Important PSA: Your body needs different things in different seasons. When it comes to a mood boost, a day at the beach, a new pair of sandals, or a pitcher of spicy margaritas with the girls will not do the trick in November like it did in July—what works in the summer might not make you happy in the fall and winter. Also, boosting your mood is not always as simple as buying a PSL or a cute pair of boots. It’s important to adapt your entire self-care routine occasionally to keep you as happy and healthy as possible as the seasons change.
Happiness is the most important part of health to prioritize, so I’m bringing you ten changes to start making now in order to keep your mood boosted as much as possible through colder months. Read on for how to transform your mental health routine get ready for your happiest season ever.
1. Add nature to your routine and focus on your senses
You already know that getting outside is good for you (we’re meant to be in nature), and that includes being good for your mood too. Especially as the leaves start changing, getting outdoors is not only a healthy practice but also an enjoyable one: The views are unbeatable and the weather is perfect (no more coming home drenched in sweat like in the summer months). While getting outside in any way is good for you, consider leaving the AirPods at home and take in the sounds of nature instead. Research has shown that our moods are affected by what we take in through our senses—what we hear, smell, taste, see, and touch can affect us emotionally. Be mindful not only of what you see but also what you hear, smell, and feel too: crunching leaves, birds chirping, and that fresh woodsy scent. Try a sensory walk, hike, or bike ride for an immediate mood boost.
2. Set a new goal
Hot take: Fall resolutions are better than New Year’s resolutions. Remember when you were a kid and fall meant new school supplies and a totally different class? Or maybe you remember heading back to college with new goals for meeting new friends or acing your classes. Even if fall doesn’t mean a new school year anymore, you can still recreate the sense of newness and promise. Reflect on who you want to be this year and what you need to do to achieve it. Make sure to get specific: Meditating for five minutes every day or cooking every night of the workweek will be much more achievable than just meditating or cooking more often. Working toward something can help boost your mood in the short term, while achieving goals that are important to you can help make you happier in the long run.
3. Adapt your exercise routine
So the weather is changing, you’re switching from iced coffee to PSLs, and you have way less energy than you did in the summertime. Instead of fighting the changes in the season and forcing yourself to go to the gym, adapt your workout routine to how your body feels. One of the best reasons to work out is to boost your mood, so if your workouts are leaving you feeling drained, unmotivated, or bored, change it up. While going on a run or attending a high-energy cardio class might have been fun and motivating during sunny days, you might see these types of exercise as a dreaded chore instead of something that feels enjoyable. Swap them for going on long walks to enjoy the changing weather (see point #1) or slow yoga flows if your body is craving relaxing movement. Yes, exercise in general serves as a major mood boost, but it should be exercise that feels good to you. Ask your body what it wants and adjust your workout routine accordingly.
4. Be more mindful of getting sunshine
Whether you deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder or just feel more lethargic and bummed in colder months, our moods often change starting in autumn. A big cause of seasonal mood changes has to do with lack of sunlight. According to Harvard Health Publishing, less sunlight during colder months can throw off your circadian rhythm, which causes the brain to release less serotonin (the happy hormone). Many of us live in colder climates with cloudier days and spend more time indoors starting in the fall, so we need to actively work on getting in sunshine to keep our moods boosted.
Since sunshine is effortless in the summer (hello, rooftop bars!), intentionally add in more sunshine to your wellness routine this season. Grab a sweater and drink your morning coffee on a patio or balcony, go on more walks instead of working out at the gym, or consider a light therapy lamp if your area gets really gloomy. If you are experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder or a drastic change in mood or motivation, it’s important to seek therapy.
