The winter months are when people are most at risk for depression. Here are some quick mental health tips to help keep your mood elevated and your mind at ease:
1-minute tip: Give a hug. Experts suggest that hugging can reduce stress and improve your mood. When you hug someone, your body releases the hormone oxytocin — improving your emotions, behavior, and physiology. Research from Carnegie Mellon University even suggests that being hugged can decrease your risk of catching the common cold!
5-minute tip: Meditate. Taking a moment to mediate can restore inner peace and calm your mind. Mental health benefits include improved self-awareness, reduction of negative emotions, and stress management. The best type of meditation for elevating your mood is mindfulness meditation. To begin, pay attention to only your breath. Let your thoughts and emotions pass through your mind without judgment. Mindfulness meditation encourages you to live in the present moment, and helps to bring clarity to your emotions. Look for a free app for your phone to help you practice mindful meditation throughout the day.
15-minute tip: Journaling. Expressive writing is another way to enhance mindfulness and has been shown to improve emotional intelligence, creativity, and self-confidence. The emotional release experienced through journaling can reduce stress, lower anxiety, and provide better sleep. Write about your problems and emotions, or whatever comes to your mind.
30-minute tip: Exercise outside. One of the greatest ways to heal your mind and body is exercise. The American Psychological Association reports that exercise can relieve long-term depression and make you feel better within five minutes of moderate activity. Exercising (including walking) for at least 30 minutes does even more for your emotional health. When you exercise, your brain decreases the release of immune system chemicals that can worsen depression and increases the release of feel-good chemicals like endorphins—leaving you feeling happy and healthy.
This article first appeared in the February 2017 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.