Winter is here, and as the days get shorter and the nights get colder, it is easy to feel a little down. Winter blues are characterized by mild depression, lack of motivation, and low energy that many people experience during the cold season. Here are some things you can do to prevent the blues from coming on and get yourself back to normal if they are already here:
Exercise is great for maintaining weight, staying healthy, and for relieving life’s stresses. Your metabolism stays elevated and you will have more energy throughout the day. Exercise also helps your mind by releasing those "feel good chemicals" that improve your mood.
What and when you eat affects mood and energy. Avoid refined and processed foods, like white breads, rice, and sugar. These foods decrease energy levels and affect mood, causing depression, lack of concentration, and mood swings.
Incorporate more complex carbohydrates in your diet, such as whole wheat breads, brown rice, veggies, and fruit, and drink 8 glasses of water a day. Healthy foods provide your body with nutrients and stabilize your blood sugar and energy levels.
Sunlight provides Vitamin D and can improve your mood. Winter days are shorter and darker than other months, and because of the cold weather, a lot of people spend less and less time outdoors. Lack of sunlight causes some people to become depressed. Similar to exercise, sunlight exposure releases neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood.
Spend a little more time outdoors. Keep your shades up during the day to let more light in. Sit near windows in restaurants and during class. Try changing the light bulbs in your house to "full spectrum" bulbs. These mimic natural light and actually have the same affects on your mind as the real thing.
A recent study from the CDC showed a strong link between healthy behaviors and depression. Women who exhibited healthy behaviors, like exercising, and not smoking, had less depressed days than those whose behaviors were less than healthy. Although researchers studied women, the results are likely similar in men.
Having something to look forward to can keep anyone motivated. Winter can seem endless, but if you plan something exciting, your mood may improve. Whether your plan a weekend trip, or a relaxing night out to dinner, enjoy the happiness it brings!
Work, class, family, friends, appointments, and meetings, even if you enjoy being busy, everyone needs some time off.
Spend a few minutes each day doing nothing. Read a book or magazine, sleep in on the weekend, go to bed early, try some meditations, or take a yoga class. Relaxation, especially in the form of yoga, can alleviate stress and leave you with a calm energy. Mental exercises, like meditation and positive thinking, can help keep depression at bay.
Instead of avoiding the cold and snow, look for the best it has to offer! Take up a winter sport like ice skating, snowboarding, hockey, or even sledding. Enjoy these opportunities while they last, after all, they are only here a few months per year. Staying active will boost your energy. Seeing winter in a positive light, with all the fun activities that it has to offer, will keep your spirits high.
When you are feeling down and need a pick-me-up, don’t underestimate the power of friends, family, mentors, co-workers, and neighbors. Ask for help or encouragement when you need it. A phone call, a chat over coffee, or an email can brighten your mood.
People naturally want to sleep more during the winter, but with a hectic schedule, sometimes sleep is the first thing to go. With a little time management and some self-discipline, you can meet your shut-eye needs. Aim for 7-8 hours each night, and keep bedtime and waking time consistent so sleeping patterns can normalize, which will increase your energy. Try not to oversleep though. Those 12-hour snoozes on the weekend can actually make you MORE tired. A short 10-30 minute afternoon nap may be all you need to re-energize.
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