As the days tick by and our anticipation of spring grows, we may feel hopeful that we’ve survived the worst of the unforgiving winter. However, at the same time, we can become weary of the cold and snow, heavy coats and gloomy days. The winter blues affects about one in four of us – mainly those who live in the Northern states.
Weather has a noticeable impact on mood, and winter can seem to last too long, depending on where you live. You may feel lethargic, unmotivated, irritable and lonely – choosing high-carb foods and lounging on the couch too much. Typically, many of these symptoms tend to dissipate as the days get longer, sunnier and warmer.
Beating the winter blues is possible with some effort and commitment. Read on to find out how to improve your outlook until the onset of spring.
- Get outside – Too much time indoors can feel suffocating and lead to cabin fever, and fresh air benefits everyone. Take in the sunlight whenever you can, as it helps reset the body’s circadian rhythms; regulate levels of serotonin, melatonin and Vitamin D; and provides a boost to mood. Even if it’s not sunny, however, spend time outdoors each day.
Granted, it probably will be cold, so dress in several layers and keep moving. Walk the dog, hit the slopes, go ice skating, take a walk at lunch or ride your bike (if there is no snow and ice). Even just shoveling snow gets you breathing hard and can be invigorating. Plus, by heading out, you gain a sense of control, rather than feeling like you’re a victim to the weather.
- Exercise – Whether indoors or outside, exercise provides mood-enhancing endorphins, decreases stress and increases energy. For best results, incorporate cardio, strength and flexibility work for a total of 3-6 workouts each week. You can exercise at home, but hitting the gym delivers valuable variety and social opportunities that can help beat the winter blues as well. The key is to move your body often to feel better.
- Invite the light – Even if it’s not sunny, letting in the natural light is helpful. Open the blinds and curtains at home, put your desk near a window, add a skylight and trim trees or bushes that block the sun. Replace light bulbs with those that replicate natural light.
- Eat healthy – While comfort foods such as heavy soups, hearty casseroles and rich desserts tend to be appealing during cold weather, they can leave you feeling tired and a few pounds heavier if eaten consistently. Choose healthier, lighter options, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, whole-grain breads and pastas, poultry and fish and low-fat dairy. Limit processed foods and drink plenty of water for better energy and a more balanced outlook.
- Reach out – It’s easy to feel down when you isolate yourself at home alone. Although it may be difficult when you are depressed, try volunteering for a local organization that you support, participate in church activities, enroll in a class or join a book club. Or attend events of interest at the community library, museum or recreation centers.
- Seek help if necessary – If nothing you try seems to alleviate your depression, talk with your doctor or a therapist for more treatment options, including counseling, light therapy and medication. You can also try meditation, journaling and reading self-help books.
Stay fueled with the tips above to beat those winter blues.