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All cooped up because your kids got the croup? The daily rigors of parenting can be taxing any time of year, but its really hard to get your energy up and keep it up when youre feeling beat down by the winter blues. The winter blues involve Seasonal Affective Disorder-like symptoms, brought on by chemicals in your brain reacting to a lack of sunlight. But in lieu of drowning your sorrows in caffeine, weve got 10 pharm-free ways to lift your spirits and put a little spring in your step before the spring equinox!
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1. Dress on the bright side
When you dress for the day, avoid colors as dark and gloomy as the skies. Instead, reach for clothing in yellow and white hues, like this sweater from Ann Taylor. Bright colors reflect light and send your brain a message to levels of serotonin (a feel-good brain chemical), so your outlook brightens too!
Get it at Ann Taylor, $59.99
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2. Freshen up
When temps rise above Arctic freeze to tolerable cold, crack open a window after it rains or snows. It won't just freshen the air in the room; it might refresh your perspective, as well. Scientists recently found proof that increased exposure to negative ions in the air (present after precipitation) can help relieve symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
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3. Catch your Zs
Busy moms see sleep as the ultimate treat all year long, but few of us actually catch the Zs we need to keep our brain chemicals in check and this deprivation can exacerbate the winter blues. By clocking in some solid sack time (7-9 hours is typically needed for adults), youll keep the production of serotonin (an energy-boosting chemical for the day) and melatonin (a sleep-inducing chemical for night) balanced in your brain. Just beware: Oversleeping is a common symptom of SAD and can worsen your winter blues.
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4. Laugh it off
Bummed about nursing your kid through yet another nasty winter cold? When its finally your turn to monopolize the boob tube, forsake your favorite soap and switch on the slapstick instead. Laughter is the best medicine for good reason! Scientists say the physical act of laughter releases endorphins the brain chemicals that make you happy. (Though if you want a little drama and laughter, we recommend any of the Real Housewives shows.)
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5. Get physical
During these cold months when youre all stuck indoors, doing laps around the breakfast bar for exercise gets old quick. Working out doesn't have to feel like WORK, and you don't have to join a gym. Doctor permitting, bust out a yoga DVD or commandeer your kids Wii, plug in a fun workout game, like Just Dance 3, and sweat it out to rev up those feel-good endorphins.
Get Just Dance 3 at Game Stop, $39.99
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6. Don't even try to do it all
With a to-do list that scrolls across our minds like a relentless Twitter feed, and weather that sometimes fails to cooperate with our best laid plans, its no wonder researchers discovered that Type-A, do-it-all moms are subject to depressive bouts when forced to neglect an action item or two. Set realistic expectations of what can be accomplished in a day and, if youre partnered, delegate tasks to avoid feeling the martyr. Oh, and when your kids have a school snow day, take one yourself!
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7. Talk, talk
When Mother Nature traps us indoors, a day without adult conversation can leave us feeling isolated and depressed. Nothing cheers a girl up like good gab, so let your kids amuse themselves for 10 minutes while you reach out and connect with someone supportive. Studies show that regular social interaction can boost mood-lifting serotonin levels by as much as 40 percent!
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8. Soak up some sun
If youve got the winter blahs, scientists say there are benefits to bundling up and embracing the cold. Exposure to morning sunlight for at least 30 minutes helps burn off the sleep-inducing melatonin your brain produced the night before, which then allows happy, energy-boosting serotonin levels to rise. So why not put on your coat, plug into your iPod, and meander through the neighborhood to catch some rays?
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9. Give a fig
Instead of inhaling those stray chicken nuggets or other fatty, fried comfort foods that are so appealing during these cold winter months, fill your fridge with figs! They are a natural source of vitamin B6, which wards off depression. Stash some figs in a Ziploc bag to munch when your mood heads south. Foods rich in vitamin B12, like shellfish, beef, and liver can also do the trick.
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10. Give yourself a time-out
When winter winds blow mercilessly outdoors, reflection and meditation can be as restorative as basking in the sun. In fact, its scientifically proven that these quiet pursuits activate the part of your brain that regulates stress and depression. Does meditation seem like an impossible dream with all the kid-induced cacophony? Wake before your kin, or commit to a weekly class where you can head out of the home to explore gentle, meditative forms of yoga, like Kundalini or Hatha.
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