This is the second Monday morning in a row that I've woken to grey, overcast skies and fog. Saying I didn't want to get out of bed is an understatement — I literally flung myself from the pillows, scaring my cats. It's bad enough to deal with these short days, with so little light, but when the little sunshine that might get through is blocked by clouds, I admit to some version of despair.

But I also know that as much as a lack of light can impact mood, and as significant as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD can be, there are ways to fight the crummy moods that are inherent to short grey days. You can not only change your mood temporarily; practicing being more optimistic can impact your long-term health — happier people live longer lives (optimism might even be more important for longevity than health). Here's what I do when the grey days seem unending (and it's only December):

Start a new project: It seems counterintuitive, but I've found that starting a new, engaging project can really help take my focus away from negativity, cure boredom, and basically distract me from the effects of the short, cold days. So if there's something that you've kind of wanted to do, either at home or at work, consider this a great time to dive into it; at the very least start making lists, plotting timelines and gathering resources. I did this last winter and it turned into a fantastic, hands-on craft project that is now a real focus of my work. Refocusing yourself on something that you're at least somewhat excited about can go a long way towards alleviating ennui.

Exercise: Even though it seems like the last thing you want to do, do it. Trick yourself ("You only have to walk for 20 minutes" gets me out the door, and I swear that's all I'm going to do. But once I'm out and about, I always end up running or going for a longer walk) or bargain with yourself — whatever works. And try to get your heart rate up fairly high for at least five minutes of your workout (which could be spread out or concentrated) to get those endorphins going.

Eat fresh fruits and veggies: Even though you want to eat comforting junk foods, they will only make you feel worse — and way more sluggish — in the long run. A big salad of fresh greens with other veggies and some protein (egg, tofu or meat, if you eat it) and a big mug of green tea will lift your mood more than your favorite grease-bomb will.

Crank your favorite music: I wrote on Facebook about how this morning would have been unbearable unless I had listened to two of my favorite artists. When I get really desperate and can't bear my own whining in my head anymore, I drown it out with musicians who express what I feel (anger, sadness, frustration) or sometimes, where I'd like to be (calm, beautiful, relaxed). Either way, I end up feeling better — and sometimes dancing, which always helps!

Cry: Sometimes it just works to give in to your negative feelings and just be with them, indulge in their ridiculousness (and your own) and let it out. There's all kinds of psychological data that says crying is incredibly cathartic and works as an emotional release. So duck out from work and take a walk in the rain or snow and just do it; head to the roof of your building, or leave work early and make time to just let whatever your feeling come out. Once you've cried, wipe your eyes, tidy yourself up, make a warm mug of tea (I always get dehydrated from crying) and move on. If anyone told you it's wrong to cry, or that you should be ashamed of it, they are wrong.

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

5 ways to get optimistic during the year's darkest days
The days are short, and sunlight is at its lowest levels. If you suffer from seasonal depression, here are simple ways to get some your happy going.