'Tis the season. Literally. The fun and joyous, yet hectic and stressful, holidays are over and winter is really settling in for good. Daylight is in short supply, and blustery weather may make it difficult for you to get out and enjoy some quality outdoor time. Many people get the winter blues each season and find it difficult to combat the feeling of depression that often accompanies.
So what can you do to relieve your winter blues?
See the Light
A lot of what is happening to your body and your mood has to do with the lack of daylight outside. It's dark when you leave for work, it's dark when you come home. That can disrupt your body's circadian rhythms and cause a drop in serotonin and vitamin D levels, which can lead to depressive symptoms.
So when you're up and about, make sure you're doing things to position yourself where you can get as much real light as possible. Open your blinds and curtains and sit closer to windows to get an extra dose of sunshine. Trim back tree branches to let more light in if you have to. Just remember to wear your sunscreen, even though you're indoors. The sun's UV rays will still affect you just the same.
Still not getting enough light? Spending 30 minutes a day sitting next to a light box, an artificial light that simulates daylight, can help to replace some of that daylight that you're craving. It can be just as effective as antidepressant medication.
Eat Better For Winter
Don't get sucked into the beige diet. Candy and carbohydrates from cookies, bread, and pasta will make you feel much worse when your blood sugar crashes.
Eat plenty of fish, especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, lake trout, sardines, or albacore tuna, three to five times a week to help boost your mood. Get plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, which can leave you feeling optimistic. Eat at least one egg (including yolk) a day to help regulate nerve function and metabolism, important in keeping your energy levels stable. Try some of these foods to help ease your winter blues.
Enjoy cocoa! Really. Make homemade hot chocolate using natural cocoa powder (non dutched) because it's high in heart-healthy and mood-boosting flavonoids. Chocolate has been shown to improve moods and help relieve anxiety. When you make it with fortified milk you also get a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and vitamin D to help you relax at bedtime. The feeling of "spoiling yourself" with this treat also gives you something to look forward to!
Get Up and Going
Research tells us that exercise is a great way to help deal with, and possibly even prevent, depression. It doesn't need to be crazy; even just simply walking for 30 minutes can have a significant impact on your mood. Try an indoor volleyball game at a community gym, even just dancing around your living room; anything you do to get moving can positively affect your mood.
Even better? DO IT OUTSIDE! Winter sports like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are great, but you don't have to go all out. Taking a quick hike through the woods or playing with your dog in the snow counts. The fresh air will do you good!
Remember: Any activity that gets you moving is going to be beneficial to your mood!
Pamper Your Skin
Depression, even if it's seasonal, can bring with it all sorts of feelings of negative thoughts, including those directed at yourself and your image. Remember, you're just as beautiful now as you were last spring, but we understand the need for action. Get your favorite friends together and treat yourself to a spa day. Go full-out with massage, facial, mani-pedis, the works!
A little too out of your comfort zone? Invest in quality skin care products you can use every day at home to combat the harsh winter conditions your skin is subjected to. Products that utilize probiotic technology are perfect for the occasion, as they have the ability to rebalance your skin's microbiome and fight inflammation.
A full skin regimen should consist of:
- A gentle cleanser
Jam to Some Tunes
Studies show that listening to upbeat music can improve mood, both short term and long. Even just 12 minutes can really do the trick! Turn on that radio and rock out for a few minutes every day. Even better . . . .get up and DANCE!
You may be more inclined to spend time alone, but don't. Spending time with friends and loved ones can have a seriously positive impact on your mood. There doesn't have to be a reason to get your friends together and have an evening of camaraderie. Planning an event will give you something to look forward to and being social can elevate your mood. Do a dinner party, game night, or cheese tasting.
Just don't stress too much about putting things together. No one really cares what your house looks like or that you forgot to order the pizza on time.
Seasonal depression isn't anything to laugh at. It can be a very real downer for many people, but with a little shift in your routine and outlook, you can help to better your mood. If you're still having trouble combatting symptoms, don't hesitate to seek help from someone like your health care provider or counselor.