As soon as the outdoor air starts warming up, many of us are ready to break out our short sleeves, spend time in the sunshine, and start some spring cleaning. Spring tends to foster energy and optimism, but sometimes, it’s not that easy. The overwhelm of balancing family, career, and keeping up financially can make it difficult to notice and appreciate everyday blessings and joys. If you find that springtime is still feeling heavy and seasonal depression lingers, this article is for you.
Find Simple, Everyday Opportunities to Smile
Sometimes, the hardest joys to find are those hidden in everyday life. The trick is to add a bit of wonder to each day. Here are a few ideas for uplifting your mood over a typical week in the spring.
- Open your windows on warm days. Fresh air is not only good for your body but your brain and psyche as well. Researchers found that time in fresh air physically improves brain structure while boosting mood. They surmised that exposure to fresh air also likely affected concentration, working memory, and overall sense of wellness. 
- Get some fresh flowers or a potted plant. Studies have shown health benefits from being in the presence of fresh flowers. These benefits include feeling more relaxed and less stressed. It’s no surprise that stress can adversely affect health, and flowers serve as a simple and delightful remedy!  The presence of certain plants can also help clean the air, lower an elevated heart rate, and support recovery from illness.   A study also showed that viewing flowers and plants helped patients recovering from abdominal surgery. Those who had plants in their hospital rooms required fewer pain meds and had better physiological responses. Researchers noted that those with plants and flowers nearby had lower blood pressure and heart rate and less pain, anxiety, and fatigue. They also had more positive feelings and were generally more content. 
- Turn on a nostalgic movie you haven’t seen in a while. Did you know that a feeling of nostalgia or reminiscing about old times has proven health benefits? Engaging in nostalgia has been shown to help those with dementia, grief, and even immigrants struggling to feel at home in their new country.    Feelings of nostalgia are associated with feelings of social connectedness, meaning in life, optimism, self-esteem, and positive affect.
- Treat yourself to a bubble bath. Bathing in a tub, as opposed to showering, has been shown to have notable health benefits, including better general and mental health and reduced feelings of stress, anxiety, hostility, and depression. It also improves blood flow and metabolic waste elimination.  Adding some essential oils enhances the experience!
- Take a walk to get your body moving. Studies have shown that exercise dramatically supports mental health, including increased life satisfaction, cognitive function, and psychological well-being.  Some studies even show that exercise does more for mental health than counseling or medications. All types of physical activity were beneficial, so if you prefer more structure, try resistance training, Pilates, or yoga. 
- Have some chocolate. Yes, really. Cacao beans, which chocolate is made of, have impressive health benefits. Find out more about that in this Quick Tip with Dr. Flynn. Just remember—keep that chocolate pure and sugar-free. Try some of our recipes to get your cacao in!
Get adjusted. Inflammation and mental health are connected. One of the ways that inflammation can be triggered in the body is through the physical stress of a misaligned spine. One simple way to release physical stress impacting your mood and emotional state is to get adjusted by a chiropractor.
It can take some brainstorming to figure out how to make your everyday life happy and adventurous.
Make a Day of It!
There’s something undeniably fun about a day specifically planned to do something out of the ordinary. The good news is that “out of the ordinary” doesn’t have to break the bank or be an all-day thing. You don’t have to go far to uplift your mood or make memories. Here are a few ideas to embrace the day and raise your vibe.
Be a Tourist in Your Hometown
Sometimes, just deviating from the norm is enough to have fun.
- Drive down a road you’ve never been on.
- Get lost in your hometown and find your way back to somewhere you know.
- Try a new restaurant
- Find local historical markers and learn some history of where you live
- Go to your town’s visitor’s bureau website and discover some local highlights you never knew existed!
Explore the ordinary in a new way and cultivate a new appreciation for it. After all, gratitude is excellent for your health!
Learn a new skill.
Learning something new helps the brain grow and change and establish new pathways.  It also beats boredom, increases motivation, and can be used to benefit others, which also supports health! 
Try your hand at artistic endeavors like drawing, painting, or calligraphy, or a craft like sewing, knitting, or beading. Learn a new language or take a dance class. There are so many things you can do! Check your local community education classes to see which ones they’re offering.
Be patient with yourself—you won’t be good the first time you do something, but as you get better, you start developing new neuropathways, improving your skills, and creating a better brain.
Try a new recipe.
This one is especially good if the day is rainy and dreary and you want to stay inside. Put on some uplifting music and try out a new recipe.
Trying a new recipe solo will help grow your mind in the ways mentioned above. Trying it with a significant other or family can build teamwork, foster trust, and train little ones on how to follow directions.
The accomplishment that comes from finishing a project and making something helps support happiness. Cooking and baking, in particular, have been shown to help both mood and psychosocial outcomes.  
Get outside and Breathe in some fresh air.
Go for a picnic on a warmer day (maybe with food you prepared together!) or explore walking trails. Try finding a new playground, starting a garden, or geocaching if you’re looking for more of an event. Either way, getting outside and exploring is a great way to support mood and brain health!
You can also take it a step further and learn a new sport as a family. Basketball, soccer, or kickball can be fun for all ages. You could also try more challenging sports like parkour and free running if you have older kids.
Visit a sauna.
Saunas have amazing health benefits! Spend time in a sauna—especially an infrared sauna—and your body will thank you! A study in 2016 shows that sauna therapy significantly decreases mental stress.  We also know saunas support natural detoxification, lowering physical stress on the body. A release of physical or mental stress helps your body maintain health. A decrease in both is even better! You can find a sauna at your local YMCA, day spa, or friend’s house!
Spring can sometimes feel like a frustrating in-between stage. Winter doesn’t want to loosen its hold, and summer is dragging its feet to arrive. While it can be more challenging to find joy this time of year, there’s lots you can do! Even something as simple as an open window or a vase of pretty flowers can work to hasten the warmer days of summer. Hold tight! Summertime is just around the corner!
- Spending time outdoors has positive effect on our brains: ScienceDaily
- The physiological and psychological relaxing effects of viewing rose flowers in office workers: Journal of Physiological Anthropology
- A Study of Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement: NASA
- Effects of Horticultural Therapy on Mood and Heart Rate in Patients Participating in an Inpatient Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program: Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention
- Effects of Flowering and Foliage Plants in Hospital Rooms on Patients Recovering from Abdominal Surgery: HortTechnology
- Psychological and Mnemonic Benefits of Nostalgia for People with Dementia: PubMed
- The past as a resource for the bereaved: nostalgia predicts declines in distress: Taylor & Francis Online
- Nostalgia and Biculturalism: How Host-Culture Nostalgia Fosters Bicultural Identity Integration: Sage Journals
- Physical and Mental Effects of Bathing: A Randomized Intervention Study: PubMed
- Exercise for the treatment of depression and anxiety: PubMed
- Exercise more effective than medicines to manage mental health, study shows: ScienceDaily
- How the brain changes when mastering a new skill: ScienceDaily
- The mind-body benefits of learning a new skill: Piedmont
- Feeling Down? Scientists Say Cooking and Baking Could Help You Feel Better: Smithsonian Magazine
- Psychosocial Benefits of Cooking Interventions: A Systematic Review: PubMed
- Whole-Body Hyperthermia for the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial: PubMed