Winter officially began last month, but the holiday hustle-bustle kept us occupied. Now that January is here, you're more likely to notice the shorter days, longer nights, and colder weather.

It's called the winter blues and lots of people suffer them. Here are eight ways to stay upbeat until the first day of spring.

1. Call a Friend

Being social keeps you positive. Make it a point to do something social once a week. Meet someone for lunch, plan a lady's night out, or simply pick up the phone and call an old friend.

2. Plan an Activity

Make plans to do something you can look forward to. A weekend getaway or a weeklong vacation breaks up the winter monotony. Purchase tickets to a play, concert or other event coming to town. Counting down to something fun on the calendar lifts your spirits.

3. Exercise Your Way

There's obviously a reason why exercise is the number one New Year's resolution. Exercise releases endorphins, chemicals in the brain that trigger a positive feeling. Studies prove that exercise is a great tonic for battling depression.

But you don't have to join a fitness club this month just because everyone else is. The key is finding an exercise that you enjoy. Walking, biking, yoga, gardening — anything that stretches your muscles and gets the heart pumping counts.

4. Get Outdoors

If you can't beat the cold weather, join it! Bundle up, brave the elements and try an outdoor activity. Walking through a snow-covered forest is peaceful; breathing the crisp air is exhilarating. Try a winter activity like ice skating, cross-country skiing or sledding.

5. Eat Healthy

You're more likely to munch sweets and make comfort food in the winter months. A good casserole and homemade chocolate chip cookies are fine when consumed in moderation. But stock the refrigerator with fruits and vegetables.

Look for year-round area farmer's markets where you can purchase fresh items. If fresh fruits and vegetables aren't available, the frozen options to thaw or steam are perfectly fine substitutes.

6. Light Up Your Life

Lack of light brings anyone's mood down after a while. Open the blinds on sunny winter days to let the brightness shine in. On gray days, mimic some sunlight of your own. Sun lamps and full spectrum bulbssimulate the sun's natural rays.

Many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that occurs in the fall and continues through the winter months. Symptoms include depression, hopelessness, loss of energy and anxiety. It's normal to feel down at times. But see a doctor if your symptoms continue for days and your motivation to do things you normal enjoy decreases significantly.

7. Treat Yourself

A manicure, pedicure, bouquet of flowers, or new piece of jewelry. Indulge in a purchase or activity that's just for you — and don't feel guilty for doing so!

8. Try Something New

Have you always wanted to learn photography, pottery or how to decorate cakes? In the spirit of the New Year, try a new activity. Community centers and town recreation departments offer a variety of adult classes that are fairly inexpensive and lots of fun.

Winter is only long if you let it be. Turn a new leaf this year and spring will arrive before you know it!