The colder climate… classes have just started again after your break… and the days can look pretty drab without the sun splitting the clouds as it does in the summer. But there’s no reason to frown! Let Her Campus provide you with ten easy steps to improve your mood and get happy, fast.
- Wash away your problems in a steamy shower. Set aside fifteen minutes every morning or night for your soothing soak. Lucky enough to have a tub? Suds up with a lavender scented bubble bath (like this one from Eo: Night Nite Blue Chamomile with Lavender at your nearest CVS), which studies show benefits depression in college women. It’ll help untangle your thoughts and leave you feeling clean and content. Just ask Chandler (Friends’ Season 8, Episode 13: The One Where Chandler Takes a Bath).
- Strap on a pair of sneakers (or boots!) and go for a brisk walk. Walk to class rather than taking a shuttle, or hop on the treadmill at the gym and walk next time you’re watching Grey’s Anatomy, if your gym is equipped with TVs. Thirty minutes on a treadmill can make the tensions and even feelings of depression and turn them into vigor, according to a study in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education at the University of Texas at Austin. That doesn’t even take into account the fresh air and pleasant scenery you can get outdoors!
- Find your favorite music station at Pandora and crank up the volume of your computer. A study at Penn State University, Altoona, found that listening to music—of any variety or genre—brightens your mood. College students reported being more optimistic and joyful with music playing.
- Lay down your head on a pillow and get 20 to 30 minutes of shut-eye. Not just for preschoolers, naptime can improve your alertness and mood, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Give into your midday drowsiness—between one and three o’clock in the afternoon is a time of intense sleepiness.
- Search “laughing baby” on YouTube to find nine-month-old Ethan, who laughs so hard that he can hardly sit up. You’ll find yourself giggling with him—after all, laughter is contagious. The mechanics behind the infectious giggle: part of your brain (the premotor cortical region) registers the laughter, and then it prepares muscles in the face to move to the sound—even if only into a smile.
- Munch on a handful of walnuts. While chocolate has long been associated as girl’s best friends when it comes to comfort food, try some nuts or treating yourself to a fancy freshwater fish dinner—these omega-3 foods are what nutritionists consider mood-enhancers, especially recommended to help reduce depression.
- Smile! That’s right. Bare your teeth, curl your lips, and your mood can improve. So if you smile, research shows that it may be easier to find a joke or your Saturday morning cartoons funny. In 2002, a study asked its participants to hold pencils between their teeth (moving their mouths into smiles) and then evaluate the humor of video clips. ‘Smiling’ viewers rated Tom and Jerry cartoon clips more humorous than viewers who weren’t smiling.
- Drop negative people. Talking with the Negative Nancies and frenemies in your life can make you more depressed and negative as well—part of what psychologists call the emotional contagion, when mood is contagious through communication. If you have a friend who’s in a funk and sharing it to the Facebook world via downer status updates, you could get depressed just reading about it. Sign onto your account and hide the negative posts on your newsfeed so they don’t bring you down. (For help putting them back on your newsfeed, ask Facebook.)
- Unleash your creative side and work on an arts-and-crafts project. Drawing and various arts projects can boost your spirits when you’re feeling down. A study at Boston College supported this fundamental theory to art therapy and found that drawing offered college students a better pick-me-up than the simple distraction of a simple crossword puzzle. So try a little of your own art therapy and doodle dress designs during Project Runway or paint a winter wonderland out of watercolors.
- Plan to do some volunteering. Getting involved is easy through sororities or any number of campus organizations. Also, check if your school has a branch of Circle K International (a collegiate extension of the national service organization, Key Club). Your personal satisfaction will be well worth your time! In one study, people who volunteered monthly reported being as happy as if they were to make $20,000 to $30,000 annually—and the people who volunteered weekly were as happy as if they were to make $75,000 to $100,000 a year!
Sources: Bartholomew, John B. “Effects of Acute Exercise on Mood and Well-Being in Patients with Major Depressive Disorder." Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 37(12):2032-2037, December 2005. Borgonovi, Francesca. “Doing Well by Doing Good: the relationship between formal volunteering and self-reported happiness.” Social Science & Medicine. 66 (11): 2321-2334, June 2008. Briley, John. “Walking May Improve Mood.” Revolution Health. 16 Apr 2007.