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My moods change according to the weather. Sunny. Dreary. Or weepy like rain. My garden apartment gets very little natural light in the winter months, so I have to work at keeping emotional storms at bay.
Here are some ways I keep my insides bright even on cloudy days.
1. Meditate. Gray, gloomy days can make you feel blue and sometimes this spirals into negative thoughts and self-talk. You start feeling bad about yourself. Everything that you don’t like about your life, and memories that you’d rather forget, can arise during these moments. Meditation can help, but you need the right kind of meditation.
Loving-kindness meditation or metta (a Pali word with several meanings, including benevolence, affection, and kindness) is a self-healing meditation in which you express positive affirmations first towards yourself, and then to others. Studies have found that this type of meditation can help regulate functions of the limbic system in the brain, an area that among other things, processes emotions and empathy. Loving-kindness meditation can help cultivate feelings of happiness, satisfaction, gratitude, self-acceptance and contentment —and spark your inner joy. During the meditation you repeat statements such as may I be well, may I be happy, may I be healthy, first to yourself and then to others, to help you quiet that moody, inner critic.
You can find samples of loving-kindness meditation scripts at Greater Good in Action and PositivePsychology.com. There are also guided loving-kindness meditations on YouTube or mindfulness apps like Liberate (with meditation created especially for people of color) and Insight Timer.
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2. Get moving. It's well-known that exercise helps boost overall moods by secreting feel good chemicals in the brain called endorphins. Try to exercise early in the morning within two hours of waking up (running, jogging or a brisk walk) to absorb natural sunlight. It’s harder to do in cold weather, I know, but nothing snaps you awake like cool temps. If you’re walking to your neighborhood Y or gym for an exercise class, even better.
3. Get your vitamin D. Vitamin D helps regulate mood and boost the immune system. If you’re in a region with reduced sunlight or if you are a person of color with skin rich in melanin, you probably don’t get enough sunlight and therefore less vitamin D is produced by your body. You can take a supplement and increase your intake of foods with vitamin D. A favorite of mine is salmon. In addition to vitamin D, salmon has omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, also great for boosting mood and decreasing mild depression.
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4. Stay hydrated. While I don’t like to admit it sometimes, a glass of water can perk you up better than that extra cup of coffee. Water intake (which you can also get from food, especially fruits and vegetables, and drinks like herbal tea) can help balance moods. Studies have shown that depression is linked to dehydration (since 85% of brain tissue is water). Dehydration can also cause tiredness and slow down brain function.
5. See the light. Invest in a LED light therapy lamp like the Verilux HappyLight Lumi ($49.95). The lamp brings full spectrum, UV-free light into your home, office, dorm room or apartment to help lift your spirits and improve your body’s energy levels, so you’ll be more alert and productive. The HappyLight Lumi has three light brightness levels so you can gradually increase light intensity, and special technology to ensure that the light is comfortable for your eyes. It is wall-mountable and also has a detachable stand. The HappyLight Lumi’s compact size makes it easy to carry in your purse, backpack, or suitcase, to take to the office or on a trip. For information, visit verilux.com.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) goes deeper than winter blues, so if you find that these tips don’t work or you feel depressed for several days and it’s having a negative impact on your life, making you unable to function, do seek professional help.
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