5. Adjust your home environment
Speaking of changes in weather, colder temperatures mean you’ll spend more nights in and more days cooped up indoors. More time at home can mean more restlessness or boredom throughout the season, which, of course, is a major mood buster. To avoid feeling restless or bored, adjust your home environment for the season. Scatter cozy essentials throughout your home (we stan luxurious throw blankets), avoid clutter as much as possible and keep your home tidy (clutter can cause stress), and indulge in your senses with textured accents, rich scents (looking at you, pumpkin spice candles!), and fall-inspired music playing on repeat. Turning your home into a cozy oasis will make you excited to stay at home instead of dreading it.
6. Eat what your body craves
Just like you might need to adapt your exercise routine as the season changes, you also might need to change what you eat. Healthy eating during the summer months seems easier because we’re craving lighter, colder foods like smoothies and salads. But as the weather changes, you shouldn’t force yourself to eat smoothies and salads if you’re not in the mood. Instead, eat what your body is craving. Switch to warm, grounding foods like stews or soups and utilize healthy flavors of the season like pumpkin, cinnamon, and apples. In other words, you can still get in your fruits and veggies while eating the way your body wants to eat when the temperatures drop. You’ll experience more pleasure from your meals if you don’t force yourself to eat bland foods that don’t satisfy you (I break up with salads starting in September). And when you eat based on what’s most satisfying? Instant mood boost.
7. Schedule something to look forward to
Fall can be a weird time because we’re past the fun of summer vacations but not yet in the magic of the holiday season. Any period of time when we don’t have anything to look forward to can feel lackluster and just plain boring. To keep your mood high through the season, schedule activities that you would actually enjoy to have something to look forward to. Whether it’s taking a camping trip for a weekend, scheduling apple picking with your best friends on a random Saturday, or even planning a mental health day in advance to take the day off and read the book you’ve been dying to get to, physically planning and scheduling exciting events in your calendar will help keep your mood boosted.
8. Do something kind for someone else
‘Tis the season of giving, and it turns out it just might be the secret to lasting happiness. Research shows that giving back is the closest thing to a magic happy pill, filling our brains with dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin. So the next time you’re singing the blues, try sending a check-in text to your gal pal, making dinner for your parents, grocery shopping for your elderly neighbor, donating towels or blankets to an animal rescue you follow, or volunteering at your local food bank. Whatever act of giving you choose, showing altruism does more than just produce feel-good moments. A reciprocal relationship may exist between kindness and happiness, meaning one encourages the other. Bottom line: Kindness makes you happy and happiness makes you kind, which spreads love all around. Talk about a win-win situation.
9. Keep a gratitude journal
We’re coming up on the holiday of giving thanks, but why not make it year-round? After all, the more you focus on the good, the easier it is to find and access. It’s no surprise that expressing gratitude has been shown to heighten overall well-being, and gratitude journaling is a simple and effective way to make it part of your daily regimen. Jot down the first three things that come to mind, no matter how small or seemingly mundane they may be. Whether it’s the cozy, rainy day that encouraged you to slow down, the PSL you perfected at home, or all the pumpkin goodies you scored at Trader Joe’s, getting in the habit of being grateful for what you have will serve you well, whether you’re in a season of hardship or everything’s coming up roses.
10. Prioritize sleep
With those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, chances are getting quality beauty rest wasn’t your top priority. Now that we’ve turned our clocks back, it’s especially important to get our healthy sleep habits back on track. Because there’s no denying that sleep quality and mood are related (translation: a restless night can lead to irritability, stress, and a short fuse the next day). To give your sleep routine a much-needed overhaul, stick to a consistent sleep schedule, create a solid wind-down regimen, keep your bedroom cool and calm, set a food and drink curfew three to four hours before bed, and fit movement in in your day. The result? Optimal sleep and, in turn, a pep in your step. If you have trouble relaxing pre-bedtime, try incorporating some light reading, journaling, or soft music, like jazz or classical. They can do wonders to quiet your mind for a restful night of Zzzs.
These tips are intended for general boost in mood, not to treat anxiety or depression. If you think you may be experiencing anxiety, depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, it’s important to reach out and get help. See your doctor, get in contact with a therapist, and/or talk to a close friend or family member.