Sick of winter? Tips for improving your mood

February 1, 2011 4:13:04 PM PST
With snow and ice every few days, even Polyanna would be blue this winter.

But a family psychologist says you don't have to be.

Dr. David J. Palmiter of Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania says very little happiness is determined directly by what happens to us. Instead, Dr. Palmiter says our happiness is due to how we react to the happenings of life.

He says, "Mood doesn't come first, then activity. "

On a bright, sunny spring day, Dr. Palmiter says we don't wait for the good mood before we get out and get active. We go out and walk, run, bike, picnic, and play games first, then the good mood follows because our activity has raised the "happiness" chemicals in our brain. And he says that's formula will work in winter, too.

Dr. Palmiter says if you can, get outdoors to walk, do sports like skating or skiing, or just play in the snow with the kids.

Exercise. If it's hard to get outside, an indoor workout will help. If you don't have exercise gear at home, Dr. Palmiter recommends one of the free online workout programs.

Write a gratitude letter. In 300 to 500 words, tell a friend, co-worker, or family member why you are glad to have them in your life. Dr. Palmiter says it will not only make YOU feel better, but it will likely make them very happy, too.

Acts of kindness. Shovel a neighbor's sidewalk, do some of their food shopping when you do yours, or take them to an appointment. Offer to keep some of the neighborhood occupied to give their parents a break.

Relive good times. Do you have a bunch of photos that should go into an album, or be organized on your computer? Organize them, and share them with your family at the same time.

Dr. Palmiter says, "Sometimes we get so busy with the tasks on our "to do" list, we forget about the "to done" list, the things we have accomplished and experienced."

Reliving those experiences with your loved ones will make you appreciate the good things going for you.

Dr. Palmiter says all the cancellations and delays we've had to do of late may have a silver lining. He believes most American families are overscheduled, and need more "down time" to reconnect.

He posts a blog to help hectic parents.