The winter blues are real. And no one would blame you for wanting to hole up at home and eat your way to spring.
But there’s good news: you can perk up in as little as 15 minutes. According to a study published in Plos One, researchers found that short bouts of activity are associated with mental happiness, regardless of its intensity.
That means just a 15 minute leisurely walk could do the trick.
READ MORE: A few tips to improve your mood during the winter months
Researchers tracked 1,000 participants who downloaded an activity app to their Android phones. The app also asked them to rate their happiness. After a few weeks, the app switched modes and started asking participants to rate their happiness and log in whatever activity they had engaged in over the previous 15 minutes.
The results showed that people who had just engaged in physical activity rated higher on the happiness scale.
“The current findings extend previous research on the link between happiness and physical activity by demonstrating that regular physical activity — including non-exercise physical activity like standing, walking and fidgeting — has a positive connection to psychological health,” the study notes.
But if a short walk isn’t in the cards, you can try engaging in any of these quick activities to put a smile on your face.
Walnuts are packed with omega-3 fats, vitamin E, folate, melatonin and polyphenols, all of which are proven to boost mood levels. In a 2016 study published in the journal Nutrients, researchers discovered that young men who consumed banana bread fortified with ground walnuts reported a 28 per cent increase in happiness after eight weeks. But you can scarf down a handful a day in under 15 minutes.
READ MORE: Why you should search for meaning instead of happiness this year
Pump up your jams
A University of Missouri study showed participants who listened to upbeat music reported increased levels of happiness in the short term, versus those who listened to sad music. The upbeat tunes also worked to boost overall happiness consistently over two weeks.
Have a laugh
Sometimes it really does start with a happy outlook. When that’s hard to muster, search for some funny videos online or clips from your favourite sitcoms. Not only will a good guffaw release stress, but it also enhances your oxygen intake, which stimulates your organs and endorphins. You’ll also kick start your circulation and help your muscles relax, so you’ll feel soothed and calm.
Pet a pooch
Research has shown that petting an animal can lower blood pressure and incite the body to release a relaxation hormone. Dogs in particular are lauded for getting people out and connecting with others.
“If I saw you walking down the street, I couldn’t comfortably start talking to you if I didn’t know you, but I could if you had a dog,” Alan Beck, director of the Centre for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University, said to WebMD. “It’s an acceptable interaction that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.”
De-clutter your environment
This doesn’t require a major overhaul or a massive spring cleaning. By just organizing your work environment or a small area in your home, you can relieve anxiety. One study linked reduced clutter with improved productivity, while another linked a messy home with increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Go ahead and pile, toss and gather, because the resulting order will help you feel better.