The holiday season is often a busy and active time with packed social calendars, vacation travel, and annual gatherings with family and friends. However, in January the holiday lights come down, the decorations get packed away, the parties, family time, and the vacations end. It’s a scenario that can make it hard to stay cheery and bright.

Here are 5 easy ways to boost your mood and avoid the post-holiday slump.

1) GET PLENTY OF OMEGA-3 EPA

Omega-3’s are among the most well researched nutrients, with more than 16,000 studies published to date. Omega-3’s are also well established for mood support as scientific evidence shows that the omega-3 essential fats in fish oil—EPA and DHA—support healthy brain and cognitive function throughout every stage of life.*

Your brain depends on these fats to build healthy cell membranes.* In fact, they are the most common fatty acids in the brain. Research suggests that EPA, in particular, can support healthy nervous system function.* A concentrated EPA fish oil supplement can be an easy way to get a healthy serving of this important nutrient for brain health.*

2) GET OUTSIDE AND GET MORE VITAMIN D

Spending time outdoors—and in nature or green space, specifically—is an effective way to boost your mood. In fact, spending time outdoors in nature has been found to be beneficial to all body systems. In Japan, it’s an established health care routine which roughly translates to “forest bathing,”.

And it is not time intensive either as only 30 minutes in nature over the course of a week can significantly help maintain a healthy mood. Spending time outdoors is also a good opportunity to absorb some vitamin D, an essential nutrient virtually every cell in your body.*

How can you know if there’s enough UVB available from sunlight in your area to make vitamin D? The Vitamin D Council recommends a quick and easy way: Check the length of your shadow. If your shadow is longer than you are tall, then you aren’t able to make enough vitamin D (due to the oblique angle of the sun), and you should consider taking a high-quality daily D3 supplement instead.

Being physically active during the day is key to getting a good night’s sleep and maintaining a healthy mood.

3) MAKE TIME FOR SLEEP AND EXERCISE

Getting adequate sleep consistently is critical for mental health and mood support. Sleep difficulties can often contribute to mood challenges, and feeling blue can often disrupt our sleep — often leading to a vicious cycle that’s hard to break.  So keep to a consistent bedtime, minimise caffeine and sugar intake late in the day, and avoid exposure to blue light, especially in the evening.

The part of our brain that regulates our circadian rhythms (called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN) is located at the intersection of our optic nerves, where light and darkness signal the processes that wake us up and make us sleepy. Without darkness, our brains are not able to produce the sleep inducing hormone melatonin as efficiently. As such, avoiding evening light is often the most important thing we can do to sleep well. Be extra careful with digital devices—smartphones, tablets, and TVs as they all emit blue light, which is precisely the kind of light that is most disruptive to our circadian rhythms.

Being physically active during the day is also key to getting a good night’s sleep and maintaining a healthy mood. In addition to its many other health benefits for your entire body, regular exercise has been shown to support a range of biological processes involved in maintaining a healthy mood, including releasing “feel-good” endorphins in the brain.

4) SPEND QUALITY TIME WITH FRIENDS

Even though the holidays ending may mean fewer social gatherings, it’s important to continue to make time for your relationships with loved ones. Positive, supportive relationships with family, friends, romantic partners—even furry friends—have been established to benefit our general health, and help maintain our mental health. Social media doesn’t count—it can make you feel more isolated, according to one research study. So make some time to connect offline with those to whom you are closest. Better yet, treat yourselves to a walk outside together on a regular basis, and combine quality time with exercise and outdoor time.

5) HELP OTHERS

Simple acts of kindness like picking up litter, buying a friend a cup of coffee, or helping a family member cook dinner have been shown to do more to help support mood, mental health, and well-being than doing things for yourself. Research also shows that helping others is associated with greater longevity.

Why does this work? Biologically, helping others or the world around you activates regions in the brain associated with pleasure, and triggers the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, which can generate a feel-good effect often termed “helper’s high.” That’s why even the simplest acts of volunteering your time, money, or kindness doesn’t just help make the world a better place—it also helps you feel good and maintain a healthy mood, and your overall well-being.

The holiday season may be over, but there’s plenty to feel happy about with a new year just beginning. Getting enough of what your body needs—omega-3s, vitamin D, outdoor time, sleep, exercise, and human connection—can help you keep your spirits bright for a great start to the year.

References

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BMC Psychiatry. 2014 Apr 10;14:107.
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TERRA LYNN

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Terra is a regular contributor to the Naturally Speaking blog, and a former marketing writer at Nordic Naturals. She has been writing for the natural products industry for nearly a decade, and revels in providing resources to help people make informed decisions about health, nutrition, and sustainable living. In her former life, Terra was a university instructor and academic researcher. Her daily passions include tending her native plant garden, reading, and hanging out with her dogs.

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