these techniques will work for you with little to no problem. You should be able to implement one or more of them and see some pretty fast results.

However, it’s important to realize that there could be more to it than just a simple case of the winter blues. If you think you have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or depression, these tips alone may not be enough to help you. If that’s the case, talking to a mental health professional is important. They can help you with more robust techniques, or even medication if needed, that will help you feel better.

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