Christmas has passed and a New Year has begun. The celebrations and festivities are over and all that is left are dreary, cold days. The lack of warmth, sunshine, and holiday merriment can certainly lead to depression. Today, let’s look at ways for avoiding the winter blues.
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Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. The research for this post was prompted by my desire to help a family member.
Many studies show that people who exercise regularly will have a more positive mood and lower rates of depression. When you work out, your body releases endorphins which improve your mood gives you higher self-esteem, you feel more energetic, feelings of stress are reduced, and your sleep improves. Not to mention exercise will help get your body ready for swimsuit season, which will thankfully be here before we know it!
So you know that exercise is good for you but actually getting started can be difficult!
It is easier if you have someone who is supportive and willing to work out with you. Get your significant other, family member, best friend, or even your kids to help get your heart pumping every day.
- join a gym
- have a dance party with your kids
- clean your home (mopping, vacuuming, and carrying laundry baskets all have the potential to break a sweat!)
- go for a quick walk around your block–even if the weather isn’t nice the fresh air and exercise will help you immensely!
- yoga–join a class or do an at-home video
- invest in a treadmill or elliptical
- buy a Fitbit or Vivofit (I love mine!) and set daily goals
Figure out which of these activities you are most likely to enjoy, grab the closest person that doesn’t annoy you, and start exercising!
If you don’t think you have the motivation to stick to an exercise routine find a way to reward yourself. For example, pay yourself a dollar every time you work out to help you save up for something special. Or, only allow yourself to watch Netflix while you’re on the treadmill. Or, don’t allow yourself to check Facebook until you’ve walked around the block or broken a sweat.
When you don’t feel the greatest it’s easy to grab convenient and unhealthy food. But if you’ve got the winter blues, this is a bad move. Not only will you gain weight but you could also be depleting your body of nutrients that would naturally boost your mood.
Eating a diet that is rich in antioxidants and highly nutritious can help fight depression. Of course, eating plenty of vegetables and fruits every day is a great source of vitamins. Here are some more tips for eating healthy:
- eat complex carbs (beans, whole wheat bread, oatmeal) as opposed to simple carbs (white bread, cookies, soda, sugary cereals).
- eat protein-rich foods
- include Omega-3 fatty acids (fish, flaxseed, nuts, dark green leafy vegetables)
- avoid alcohol and caffeine– can trigger anxiety and interrupt sleep
If you’re anything like me, eliminating caffeine (coffee) from your diet is pretty much impossible. If that is the case, limit yourself to 1-2 cups in the morning and cut yourself off at noon.
Lack of sunshine is a huge cause of depression and winter blues. People that live farther north are much more likely to have seasonal depression than those that live closer to the equator.
Getting enough sunshine can be difficult and even impossible on some days. Especially if you leave for work before the sun comes up and come home after it has already set. If this is the situation you are in it might be helpful to invest in a light therapy box. Research shows that sitting by one for thirty minutes in the morning could drastically improve your mood. These are more commonly used in Canada and Alaska during the winter months.
Make sure you are going outside on sunny days, even if it is cold. Standing next to a window or driving in a car isn’t going to be enough. If you are worried about your lack of sunshine exposure ask your doctor about taking vitamin D supplements.
If you are feeling blue, then you are either not sleeping at all or sleeping all day and having a hard time getting out of bed. Neither of these is healthy.
I’ve already talked about sleep in the above sections. Here’s a quick recap:
- eat healthily
- avoid alcohol and caffeine
- use light therapy to help your internal clock stay in a normal routine
Another tip is to make your bed when you wake up in the morning. If your bed is made you’ll be less likely to crawl back in it later.
Another way to avoid the winter blues is to keep your sleep schedule consistent. Make sure to give yourself 7 – 9 hours of sleep every night. Try to go to bed at the same time every night; try to wake up around the same time every morning.
Spending time with friends and loved ones will keep your spirits high. Doing things you love and hobbies will help the winter months pass by faster. Regularly plan activities that you enjoy so you have something to look forward to.
Here are a few winter activities that might actually cause you to look forward to the colder months:
- ice skating
- find an indoor swimming pool to enjoy on a regular basis
- build a greenhouse and grow your favorite produce or flowers during the winter
- make a bonfire for warmth and get outside and enjoy the sunshine!
- play in the snow: snowball fight, make snow angels, build a snowman, make an igloo/snow fort
- make hot chocolate and take a brisk walk through a park
- hang a bird feeder outside your windows
- go on a winter picnic with blankets and hot soup in a thermos
- take a mini-vacation to a cozy cabin with a hot tub
As you can see, there are ways we can help our emotional state and avoid the winter blues.
What’s your favorite winter activity?
I am not a health professional. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice, or delay seeking it, because of something you have read on this website. Never rely on the information on this website in place of seeking professional medical advice. Please read our medical disclaimer.
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