Winter doldrums got you down? The empty calendar making you feel blue? Don’t pull out your wallet for some “retail therapy” just yet!
Right now is the time of year when the blues hit the hardest, so many people turn to their favorite foods, a round of shopping or some other costly means of escape. However, you can get the same results without spending a penny. Let [credit union] show you how to de-stress for less and send that down mood packing!
Read on for 7 pick-me-ups that are absolutely free.
1.) Get moving
If the end of the holidays has you feeling down, haul yourself off the couch and start doing crunches. Hit the treadmill and torch those calories or bundle up and go for a jog outdoors. When you get moving, so do those feel-good endorphins—and the blues won’t stand a chance!
2.) Listen to some music
Music has always been strongly linked to our emotional state. Slow, classical music played at a low decibel level has a unique calming effect on our minds and our bodies. If that’s not your thing, evoke the power of memory by listening to music that brings you back to a happier time and place, whether that means the pulsing beats you blasted in high school or the sappy tunes you played in the blissful days during your honeymoon.
3.) Spend time with nature
Don’t spend all winter hunkering under a blanket and waiting for spring. Zip up your parka, grab a warm hat and embrace the cold! There’s nothing like some fresh air to put the zing back in your step.
But it goes deeper than that: Research shows that spending time surrounded by nature can improve your physical well-being, reduce blood pressure and muscle tension, and best of all, it can even cut down on the production of stress hormones! Irina Wen, Ph.D. and clinical psychologist at the Steven A. Military Family Clinic at NYU Langone Medical Center, says spending time with nature can also be helpful with combating depression and anxiety.
If you live near a wooded area, you can take nature’s healing power up a notch. “Forest bathing” is the new stress-buster! All it involves is spending time alone in a forested area. A 2010 study found that participants who forest bathed had lower blood pressure and levels of cortisol, aka “the stress hormone,” than those who walked through city blocks. Take a hike in the woods and drop that stress for good!
4.) Laugh a little
Yes, a good laugh really is the best medicine. If you’re feeling down, get yourself some of those giggles! Next weekend, invite a friend over and binge-watch your favorite comedy show or sitcom. As you laugh along with the characters on the screen, your tension will slowly melt away.
5.) Learn a new skill
Boost your confidence and get an instant pick-me-up by learning something new this winter. You can find a DIY tutorial on YouTube for practically any hobby or skill you can dream up, plus loads of those you’ve never thought of before. Become an origami expert, learn a new language, crochet the warmest blanket, or even take up pottery! Have yourself a great time and impress your friends and family with what you (soon) can do. If YouTube doesn’t have what you need, you can also check out Instructables.com, HowCast or VideoJug.
6.) Pet your pooch
Scientific evidence proves that stress levels in humans decrease when they pet a furry friend. Give your pet a little extra love when you’re stressed and you may just feel the stress slowly fade right out of you. If you don’t own a pet, visit an animal rescue center and spend time with the animals there. You might even come home with a new four-legged friend!
7.) Soak up some sun
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a very real condition that makes people feel blue during the winter months when the days are short and sunlight is scarce. Since sun exposure releases a compound into the blood vessels that reduces stress, insufficient sunlight has a direct effect on our moods.
Kick the SAD this winter by soaking in as much sunshine as you can. Open the shades to let the sunlight in while you work and try to squeeze in an early-morning walk each day so you’re spending time outdoors while the sun is still up. If the skies are cloudy and you’re craving some sunshine, you can try sitting under special UV lamps for the same effect.
Don’t let the winter blues bust your budget. Instead of spending money on expensive and unhealthy escapes, beat the blues with our helpful hacks!
Your Turn: How do you get rid of stress without spending a lot of money? Share your tips and tricks with us in the comments!