Every winter I have the same ritual: I dig out all of the nice-smelling candles I’ve accumulated over the course of the past year and arrange them on my desk, and I pull my SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) lamp out of hibernation and position it diagonally from where I sit and write each day. As someone who curses Midwest winters relentlessly but has lived here all my life and would never dream of moving out of Chicago, I’ve learned that I need several extra mood boosters during the colder months or else I am just miserable to be around. My awesome German doctor who always tells it like it is suggested I purchase a “SAD lamp,” which is basically light therapy to help fight off the winter blues in people like myself. I’ve been using it now for a full decade, and I swear by it.

As effective as that lamp is, I still need to do more than have it shining on me each day in order to be feeling my best on days when the snow is accumulating and winds are howling.

Here are 10 other time-tested tactics that work for me:

  • Get moving – My gym is across the street from my house and yet I still resist. I’ve never been a “workout person,” yet every. single. time. I do manage to haul my butt to the gym, I feel significantly better and think, “I should really do this more often.” I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that working out causes your body to release feel-good endorphins. It’s science. Believe it! And then just do it.
  • Lighten up – Beyond my SAD lamp, I take steps every morning to brighten up the rooms I’m in. First, I pull all shades up as high as they’ll go and open all curtains. Even if it’s a gloomy day, it’s still better than only being in artificial light all day. Every once in a while I take it a step further and crack open the windows. Yes, cold air comes in, but it’s also fresh air that helps chase away the staleness in the house. Plus, my dog loves it — new smells to sniff!
  • Check off an annoying task – I’m a list person, and there are always a handful of To Dos that I keep transferring from one list to the next to the next because I just do not want to do them. Stuff like calling the phone company to dispute a bill or returning something I realized I don’t want/need or responding to an email that’s been hanging over my head for an embarrassingly long time. The ironic part is that it’s those very same tasks that make me feel like I’m queen of the world when I finally do them.
  • Warm up – Hot chocolate. Enough said!
  • Treat yourself – There are so many inexpensive ways to boost happiness. One I recently discovered was buying a 10-stem daffodil bunch for $1.50 at a local grocery chain. Be it a foot soak at home or going out for a pedicure, or treating yourself to a solo meal or downloading a new audio book, figure out what it is that you could do for yourself that would spark joy without also causing guilt.
  • Force yourself to socialize – If my husband weren’t here to make sure I don’t become a total hermit, I would likely live in my fleece Olaf onesie, order everything I need to live online and never be seen again until it’s at least 65 degrees outside. But when I do manage to put on actual clothes and makeup and talk to other real-life human beings, I never regret it, and it always makes me happier. Even just meeting a friend for tea or inviting a new parent at my kids’ school out for a drink is enough to brighten a dreary day.
  • Volunteer – Another thing that’s been proven through research: helping others ends up making YOU happier. Find a local chapter that supports a cause you believe in and carve out some time to pitch in.
  • Take a staycation – Pick a day where you can wipe your schedule clean and allow yourself to let errands and household chores go by the wayside for at least 24 hours. Then either book a local hotel or act like your own house is one (a trick that works: sleep in your guest room) and just … relax.
  • Listen to music – Whether it be turning on some background tunes while you make dinner or jamming out with your kids to a song you loved from your teenage years, music will almost always lighten your mood.
  • Laugh – There’s some kinda creepy research that has proven if you fake a laugh, it will improve your mood. So “fake it till you make it” is true when it comes to laughter. But I say why force artificial giggles when there are so many legitimately funny things to help lift our moods? Watch a stand-up special (we’ve got Jim Gaffigan: Mr. Universe, The Fluffy Movie, Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain and Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain, to name a few) or your favorite go-to comedy … or try a new comedy you’ve heard good things about. Need ideas? Check out all of our comedies at the Box and comedies available On Demand

What’d I miss? What are other things you do to chase away the winter blues?

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