The Christmas holidays have come and gone and that sets us up for the winter blues, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and even depression. It’s the time of the year when it seems as though winter has overstayed its welcome, and spring and summer are too far from our reach. The temperatures are colder, the wind can be chilling, and there’s not enough sunlight – it can really leave you feeling down.
But you don’t have to let winter get the best of you. Fight off the blues with these easy tips (that don’t require bundling up and heading outdoors)…
1. Dress yourself happy
It seems too easy to mimic the current weather conditions when you’re getting dressed in the morning. It’s grey outside, so you feel grey and follow suit by wearing grey. See a pattern? If you want to get out of your “grey” funk, dress brighter.
The colors you choose to wear can impact your mood and how you feel.
Need an energy boost? Opt for red and violet, their bright hues make us feel more energetic. In a study of Olympic athletes, participants who wore a red jersey were more likely to win a gold medal in comparison to those who wore blue.
If springtime is your favorite season because it makes you happy, dress for spring. Greens and yellows evoke happiness as well as positive memories of being outdoors.
So before you pull on the same dark sweater, skip over the blues and blacks, and head over to the brighter side of your closet.
In the winter, we often turn to comfort food. We tend to limit our diets to starches, carbohydrates and sugar. The trouble is, these foods give us a boost, but then destroy our energy and make us feel bluer than before.
There are better ways to eat for mood control. First and foremost, enjoy lean meats, such as chicken or fish. Also, stock up on omega-3 fatty acids that you can get from foods such as salmon, walnuts, soybeans, squash and sweet peppers. The Mayo Clinic reports that omega-3 is essential for the brain and often prescribed to combat depression.
Other great food options are berries. Not only will they make you feel like you’re enjoying flavors from spring and summer, but they’re loaded with antioxidants. Berries also share a similar composition to valproic acid – an ingredient found in most mood-stabilizing drugs. By eating berries, you can boost your mood and keep it that way.
Another tip is to try and avoid artificial sugars. They’ll give you an initial artificial “high,” and then leave you with an energy crash. Research from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) suggests that too much sugar can actually change your brain and slow it down. If you’re already feeling down, sugar will only add to your low mood.
3. Throw a party
It’s hard not to feel great when you’re surrounded by good friends, good food and celebrating. So why not take the idea of having a party and use it as a means to stay happy through the winter?
You may be thinking, “I don’t have any occasion to celebrate.” Who cares! When have you needed a reason to call up some friends and family and enjoy each other’s company? Surrounding yourself with people is good for your mood and your health.
A University of Texas study, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior in 2010, found those suffering from coronary artery disease, who had minimal social ties, were two times more likely to die compared to those who had strong social connections.
Further analysis revealed that people with minimal social ties are more likely to have weaker immune systems, higher inflammation, high blood pressure and greater cardiovascular issues.
What’s a better reason to celebrate than good times and good health? Being around people you care about will ensure you’ll have plenty of both!
4. Occupy your time
It’s too easy to feel sulky when all you do is stay inside because it’s too cold to venture out. This doesn’t mean you can’t keep yourself busy and lighten your mood.
Use the winter months as a great opportunity to get around to those home projects you’ve been putting off. Ticking things off your to-do list gives you a sense of happy accomplishment.
Another idea is to start an indoor garden, or add a few plants to your home. Plants can create a calming effect. They also help purify the air, which is especially good in the winter when the heat’s on and the indoor air becomes dry.
Also, take this time to catch up on the books you once started, begin a knitting project, or learn how to use the latest technology. Whatever the hobby may be, being indoors doesn’t have to be a burden. As long as you keep yourself busy, you’ll stay positive as well.
5. Increase your exposure to light
The wintertime can be dark, and the decline in sunlight can make us feel down in the dumps. To combat the winter blues, getting as much natural light as possible is the key. But how can you get more light if the sun is setting in the late afternoon? Well, for starters, maximize daylight hours as much as possible. Even if the sun is setting early, taking it in when it is available can work wonders on your mood.
If you’re cooped up inside, ensure you are near a large window to enjoy the sun’s rays, even without being outdoors. Lastly, use bright full spectrum light bulbs in your home or office, which mimic natural light, as opposed to those dim, artificial bulbs that just make everything more drab and dreary.
Have a brighter, happier winter
Try these simple tips to fight those low feelings that often come with the short, darker days of winter. This way, you’ll get through the season renewed and energized – spring will be here before you know it!
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