For many of us, the winter months can take an emotional toll. Though the days are finally getting longer again, you may still find yourself struggling with what many people call seasonal affective disorder. But, don’t get caught up in all that. If you happen to feel sad, distracted, or lonely during the winter months, you aren’t alone and there isn’t necessarily anything “wrong” with you.

You also are not powerless to change these feelings. Here are a few simple ways you can improve your own mood through the power of your thoughts and actions.

Go outside. Between home, work, and all the responsibilities in between, many of us just don’t have much time to go outside these days. It can be easy to forget what a relaxing experience just a brief exposure to nature can give us. Even if it’s quite cold out, put on your hat and gloves and stroll around the block or the parking lot for five minutes. Is there a nearby park? Why not enjoy a cup of coffee or tea outdoors? Fresh air and a clear view of the sky can be more beneficial than you might think.

Practice positive affirmations. Another mostly unseen aspect of our moods is in our self-talk. We tell ourselves many things throughout the day, consciously and unconsciously. When we’re not feeling great, it can be startling to realize how much of that is negative self-talk. Practice positive affirmations by repeatedly telling yourself something positive or even simply saying words that you like the sound of. The goal here doesn’t have to be to fully, intellectually change your mind, but to simply have a small, pleasurable experience.

Meditate, or simply sit quietly and breathe deeply. I think there’s a common conception that meditation is something you have to “learn.” While there certainly are right and wrong ways to do things, you don’t need a certification to feel the benefits of being quiet and still. Even 5 minutes of sitting quietly, breathing deeply, actively thinking about nothing can leave you refreshed and clear-minded in a way you may not have felt in quite a while.

These suggestions may seem simple, but being able to turn yourself around when you need to is a high-level skill. It’s important to remember that perception is everything. Performing one of these small 5-minute tasks can do a lot to change your perceptions for the better. Do you regularly use one or more of these tactics? Or is there another one you want to recommend? Let me know in the comments below.

photo credit: dark winter I via photopin (license)