During the bleak, cold days of winter in New England, many of us experience some degree of seasonal depression. Fewer hours of daylight make it feel like it’s bedtime long before your night even begins. The weather is so raw and desolate most days that you avoid all contact with the outside world, including leaving your room to get food if you’re like me and privileged enough to have a room with a kitchen. And on top of all that, we’re almost a year into a global pandemic, which only worsens the negative effects seasonal depression has on our mood and mental health. But fear not! While I may not be able to snap my fingers and make the pandemic or the winter go away, I can offer a nice selection of mood boosters and outlets—whichever you need most at this moment—to help you through these trying times.
It may be the last thing on your mind when you’re feeling low, but try to get some sunlight if you can. Even a quick brisk walk outside to grab lunch or say hi to a friend can drastically reduce the slump of cabin fever. If the weather isn’t looking so nice, or you just really, really hate the cold like I do, try to brighten up your room a little. I am a grateful owner of a moon lamp, but I have recently discovered that there is also such a thing as a sun lamp, a brilliant ball of luminous golden light that mimics that special star at the center of our very own Solar System. If you find yourself feeling blue after dark, you might want to invest in one of these magic little serotonin boosters.
One thing you can do any time of day to boost your energy is get some exercise. Pick whatever activity you like! I personally enjoy working out in the comfort of my own room. It’s easily accessible, and you have a lot more options than you may think, even without all that fancy equipment. Some days I’m antsy from spending hours sitting at my desk and need to sweat it out. Other days I’m feeling overwhelmed and opt for more gentle movement. No matter my pre-exercise mood, though, I always experience a surge of energy and feel less brain-foggy post-exercise. So, I can declare this mood booster tried and true!
Whether you’re moving your body or just chilling on your bed, music is a wonderful addition to your activity and also great as a standalone one. Sometimes we are so busy that we bottle up our emotions so we can get on with our day. Music can help bring those feelings to the surface and allow us to process them. If you play an instrument, sing or maybe even create your own music, music is a great outlet for any tension and pent-up emotions you may be holding on to. I’m very thankful for my training in classical singing—it’s a workout all on its own and forces me to actually slow down and breathe for once. But you don’t have to create music to reap its soul-soothing benefits. Simply put in those earphones and get listening!
This last suggestion won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Still, as contributing author for The Mirror and an eager student of creative fiction, I would be remiss if I did not include writing on this list of serotonin boosters. It is so healing for me to escape into another world for a while, especially when it’s one I have created. Sometimes writing down new story ideas brings up emotions I didn’t even know I was feeling. If you’re a songwriter, then you can smash two items on this list with one stone. If fiction isn’t your favorite focus and songwriting isn’t your jam, then try journaling. Our thoughts and feelings can sometimes be so jumbled that they seem impossible. Physically writing them down can help us process them. You have all the freedom in the world with this tactic. Journaling can be organized, but it also doesn’t have to make sense at all. So go ahead, jot it down. Let it out. I guarantee you will feel so much lighter.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Do you have a go-to mood booster that didn’t make it onto this list?