As much as we look forward to the holidays, 75 percent of us may feel more meh than merry this season. Blame reduced sun exposure in fall and winter, which slows the brain’s production of mood-steadying serotonin. Luckily, you can breeze through shorter days with your spirits high and stamina strong by upping your serotonin stores now! Keep reading to find out how you can beat the winter blues in just minutes a day.
Greet the new day.
Heading out for a 20-minute morning stroll can prevent — and treat — winter blues as effectively as antidepressants, Cornell University investigators report. Their studies show combining morning light exposure with gentle motion resets your biological clock, boosting serotonin production for up to 16 hours per stroll. Tip: Leave your ball cap at home. When the sun’s rays hit your eye’s retina, they heighten serotonin release by 25 percent. (Just don’t forget your sunscreen!)
Take care of your treasures.
Fold your grandma’s quilt or straighten the photos on your fridge: Doing so boosts joy by an impressive 55 percent in just five minutes. That’s the word from UCLA scientists, who say giving the things we treasure a little TLC prompts serotonin release.
Have a banana.
Or nosh on some apple cobbler! Enjoying two heaping cups of fruit daily lifts your spirits in 72 hours, plus cuts the risk of winter blues by 60 percent, suggests research in the journal BMC Psychiatry. Study co-author Dan O’Leary, Ph.D., explains that fruit compounds (phenolics) switch on brain enzymes that produce serotonin.
Try this spicy supplement.
Taking 1,000 mg. of BCM-95, a potent turmeric extract, prevents even severe seasonal affective disorder as well as Prozac, suggests a study in the Journal of Affective Disorders. It helps brain nerves soak up and use serotonin. One to try: Terry Naturally CuraMed Superior Absorption Curcumin (Buy from iHerb, starting at $28)
Relax with a book.
British scientists say ending the day with a 30-minute book session boosts serotonin production by 37 percent. This cuts the risk of blue moods in half, and helps you feel 68 percent happier in 24 hours if you’re blue. Reading tamps down the stress hormone cortisol, allowing your serotonin levels to soar.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.