Beat the Winter Blahs

It usually hits when you’re washing off the last of your sparkly New Year’s Eve makeup: the post-holidays slump. You’re staring down gray, icy weather minus all the fun, festive celebrations. Luckily, these pick-me-ups are proven to raise the temps on your mood thermometer -- stat!

Bundle Up
It’s important to get outside -- yep, even in cold temps -- to keep feel-good vibes flowing. Nature can definitely amp up your mood, but the key is to move while you’re outdoors. Even just walking around for five minutes works! So make snow angels with your sis or take Fido for his walk. By the time you step back inside, you’ll feel better.

LOL -- A Lot!
Good news: YouTube is good for more than just wasting time. Its hilarious clips can leave you ROFL, and research shows that laughter’s an awesome way to get in a good mood fast. We know what you’re thinking: “Duh!” But here’s the thing: You have to get to “this is so funny I can’t not laugh” territory. So search for your favorite “iCarly” clips and watch, laugh, repeat!

Hit the Mall
New research proves shopping is an easy way to feel happier fast. (So that’s why they call it retail therapy!) Bonus: The study found that pulling out your wallet when you’re feeling blue doesn’t necessarily make you buy tons of stuff you’ll later regret. Try this: Get a couple of besties to come with and have fun trying out crazy outfits you know you’d never really wear on a day-to-day basis. It’s cheap and it’s a blast!

Strike a Pose
Yoga is one of the best ways to get your chillax on, according to studies. There are tons of inexpensive DVDs available to walk you through the basics, and on-demand TV often offers them for free. Work on your tree pose and you’ll feel more blissful faster than you can say, “Ommm.”

Lend a Hand
Volunteering not only helps someone else out, but also gives you a boost. Surveys show that people who give to others typically have happier lives. First, find something you’re into. Love planning parties? Use those super organizing skills to kick a can drive into gear. Is amazing cupcake-making your thing? Whip some up and have a bake sale for charity. Are you practically the dog whisperer? Clock quality time at your local animal shelter. Just don’t blame us when you have a smile plastered on your face afterward!

Nail That New Year’s Resolution

We’re the first to admit that making your New Year’s resolutions stick is seriously tough. But that doesn’t mean you should ditch ’em altogether. Instead, follow our simple plan for taking your 2012 plans from dreams to reality.

Step 1: Do a Reality Check
Look, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish. But there are some things you might not be able to pull off in a year. If you set your sights on something unrealistic, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Instead of vowing to save $1,000 -- a ton of money when you don’t even have a job yet -- focus on something you know you can do, like stuffing half your allowance in a piggy bank every week.

Step 2: Break It Into Chunks
So you’ve got a totally achievable goal -- like making awesome new friends. That’s great and all, but now what? Well, thinking about the result can be intimidating. Avoid psyching yourself out by busting it into manageable mini-goals. Finding your future BFF doesn’t seem so scary if you think of it as just friending a new kid on Facebook. Work up to writing something fun on her wall, then message her about a movie. Take tiny steps until a friendship gently unfolds.

Step 3: See It to Believe It
Research shows that the more you can see yourself getting closer to your goal -- literally -- the easier it is to stay motivated. Grab some poster board and draw a tall rectangle on it. Then hang it in your room and color in some of the rectangle every time you budge closer toward achieving your resolution. Having a visual record of your progress will make you feel awesome and keep you going.

Step 4: Pair off With a Pal
Find out if a friend has a similar resolution as you, then pinky-swear that you’ll help each other stay on track. Not only is it way easier to stay with the game plan when you have someone there for support, but you two can share any awesome pointers to help each other out. Score!

Step 5: Lighten Up!
You’re trying to improve -- not torture -- yourself. Even resolutions that seem like a bummer can be fun if you switch up your approach. Want to eat less junk food? Have a blast trying new healthful foods you might love. You’ve vowed to get more exercise? Don’t hop on the treadmill if you hate running -- sign up for a dance class instead. The best way to achieve any resolution is to actually enjoy yourself along the way!

What Do Your Dreams Mean?

Some pretty far-out things can happen after your head hits the pillow at night, right? Dreams can be magical, mysterious and at times even terrifying. But fear not: It’s just your subconscious mind trying to gab with you. We’ll help you get a clue.

Keep a Dream Diary
The only way to decipher what your dreams are trying to tell you is to remember them -- and that can be a toughie. So keep a journal and pen handy by your bed, then tell yourself before you go to sleep, “Don’t forget your dreams tonight.” As soon as your eyes pop open in the a.m. -- before you brush your teeth -- jot down anything you can recall: people, places, events, objects … whatever.

Let Your Dream Tell a Story
Grace, 15, recently had a dream in which she locked herself in a bathroom stall at school and wouldn’t come out. All of her classmates piled into the girls’ restroom, carrying on like circus performers. There were clowns, lion tamers, monkeys -- way more activity than could ever actually take place in that small space. Grace, in her dream, was on her cell phone trying to call her mom, but there was no answer.

