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Amp Up the Orange
This cheery color—which appears opposite blue on the color wheel—is just the hue to reach for during the darkest of days. Light an aromatherapy candle with spicy scents like cinnamon and orange or simply wrap an orange scarf around your neck, says DeAnna Radaj, a feng shui expert. "Adding orange to your life will do wonders to cheer you up," she says.
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Try a Plant Pick-Me-Up
Filling your home with green plants is a guaranteed pick-me-up during even the bleakest wintry days. "Plants not only brighten a room but they also add a big psychological boost," says John Sharp, M.D., a psychiatrist and author of The Emotional Calendar.
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Bake and Deliver
Stick a tray of chocolate chip cookies in your oven and you'll warm your kitchen—and transform it into a delicious-smelling space in the process. "Go one step further and deliver a batch to a friend or neighbor and you'll transport yourself from a dark mood to a lighthearted one," says Zoe Saint-Paul, a life coach in Baltimore. "The small act of presenting something you made from scratch will do wonders to help you stay positive and cheerful through the winter months."
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Live in the Moment
No matter how much you hate the cold or the gray or the short days, research shows that training yourself to focus on the present can help ward off winter blues. "Being mindful helps keep you grounded in what you're grateful for in your life, which makes you more optimistic and less likely to feel down," says Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in Washington, D.C. "It also helps you experience the simple sensory pleasures of the moment—the smell of your hot coffee, the feel of your blanket, the sound of your friend's laugh—all of which can bring small oases of joy that can help chip away at the blues."
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Tackle Your To-Dos Now
Give yourself a head start on spring. Paint a room, organize a closet, bag up clothes and take them to Goodwill, suggests Alison Kosakowski, who moved to Vermont a few years ago and has learned to adapt to cold, dark winters. The reward comes when the days get warmer. "While everyone else is busy with spring cleaning, you'll be outside enjoying the weather and feeling a sense of accomplishment for crossing tasks off your list," she says.
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Snowshoeing, tubing, cross-country skiing, sledding, ice-skating—with the winter we've been having, you have no excuse not to take up some sort of active winter sport. Even if you just take a walk or shovel snow (you'll burn 288 calories per hour shoveling!), you'll feel your spirits lift. "A little fresh crisp air and getting your heart rate up can do wonders for your mental state," says Laura Kronen, author, lifestyle coach and founder of BeYouOnlyBetter.com.
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Do a Coffee Trade-Off
As tempting as it seems to refuel with coffee on days when you're moving slowly, try a mug of green or white tea instead now and then. "High in antioxidants, these teas will perk you up without letting you crash like coffee does," says Monica McCarthy, a certified holistic health coach.
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Start a Dinner Club
Everybody feels better if he or she has something to look forward to—and someone to complain to! Find a few like-minded friends or couples and agree to take turns hosting supper. The idea is to pick a theme for each meal and cut down on the work and cost by sharing the prep and grocery shopping. "The weeks will fly by as you look forward to socializing with friends," says Motherboard Mom Kosakowski, who formed such a club in Vermont. And when you're all together, your spirits are sure to lift with the good food and good company.
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Don't Forget Your D
During the dark days of winter, your body doesn't get to bask in the sun's glory, which may leave you feeling more than a little lethargic. To help you feel like you spent the day in Key West, consider a daily dose of vitamin D (the current RDA for women is 400 to 800 IUs daily). You can get that from a supplement or from cooked salmon and mackerel, canned tuna and fortified foods such as milk and orange juice.
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Find the Light
No matter the season, arrange your rooms to maximize the sun and natural light. "Daylight is important as a reference point because it helps maintain the body's natural circadian rhythms that are linked to light and dark," says Dr. Sharp, author and Harvard psychiatrist. If your house is naturally dark, consider removing dark window coverings, painting walls light hues to reflect what light there is or investing in a light-therapy box.
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Do What Feeds Your Soul
Decide to embrace the indoors! Read those books you've been meaning to get to, watch those movies and start (or finish) the other projects that have been on your must-do list all year. And while you're inside, make your home feel a bit more luxurious. Treat yourself to some cheery pillows or a beautiful throw. A few small, inexpensive additions can transform the way you feel about a room.
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Make a Real Connection
We love social media and all the new and old friends that are so easy to connect with online. But once you've used online resources to make those connections, do something old-fashioned, says Jenny Skoog, a fitness expert: Call those rediscovered friends on the phone instead of messaging them on Facebook. Then, make a date to get lunch with someone rather than tweeting her. "Rekindling an old friendship will get those butterflies churning in your stomach, stirring an overall happiness in your life," Skoog says.
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Celebrate the End of a Season
With warmer weather coming, take the opportunity to celebrate what is quintessentially winter: Drink hot chocolate with marshmallows. Wear a wooly sweater. Build a snowman. These are things you get to do only at this time of year. Make a conscious effort to enjoy them—and you will.
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Tap into Your Inner Mallrat
If the weather outside is still frightful, join the blue-haired ladies strolling circles around the mall. The endorphins from doing a heart-pumping circuit will do you good. And, suggests Skoog, "While you're at it, do a little retail therapy. Shop sales for bargains. Nothing puts me in a better mood than getting a great deal."
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As winter winds down, give into that whole hibernation theme and slow down, take time to journal, meditate or even seek out a therapist or support group if you think it would help boost your mood. Make sure you guard your own restorative me-time: "There's nothing wrong with saying no to a dinner party in order to say yes to a bubble bath and Enya," says Monica McCarthy, the certified holistic health coach.