Use Your Smartphone to Fight Winter Blahs

Use Your Smartphone to Fight Winter Blahs

Author: Cathy McDonald, National Center for Telehealth & Technology

During the post-holiday days of winter — when the weather is cold and the nights are long and your mood can sink — use your phone to monitor and even change your outlook. Track your moods for one week with the T2 Mood Tracker app to see if what you did affected your mood. If you notice your mood showing signs of the effects of the season, try some of these mood-improvement suggestions:

Get outside every day. Check the mail and then walk around your neighborhood. Exposure to sunlight increases the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin, which is a mood-booster. Although you can’t get much vitamin D from sunlight in winter when you live north of the 37th parallel (generally the northern half of the United States), exercise can boost endorphins, the brain chemicals that make you feel good.

  • Tip: Use your phone to check your local weather for the best time to get outside that day.  

Fight stress with laughter. Laugh out loud often every day.  You may feel a little silly, but studies show that laughing actually stimulates the production of mood-enhancing chemicals like endorphins.

  • Tip: Use your phone to look up reviews of some good comedy movies or TV shows, then download and watch them.

Take vitamin D: Talk to your doctor about taking vitamin D supplements in the winter. Here are a few good sources of vitamin D: fatty fish like salmon (wild is better than farmed), tuna and mackerel; vitamin D-fortified foods such as milk (any kind is good — cow, soy, almond or coconut); eggs (include the yolks); and mushrooms.

  • Tip: Use your phone to look up how to make a recipe with these ingredients (try a salmon omelet).   

Plan a trip. Going somewhere warm and sunny can help lift your spirits (for best results, choose someplace south of the 37th parallel). Planning a trip can give you something to look forward to while you’re trudging through the dark and cold. In fact, a 2010 Dutch study showed that planning and anticipating a trip increased people’s happiness levels — perhaps even more than taking the trip itself.  If your budget’s tight, even a weekend trip to see a friend can change up your routine.  

  • Tip: Use your phone to check airfares to places within your budget where you might go.

Find an activity. Just…get…off…the…couch. Call a friend and plan something to do. Go explore — be a tourist in your own town and see something you’ve never seen before. Museums have free days; most trails are free. The couch will be there for you when you get home.  

  • Tip: Use your phone to download the free Positive Activity Jackpot app and search for ideas for activities in your area. Can’t decide? The app will choose an activity for you.  

Count your blessings. You have people who love you and things to be grateful for. You just forget sometimes. Take a few minutes each day to remember the good things in your life.

  • Tip: Use your phone to download the free Virtual Hope Box app  and upload photos of loved ones, add some of your favorite songs and find more ideas for mood-lifting activities.

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