Winter is upon us and here in Michigan, as well as many other places, that usually means colder temperatures, fewer daylight hours, holiday season stress, and sometimes grumpy moods. Occasionally, these bad moods are a symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression that relates to changes in the seasons, typically beginning in fall and continuing through winter. Sometimes they are just a result of frustration at everything that comes with winter, like longer commute times and heavy snowfall.
Here are 13 things to do in order to keep moods up during these dreaded winter months.
1. Stay active. Although it is unbearably cold in many places, consider winterizing your workout. That means to dress the part if you're going outside (treat yourself to a new workout outfit), or perhaps get a gym membership for these few months. And while it is so dreaded, shoveling snow is a great workout for the day.
2. Eat healthy. Eating healthy ensures you are getting essential nutrients as well as vitamins and minerals. When you are eating healthy and keeping up on your workout regimen your brain releases hormones directly related to happiness. Eating healthy and staying active are ways to ensure you don't gain those pesky winter pounds which often lead to unhappiness and lower self-esteem.
3. Shop smarter, not harder. I put this one in here because long lines and crowds can be the cause of a lot of stress. Don't shop in the middle of the day or late afternoon. These are peak times for crowds. Remember many of the same deals that are found in store can be found online too. Make a list and stick to it, only put things on it within budget and don't buy things not on the list; impulse buying can really hurt your wallet.
4. Find a winter activity you enjoy. Activities such as skiing, ice skating, snowboarding or sledding are great ways to stay active as well as enjoy the season.
5. Take a moment to enjoy your surroundings. Winter is a lovely season and snow and ice can truly be beautiful. Open the blinds in your home and office to light up the space and enjoy the view.
6. Find a hobby or something inside to enjoy, too. I've mentioned finding outdoor winter activities to enjoy but with most of our time being spent indoors, it’s essential to find something indoors we like to do as well. Read a book that has been on your list, watch a movie, snuggle up next to the fire, play cards, learn how to knit, find a new favorite soup to cook. This might also be the right time to clean your house or organize your closet, if you’ve been putting it off.
7. Stay in touch. Keeping in touch with friends is difficult during the winter because of the holiday season but do your best to keep in touch. If you cannot go out, make an effort to call and if you do have plans do your best to not cancel because of bad weather.
8. Reconnect with your family. People are busy and while the holiday season seems to go so fast, take a minute and enjoy it. Younger kids are out of school and college kids are typically home for a month. Why not spend this time and enjoy it together as a family? You can decorate the Christmas tree - this is something my sister and I always do together, or bake cookies, make an effort to have family dinner, go to or watch a movie together, or play a game of euchre. There are so many things that can be enjoyed with family. Use the winter months and holiday season to reconnect with each other.
9. Do something for yourself! When you are feeling stressed or you have made it through the stressful holiday season do something for yourself. Watch your favorite movie, enjoy a drink or a night out, enjoy a nice cup of warm hot cocoa next to the fireplace, or take a nap on the couch if that’s what you want to do.
10. Go to the doctor. I say this because so many of us are bad about going to the doctor. However, I suggest getting a blood test to check your vitamin levels, especially your B vitamins and Vitamin D. A small dose of vitamin D has been used to treat mild depression and is hard to get in the winter without exposure to sunlight. Low levels of Vitamin B6 and B12 can result in low energy – when our energy is low we can be sure we are not feeling our best, and a supplement may be necessary.
11. Get enough sleep. Sleep is an essential part of making sure you feel your best. Aim to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, and try to make your bedtime and waking time consistent in order for your sleep patterns to normalize.
12. Use a blue light. It has been shown that 20 to 30 minutes of blue light therapy every morning can help in lifting your mood during the winter months because it mocks outdoor light and causes a chemical change in your brain.
13. Use our symptom checker. Our symptom checker is a great tool you can use to see if your “winter blues” are truly that or could be something more, such as SAD or depression.
Remember winter and the holiday season only come once a year. So while it may be cold, snowy and stressful, try your best to get through it with a smile by planning ahead, shopping smart, getting enough sleep, eating healthy, staying active, and staying social. Without winter it would be hard to fully appreciate the other three seasons we are so lucky to get!
If you can't seem to get out of your “winter blues” make an appointment to talk with an Eltilla counselor today!
Written by Stephanie Dosser