As fall is in full swing and the leaves are turning orange red, the scenery makes for nice Instagram photographs and picturesque walks in the countryside. Less enchanting is the change of weather in many cities, where less daylight and rainier weather creates a depressing atmosphere as we wait for winter. This effect influences most people’s mood. This is sometimes referred to as the “winter blues” or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression that occurs during the winter months and goes away during the spring and summer. So, as the days are getting shorter, let’s spend some time on familiarizing ourselves with some mood boosters.
Why Shorter Days Lead To Low Moods
There are a few reasons why shorter days can lead to a decrease in mood. One reason is that the lack of sunlight can disrupt our circadian rhythm, which is our internal sleep-wake cycle. This can lead to fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and changes in appetite. Another reason is that the lack of sunlight can lead to a decrease in our production of vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for mood regulation, and low levels of vitamin D have been linked to depression.
Finally, shorter days can lead to social isolation, as people are less likely to go outside and socialize. This can be especially difficult for people who live in climates with cold winters.
Ways To Boost Your Mood
There are a number of things you can do to boost your mood during the winter months, including: getting enough sunlight. Try to get at least 30 minutes of sunlight exposure each day. If you live in a climate with limited sunlight during the winter, you may want to consider using a light therapy lamp.
Adding to that, try keeping a healthy diet. Eating a balanced diet can help to improve your mood and energy levels. Be sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet. And of course, as always, get regular exercise! Exercise is a great way to boost your mood and reduce stress. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
Staying connected with loved ones is equally important. Make time for social activities with friends and family. Even a short phone call or video chat can make a difference.
Underrated as a mood booster is sugar-free chewing gum. Chewing gum releases endorphins, which are hormones that have mood-boosting and pain-relieving effects. When you chew gum, your body releases endorphins into your bloodstream. Addin got that, it increases blood flow to the brain. This increased blood flow can help to improve your mood and alertness. Chewing gum also reduces stress and improves your cognitive functions.
In this 2009 study, researchers conclude that “the data here suggest that chewing gum has beneficial effects on a number of measures during two intensities of laboratory stress. Compared with the no chewing condition, gum chewing was associated with significantly higher alertness coupled with reduced subjective stress and state anxiety.”
Nothing we do will make our days longer this fall and upcoming winter, but it is important to be aware of practical tips that can help with improving our mood in the upcoming dark days.
Bill Wirtz is the Senior Policy Analyst at the Consumer Choice Center.