If you listen to certain Debbie Downers, today is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year, aka Blue Monday. Why? Cardiff University experts say it's a combination of the time since the holidays, weather, low motivation, debt (holiday bills...eek!) and recently failed resolutions. One of the best ways to boost your mood: Exercise. "Many people would agree that they feel better—mentally and emotionally—after any workout, compared to when they started," says Martica Heaner, Ph.D., a nutritionist, exercise physiologist and obesity researcher. "Plus there's a psychological component. If you planned to fit in a run and actually made it happen, you can be proud that you successfully achieved a task." Heaner, a fitness instructor at New York Sports Clubs, designed a 50-minute cross-training class specifically designed to help you ditch the seasonal doldrums. The first 30 minutes of the "Lighten Up" class involves high-intensity cardio designed to release mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in participants' brains. For the final 20, those in the class will catch their breath and destress with meditation and bright light therapy (which has been shown to help some regulate their sleep patterns). Individuals near a New York, Boston, Washington D.C. or Philadelphia Sports Club can take advantage of the class starting January 23 through mid-February. (For class schedules, visit mysportsclubs.com. And as a bonus, all My Sports Clubs locations are allowing members to bring a guest free today. That'll lift your spirits!) But if you can't make it to a Lighten Up class, here are three other fit activities Heaner recommends to help you beat Blue Monday:
- A long run outside. The repetition helps you "reach a meditative state," according to Heaner, and the fresh air and sunlight can perk you up.
- Zumba class. Fun, joyful movements and music lift your spirits.
- A yoga session. You can tune into your body, reflect mindfully and loosen up tight muscles.
"Your mood may be enhanced for different reasons for different activities, but what's important is that you keep doing it," Heaner says. "If you stop, the physiological and psychological benefits do as well."
Now tell us: What's your go-to mood booster?