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How to Brighten the Winter Blahs
Winter can be a real drain. Turn it around with these 11 tips.

Don't let the dark days and cold nights bring you down.

Most of us lack all-day energy—going from the time we wake up, some of us in darkness—and we find it hard to motivate ourselves to leave our caves and seek adventure. Cold weather along with fewer daylight hours stress us out physically and emotionally; our legs feel like they are filled with lead. However, nature always has a plan.

If the weather keeps us indoors and the darkness causes us to wind down earlier, then we should honor our biorhythms instead of overriding them with artificial light and technology. Let’s perceive winter as an opportunity to turn inward to cocoon and hibernate, before emerging in the spring with exciting new plans and new vibrations. Remember: instead of using artificial light, we can always flick the switch and turn on our inner light.

Here are some research-based tips on warming your heart during the cold weather:

* Exercise: Turn on the music and move. Exercise raises your body temperature and releases happiness chemistry.

* Exercise and sex have a lot in common: Life energy and sexual energy are intertwined. Go get physical and generate some body heat! Bring out the wild woman in you or the cave man in him!

* Sip hot herbal tea: Because you can’t gulp it, by sipping hot tea you slow down and relax. The warmth permeates your body. Different flavors contribute to aromatic relaxation, releasing a soothing memory. Experiment and discover your favorite de-stressor.

* Take a hot bath: A long hot bath with a cup of chamomile tea added to your bath water is a great muscle relaxant, emotional de-stressor and will please your senses.

* Change up what you eat: Switch to a winter diet of rich stews, hearty peasant food made with beans and root vegetables, and chunky, thick soups to give you extra energy as well as to keep you warm. You will be following a volumetric-inspired diet, so when you emerge in spring you will be lighter.

* Meditate: Try a candlelight meditation to infuse your spirit with fire. Sit comfortably and stare at a lit candle for one minute; then close your eyes for 3-5 minutes to see what heart-warming images come up for you.

* Eat fish: Eat fatty fish (salmon, tuna and herring), walnuts, omega 3-enriched-eggs and other omega enriched products. Omega 3s are guaranteed to lift your mood; they are heart smart and brain smart.

* Do some indoor gardening: You don’t need robins to herald in the spring! This time of year, you can plant some spring bulbs in colorful pots and watch them bloom in your home: tulips, crocuses, hyacinths, narcissus and daffodils. Or you can buy bulbs already in bloom at your local supermarket, garden center or Costco. Note: some bulbs, like hyacinths, will give you an added pleasure with its great fragrance.

* Brighten up the home: Dark winter colors like red, dark green and purple need to be lightened up with their pastel versions to brighten up your home environment. Consider pillows, café curtains and fresh flowers, which generate positive energy—sorry artificial flowers won’t do it.

* Start something: Look forward to a weekly theme get-together with friends like book clubs, exercise clubs, art parties and cooking clubs. Try "girls" or "boys" nights in.

* Start your spring cleaning early: Clean out a drawer, a closet, your basement, garage or all of the above and watch your spirit soar. You will discover new space and feel liberated. Home will become a more serene, purer place to nest as opposed to being stuck in a cluttered mess.

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of "Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life", "Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout" and "Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul," a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City, produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com.

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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.

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