There is so much I love about winter: cute comfy sweaters, warm bowls of soup, evenings spent by the fireplace, and the possibility of at least one snow day! Unfortunately, there is one thing about winter that I absolutely do not enjoy: the dreaded winter blues.
Many of us feel a very real change in our mood during the winter, and for good reason. By January, the world has been in full-on celebration mode since October. We’ve enjoyed the tricks and treats of Halloween, the feasts of Thanksgiving, the holiday cheer of the Christmas season, and the excitement of a brand new year. Then, the clock literally strikes midnight and all of sudden we are thrust into the stress of getting back into our normal routine while desperately trying to keep our New Year’s resolutions.
Is it any wonder we have the winter blues?
Some people have a much more serious medical diagnosis referred to as SAD (seasonal affective disorder), which is different than the winter blues.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) defines SAD as a “clinical diagnosis associated with the shortening of daylight hours. It impairs daily functioning over a significant period of time. A key feature of SAD is that it follows a regular pattern. It appears each year as the seasons change, and it goes away several months later, usually during the spring and summer”
If you believe you are experiencing seasonal affective disorder, don’t ignore your symptoms. Talk with your doctor.
The NIH regards the Winter Blues as more of a “general term, not a medical diagnosis. It’s fairly common, and it’s more mild than serious. It usually clears up on its own in a fairly short amount of time”.
So how can we get out of the gloom of the winter blues and get that much-needed boost in energy and a more positive outlook?
I often hear the phrase, “self-care is not selfish” – and it’s true. As a busy mother, it’s crucial for survival. I’ll be the first to admit that my schedule doesn’t always allow me to be very good at it, but it’s something that I’ve personally been working toward, especially in the winter months. So do what makes you smile. Spend time with friends, enjoy a date night, paint your nails a funky color, watch a comedy. Make filling your bucket a priority.
2. When the sun is out, do more outside.
There’s a good reason sunshine is associated with cheer. Serotonin, a mood-boosting hormone, is thought to be increased by sunlight. The right amount, in comfortable temperatures, will improve our mood and give us a sense of well-being. As a side note, the sun is one of the best sources of Vitamin D, and lower levels of Vitamin D have been linked to depression. What’s more, as I did the research for this post, I learned that individuals with darker skin naturally have lower levels of vitamin D. As an African American woman, this definitely gave me pause. Make it a point to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. For more information, check out this article about the psychological consequences of Vitamin D deficiency.
3. Eat nutritious food.
It’s no secret that what we put into our bodies affects our physical well-being. Research shows that diet is also closely tied to our emotional health. Whole grains, fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats, all contribute to a healthier body, both physically and mentally. Here is an interesting read about the link between diet and depression.
We’ve all heard of the runner’s high. I’ve personally never run long enough to experience it, but it has been said that exercise releases endorphins, which are “feel good” chemicals. The good news is, we don’t all have to turn into marathon runners to experience the benefits. Even low-intensity exercise for longer periods of time can help us feel better. For many of us, in spite of our new year’s resolutions, it’s difficult to get outside and exercise during the winter months. If you don’t have a gym membership, it makes it even harder. Try following along to a workout video at home, take up mall walking or have a dance party in your living room. Need more ideas? Here are 10 indoor at-home workouts that you might enjoy.
5. Stay connected.
Friendship matters – and I’m not talking about the 1200 friends we have on social media. Physically spending time with friends improves our mental well-being. Even hearing a friend’s voice by actually speaking to them over the phone (rather than texting) counts! I have been having a great time chatting with a mom friend lately through the Marco Polo app. Human beings were created for personal, physical connection. Here is a great article about the benefits of spending time with our pals. It’s one of the best things we can do for our health.