Crack the Dream Code
So what did Grace’s dream mean? After journaling about it and giving it some thought, Grace figured it out. She’d recently been at the center of a nasty rumor, and the dream reflected her feelings about that. She’d felt trapped (locked in) by all the commotion (circus) the gossip had created, and she felt helpless (unable to get through on her cell). If you’re having trouble understanding what the elements of your dream represent, you can check a dream dictionary -- but first look for any personal meaning related to what’s going on in your life.

Dream up a Solution
The next night, before going to bed, Grace wrote in her diary, “I want to have a dream that helps me deal with this gossip situation.” Here’s what happened: This time in her dream, Grace was the star of the circus, but there was no audience. She was swinging on a flying trapeze while holding scissors -- with her toes. She soared back and forth, then did a theatrical triple-flip, clipping the cords to the trapeze swing as she did so. In that moment, the scissors disintegrated and her feet grew wings. She flew clear through the top of the circus tent and into the sky.

Find Freedom in Your Dreams
Grace found her peace inside this dream. She owned her power and decided to cut off any and all attention to the gossip that was going on around her at school. And guess what? Poof! The rumors quickly disappeared. So you see? Dreams can create real-life happy endings when you know how to read them.

The Three Times It’s OK to Gossip

So, we’ve all learned that gossiping is a total no-no. And if you’ve ever been on the not-so-nice side of the whispers and murmurs, you know how hurtful gossiping can be. But let’s be real -- it’s often just too hard to resist taking part in the “ooh’s” and “aah’s” of the rumor mill.

We hear ya, girl, loud and clear! Turns out, a lot of experts actually agree that taking the time to have some fun with a bit of banter can be great for easing stress and upping social skills. Yay! Not all gossip has to be negative. Here are the three times it’s OK to repeat the juicy deets. Under any other circumstances, keep your lips sealed!

Friendly Warning
Gossip can, at times, be used to help a friend or dole out some sincere advice to another person. For example: Is your bestie crushing on a bad boy whose rep is less than desirable? Remember, gossip can be deceiving, so you should def give the guy a chance. Get to know him one-on-one before forming an opinion. (Remember how everyone misjudged Jesse in Prom?) But if you have firsthand knowledge that a friend could be getting involved in a sticky situation, speak up!

Permission Slip
If you get a nod directly from the source to leak her biz to the masses, feel free to telecast her tidings. Say, for example, a girl in your crew wants you to publicly announce she’s got a date with the hottest guy in your neighborhood, or that she landed a spot on the summer cheer squad. There’s no foul play in dishing out the scoop. If there’s ever a moment when a friend wants to boast a bit about the happenings in her life via the grapevine, spread the word!

Celeb Chatter
Sometimes, joining in on the gab session can just be a bit of fun chit-chat to deliver the latest in entertainment news. Was there a sighting of your fave teen celebrity canoodling with another celeb? Did you hear that two on-screen divas are totally real-life frenemies? Go on and share the hot-off-the-press reports.

5 Things to Do Before School’s Out

Believe it or not, the school year is already starting to wind down -- and you wanna go out with a bang. Take a few positive risks and they could set you up for one phenomenal summer vacation (and maybe an even better start to next fall).

Talk to Your Crush
You’ve been admiring the cutie in math class all year, and he’s seriously disrupted your ability to understand linear equations. Even if you’re ultra-shy around this guy, take tiny steps to make your presence known. This can be as simple as borrowing a pencil or asking him if he had any trouble with last night’s homework. If you can’t full-on break the ice, at least start chiseling away at it -- you’ll get there!

Salvage a Bad Grade
An awesome score on a final exam can really pull a grade up, so don’t head into finals with only a vague idea of the subject matter. Teachers are happy to give you guidance, so ask for help. It may mean putting in a little extra time in the morning before school starts or after the final bell rings, but that mark on your report card will be worth the effort.

Stand up to the Mean Girl
Don’t wage an all-out war on the gal who’s been making your life difficult, but it’s time to step up. Next time this girl makes a snide comment, look her directly in the eye and confidently flash a smile. This will let her know that you aren’t intimidated by her -- and you’ll feel stronger for taking solid-but-subtle action.

Ask an Embarrassing Question
Personal questions about your changing body may make you blush, but if you have some concerns about your period or anything else that seems a bit different, make an appointment with your school nurse and put it all out there. You’ll feel 10 times better once you have an intimate Q answered.

Make a New Friend
Invite a casual acquaintance from class to go to the mall or just hang out at your house one afternoon. You chat in between classes, so why not take your friendship outside of school? Adding a new pal to your crew could open up lots of possibilities for the summer break, and by the time school resumes in the fall, you two might be super tight!