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Winter is a tough time for many people. For some it’s the lack of sunlight and warmth, but for others it’s the long nights and isolation that can be difficult to cope with. Whatever your reason may be, there are plenty of ways you can beat those winter blues.
What are the Winter Blues?
The winter blues are a type of depression that is typically brought on by the lack of sunlight and warmth during the winter months.
This type of depression is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). No one really knows why seasonal affective disorder occurs although there is some thought that it is related to disruptions to your biological clock, serotonin levels, and/or melatonin levels. SAD symptoms can include:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, demoralized or anxious for no apparent reason
- Low energy
- Problems with sleep (both insomnia and oversleeping)
- Loss of interest in things or activities you previously enjoyed
- Difficulty concentrating
It’s important to know if you have these feelings because this form of depression may need treatment with medication or other interventions in order to feel better.
The winter blues typically dissipate when the sunny days of spring and summer arrive. But, in the meantime, there are several things you can try to beat the winter blues.
10 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues
Regulate Your Sleep
One way to beat the winter blues is to regulate your sleep schedule. This will help your body to adjust to the changing seasons, maintain your natural circadian rhythm, and make it easier for you to get up in the morning. Sleep, in general, is very important for staying healthy. Even more so when combatting illness, stress, etc. Here are some tips for regulating your sleep schedule:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
- Keep your room dark, quiet, and cool
- Create an evening routine to help your body wind down for the night
Get More Sun and Natural Light
When indoors, open the shades, sit near windows, and do whatever else you can to allow more sunlight into your environment. And, of course, you can always get outside. Sunlight provides a boost of vitamin D and causes your brain to release serotonin, considered the feel-good hormone, which helps to reduce depression and anxiety. People with good levels of serotonin tend to feel happier, more focused, and more emotionally stable. Exposure to natural light also helps to regulate your body’s internal clock, boost mood, and improve your energy levels.
For serious cases of SAD, look into light therapy. This involves sitting in front of a light box that mimics daylight for about 30 minutes a day. It has shown to be effective on people with symptoms from SAD and is one of the recommended therapies by doctors. Light boxes, or light therapy lamps, have become much more reasonably priced than they used to be so it could be worth getting one.
Besides getting more sun, going outside allows you to breath fresh air, get in a little exercise, and escape the possibly stuffy confines of being indoors. Take a scenic walk, go on a picnic, or check your local paper or meetup groups for outdoor activities that may be happening.
Create a Cozy Environment
Being cold can make you feel more depressed and there is nothing worse, in my opinion, than sitting in a cold room staring out the window at a cold environment. Make your area as cozy as possible. Use warm colors, light some candles with scents such as vanilla or cinnamon (or my personal favorite by Tyler Candle Company, Homecoming), light a fire in the fireplace, soft lighting, etc. Then curl up on the couch with a blanket, a good book, and a hot beverage.
Eat Something Delicious and Nutritious
There are many different reasons that might cause these symptoms to appear but one of them is lack of vitamin D in the body. Lack of vitamin D causes serotonin levels to drop which would lead to an increase in depressive symptoms because serotonin helps regulate your moods and emotions. Eating healthy foods like fruits and vegetables will help boost vitamin D levels in your system which will provide a natural boost for this time period when it is difficult for some people to make themselves feel good about anything else besides their food.
Get Plenty of Exercise
It’s no secret that exercise is good for your body and mind, but did you know that it can also help to beat the winter blues?
Exercise releases endorphins, which are hormones that have a mood-boosting effect. They can help to improve your mood and make you feel happier. In addition, exercise helps to increase your energy level and combat fatigue. Just 10 minutes can be enough to boost your spirits. When you’re feeling down, getting out and moving around can be just what you need.
Spend Time with Loved Ones
Spending quality time with loved ones, both friends and family, can help combat the depression that comes with the winter blues by providing a sense of connection and support. When we feel isolated or disconnected, our mood can worsen. Conversely, when we spend time with the people we care about, our mood tends to improve. This is because we feel seen and supported by the people we love, which helps to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Start a New Hobby/Learn Something New
It’s hard to be focused on the winter blues when your mind is occupied with learning something new or you are participating in a hobby. Is there something you have always wanted to learn? Or a hobby you have always wanted to try? During the winter months we tend to be cooped up indoors for extended periods of time. It’s the perfect time to learn something new and get out of your head.
Get Creative and Write Your Winter Blues Away in a Journal
Sometimes the best form of therapy is a simple one. Writing or Journaling has been known to help clear the mind and allow you to release all your feelings. This emptying of yourself onto the page can help you feel fresh and like you can start over. I have always been a big fan of journaling and I highly recommend you try it for yourself.
Get Away Someplace Warm and Sunny
While this option can’t be done by everyone, if you have the means and the time, consider taking a break in the middle of winter and go someplace warm and sunny. This can help break up the cold, darker days and give you a boost of bright light and help you feel energized for coming weeks.
When to Seek Help from a Mental Health Professional
While many can cope with the winter blues just using the above tactics to manage the symptoms, some people need further intervention. If you feel this is you, know that it is ok and perfectly normal. Your mental health is one of the most important things you can care for. If you are experiencing major depression or any of the following symptoms, and nothing above seems to help, it is time to see a mental health professional for seasonal affective disorder:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, every day
- Having low energy or feeling fatigued all the time
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Eating more or less than usual
- Feeling hopeless or helpless about your situation
A doctor can help you in several ways including talk therapy, medication, and other tips to help you get through daily life and weather the storm until it passes.
Final Thoughts on the Winter Blues
When it comes down to it, what can help combat the winter blues the most, and keep your mental health in check, is getting outside more often and spending quality time with loved ones. The key is being proactive about how our brains work so that we can keep ourselves feeling good no matter. In the end, just know that SAD will pass. The warm, sunny days of spring are just around the corner. This, too, shall pass.