It is easy to feel less happy and more anxious as winter drags on. The dreary weather and dark days leave many people feeling depressed, but there are things that you can do to fight these feelings. There are three simple things that you can do right now that will boost your feelings of happiness and provide benefits to your overall health: get more sleep, more exercise and more sun. Keep reading to find out why these activities benefit your health and how you can increase your happiness with more sleep, exercise and sun.
One of the most important things that you can do for your health, physical and emotional, is to get enough sleep. Your body needs rest in order to function properly and if you deprive it of sleep, there are more serious consequences than being exhausted the next day. People who get too little sleep are more susceptible to health conditions like higher blood pressure, obesity and increased anxiety, but too much sleep has been linked to other cardiovascular conditions and even premature death. The magic number of hours that the average healthy adult needs per night is seven to nine hours according to the National Sleep Foundation.
To get truly restful sleep, experts recommend keeping your bedroom as electronics-free as possible. Leave the television and Blu-ray player in your living room and if you need background noise, invest in a white noise machine. If you have to have your phone on you, try turning it off at night or put it in a “do not disturb” mode before going to bed. Try to form a routine that will help you wind down at the end of the day, like turning the TV off an hour before bed and read a book or take the time to prepare a cup of tea, so that your body receives signals that it is time to calm down and prepare for rest.
Experts recommend that you get 45 minutes of activity (or 30 if you are a beginner) and/or exercise daily to maintain optimal fitness. This number can seem daunting when your schedule is packed full of things you have to get done, but you don’t have to complete all of your exercise at one time. In fact, one study showed that women who exercised in short 10 minutes bursts a few times a day lost more weight and exercised more consistently than women who exercised for 20 to 40 minutes at a time.
Exercise provides so many health benefits, one of which is alleviating depression and anxiety. When it comes to sneaking exercise into your day, you are limited only by your imagination. Take your dog for a walk around the block, use some time from your lunch break to walk the stairs or do five to 10 minutes of jumping jacks several times a day.
You know that when it comes to signs of aging, it’s important to avoid overexposing yourself to the sun, but it is important to get some sunlight in your day. Your brain releases hormones in response to light and to darkness: serotonin is released due to light and melatonin is released when it is dark. Serotonin is a hormone in the brain that triggers happy thoughts and elevates your mood, and serotonin can create feelings of focus and calm. To see positive results from sunlight, experts recommend spending at least 5 to 15 minutes in the sun two to three times per week. Remember that while sun exposure does have positive benefits to your mood, it is important to get it in moderation and to always wear sunscreen prior to any UV exposure.
Don’t let the winter blues get you down, fight back! Aim to sleep for seven to nine hours every night – including weekends, because your body appreciates sticking to the routine – and make sure to spend some time in the sun and moving your body.